Preparing Your Website For Visitors

Jun 4 12:34 2005 Christine Stander Print This Article

Designing and developing a website today is not as easy as it was let’s say four years ago. There are so many elements to take into consideration and various media strategies to contend with.

Color,Guest Posting technology, screen resolutions and cross browser compatibility are but only a few of them. Lately you also have to contend with and create instinctive navigation, search engine optimize your site effectively and ensure that all action pages are merely three clicks away from any given landing page to ensure effective conversion.

With all these considerations, where does one start?

Starting Out Right

I have always been one to believe that if you spend enough time planning your site upfront, you will definitely reap the rewards upon its launch.

Prior to jumping straight into the development of the website, you would have
1.Established the demand for a specific product or service in a given industry.
2.Researched and documented the strategies of the nearest competitors.
3.Estimated the intended traffic and market audience the site would receive

Only once you have established these points you turn to design.

Designing an effective yet attractive site is the most time consuming part within the production process.

Assisting the Process

It is very important that the initiator work closely with the designer(s), copywriter(s) and developer(s) ensuring that they have access to all information regarding the project, including:
1.Target audience
3.Technology to be used (XHTML, Flash, Java etc.)
4.Site Map, or basic structure of site including pages and on page requirements

Once an initial design has been produced it is advisable that a web analytics or user behavior expert be brought into the discussion to ensure that the proposed design will convert as expected.

Visitors do not like to think when they are on a website. Present them with the content that they are looking for and make it easy for them to find related information or make the desired action such as purchasing, downloading or signing up to whatever it is that you wish them to do.

There are a few generic details to look out for to ensure that the design is on the right track, including:
1.Name of Site: The name of the site (and logo) should be clearly visible and legible within the header of the site. This instills brand awareness and if a catchy name and logo are chosen, you will mostly likely find that your return visitor rate increases.
2.Instinctive navigation: Is it always clear exactly where you are within a site when you are on any given page within the site?
3.Underlining of Links: Ensure that all links are underlined. This way the outgoing page path and related information is immediately determined and visible to the visitor on page load.
4.Actions: It almost seems redundant to say, but ensure the actions you would like your visitors to take are always clear.
During a page heat map research project, it was proven that the most attention lies on the right hand side of the page. The top right corner being the most effective area for actions to take place.

The design is one of the first, but none the least the most important area of site production that needs to be taken into consideration. Equal parts of design, development and content are needed to effectively prepare your site for visitors.

Having previously dabbled in all three of these areas myself, I can appreciatively say that developers prefer to be handed an accurate story board of the site that they are intended to build, including a detailed page by page briefing. Just like site visitors, it is not in the developer’s job description to determine where design meets copy or the initial ideas of the initiator of the project.

Ensuring that the various departments converse at least once pre-site design is vital, and will ensure that the website launched will depict the story board initially requested.

It was quite a change for me as a previous “old school” developer to change to the W3 Standards, but I must admit that it really is the best way to ensure cross browser compatibility. No more having multiple browsers open to ensure the design is always standard. I will recommend this to anyone still developing “old school”.

Ensuring content delivers the most effective message, capturing the audience whilst still enticing the search engines is the third part to the equation. Also confirm that your page titles accurately convey the message of the page.

Gone are the days or writing M-amount of key-words within content to try and push your pages higher. Content is king in the land of search engine optimization. You will often find that just by writing relevant, on-topic content the copy is optimized by default. Both spiders and visitors will appreciate this from your site.

Bring on the Traffic

It is great watching these areas coming together and preparing for the website launch. Now that your site is built as optimally as it could be: great design, relevant persuasive content and development strategy that reaches all markets, all you require is the traffic.

Consulting with a media strategist at this time is definitely recommended. They would be able to confirm the best methods for your niche of the market. Whether you should concentrate solely on natural search or tie in with a paid search marketing campaign. A mail shot is always a good idea – especially if the site has been revamped. The latest craze is Affiliate Marketing, a very effective way to market your website with proven returns on investment. A media strategist would be able to confirm whether your site needs all four or if one of these areas would suffice.

Follow Through

Your site is launched, you have an effective media strategy in place and traffic is booming. Is this the end of the site lifecycle, certainly not!

Don’t let the attention of your site slip merely because it has launched and expect it to fend for itself on the World Wide Web.

Acquire a good log file analyzer program and keep tracking and measuring the performance of your site.

To ensure that your site stays at peak performance you will constantly be required to analyze the traffic, visitor navigation through the site as well as your search engine optimization levels.

Involve your visitors. Place feedback forms on your site and request that visitors tell you where, or if they require more detailed information, or have suggestions for improvement of the experience.

It is for them that you have built this site, and without them, your site would be a lonely satellite in a populated galaxy.

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About Article Author

Christine Stander
Christine Stander

Christine Stander is a professional search engine optimisation and online marketing strategist with experience in many facets of search marketing, user behaviour analysis and brand management. For more information on services offered, kindly refer to:

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