Too many businesses still think that by having a pretty website is enough to bring in the business by the bucket load. I’m sure there are exceptions, but as a rule this is not the case. Your website needs to be flexible enough so that it can be managed as a marketing tool and give you value for money.
Here are a few guidelines to help businesses get an effective website. There are both good and bad web designers and developers out there, so getting good marketing advice early on is essential to ensure you put together a good brief and get a good return on your investment. We hope that the following guidelines will help you separate the good from the bad and the simply plain ugly!
Easy navigation is vital for every website, but is particularly important for on-line retail sites where visitors need to find the product quickly. For this purpose, it is critical that the number of clicks is minimised between entering the site and finding the product otherwise the shopper may move on to the next website.
Just for the record, I recently came across a website that had all it’s navigation buttons along the bottom of the page….not exactly user friendly!
Good functionality is key and is particularly relevant for retail sites because the retailer needs to make it as easy as possible for the shopper to find a particular service or range of products. Good navigation is one way to help the customer, but an effective search facility will also enhance your on-line service. It’s a bit like going into a DIY store and asking the shop assistant where a particular product is stocked. In my experience, the shop assistant will normally take you straight there.
The on-line experience should ideally resemble the physical shopping experience as closely as possible. However, due to the lack of a tactile experience when on-line it is essential as part of the service to provide an excellent visual experience instead. This means that within the various functions of the site that the visitor can expand the product image to a size that enables it to be clearly viewed.
When you have a large range of products it will be necessary to place them in logical categories. This can be quite daunting as there can sometimes be an element of crossover. In such instances put yourself in the customers’ shoes and try to view the problem from their perspective. The key point is that your products are grouped in an obvious and commonsensical way so that shoppers can easily find what they are looking for.
Content Management System (CMS)
Having the ability to update your website regularly is crucial in order to have a successful website. Google likes both new and relevant material, so the more you are able to update your website the higher the site will be ranked on searches. Regular updates combined with the use of key words will with time start to drive traffic to your site. If you do not have a content management system then your website will to a degree become stagnant unless of course you are prepared to pay the web designer every time you need to carry out an update. A CMS will cost you more initially. However, if you are serious about using your website as an effective marketing tool then the CMS will save you money in the long run and will benefit your business.
Many web gurus will state that content is king when it comes to websites and they are largely right. However, a professionally designed website will also add huge value to the visitors’ experience and will build confidence in your services and products. We all know that first impressions count, so communicating the correct image straight away needs to be heavily considered. A ‘cheap do it yourself’ type website may appear to be cost effective, but my opinion is that you are unlikely to be doing your business any marketing favours.
Pricing and Payment
When it comes to retail sites clear pricing is essential. Don’t leave your customer wondering if the price is with or without VAT or if there is or isn’t a delivery charge. Always be upfront and honest with your pricing. Your checkout system should be obvious and very straight forward. If your checkout is too longwinded then you will be in danger of losing a sale as your customer gets more and more fed up.
Probably the most important factor with regards to payment is reassuring your customer that your payment system is error proof and secure. Remember that they are entrusting you with a lot of personal information, so you must instill confidence that they are taking part in a secure transaction.
This website guide is in no way exhaustive or particularly in-depth and only covers a few aspects of good practice. For instance, I haven’t mentioned anything about social media, video, landing page content, upselling and so on.