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May 12
2006

Well you’ve finally come to the conclusion that you need a website. Great stuff! A website is an effective marketing tool for your business. Literally millions of people go online now to find what their looking for instead of flipping through the antiquated yellow pages. So where do you begin?

Enter Li’l Johnny, your nephew, aka the computer geek of the family. Li’l Johnny is an exceptionally bright kid, with a very rare talent in “doing computer stuff”, and this makes him the perfect candidate to take on the job of designing your website. The hours and hours he spent fiddling around in Adobe Photoshop zooming into images, resizing them, warping them, and applying all sorts of crazy, sometimes ill-contrived effects serves as the foundation of his knowledge. The skills he honed in scanning your family re-union photos, editing the group image of your family, cutting out old Aunt Beth and replacing her with a tree stump, have most certainly prepared him well.

The trick is to get Li’l Johnny inspired and in the right frame of mind by buying him something he wants… like those cool new Nike shoes, or tickets to a football game for him and his buddies. Once he appreciates you, he’ll be in the right frame of mind to produce the right design for you.

So with a great attitude and a renewed love for his favorite relative, Li’l Johnny will get hard at work and slap together a design that will totally blow you out of the water. Finally the day arrives – It’s everything you ever imagined, the perfect representation of your business…

Or is it?

Perhaps we should look at this from another angle. A professional website design takes into consideration several factors, none of which involve removing annoying relatives from family photos, as enticing as that might sound :)

Li’l Johnny, while sincere in his efforts, isn’t aware that a successful website design takes into account the following factors:

1) Goals and Objectives – Designing a site with loosely defined or no measurable goals is a waste of time. To achieve design success, take the time to identify specific goals and objectives, and ensure a mechanism is in place to test against those benchmarks. Investing in tracking or surveying software to qualitatively and quantitatively monitor the site.

2) Target Audience – This is the most important aspect of website design. A successful user experience will result in repeat visits, referrals, and a positive atmosphere on your site. Even one bad experience, and your customer is lost. Focus on who your target audience is. Identify their likes/dislikes, their background?

3) Web Standards – Ensure that the site is designed to meet the latest level of web standards. Even the smallest mistake can result in alienating a huge percentage of your customer base, because the site won’t function in their browser, or their monitor resolution. To achieve the greatest level of flexibility, make sure the code is streamlined, and effectively employing Cascading StyleSheets that separate content from presentation. Keep an eye out for Usability and Accessibility standards.

4) Usability – Your site may look nice and be technically sound, but is it usable? Information should be easily accessible by a broad base of users, each of their own level of expertise and background. Users should be able to navigate the site with minimum clicks and find the information they are looking for easily.

5) Keywords – Have you done any research on what your target audience is searching for online? Did you make sure that these keywords are prominent on the site and in your content? Did you know that most site visitors, don’t actually read the content…they skim through it. Keeping that in mind, keywords should be placed strategically throughout the site, to achieve maximum visibility. This is a major aspect of implementing an effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) program.

6) Marketing - do you have a solid plan in place to market your website once it’s complete? Even with the nicest design, a website is useless unless your customers visit it. How effective would it be to have a beautiful store, without any customers in it? Same principal…

7) Maintenance – A site is only as good as its content, and content should change on a regular basis. How should that happen? Should you hire a web design company each time updates are needed? That doesn’t sound very appealing. Instead, invest in an infrastructure allowing the you to easily update content/information regularly.

Let’s let Li’l Johnny focus on his grades in school, or perhaps he can do a website for your family. Leave your business to the professionals.

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