5 Website Must-Haves

September 12, 2008

It’s frustrating to see companies who have a new website built only to find out that the website is not up to scratch in delivering some of the basic requirements. If you are a corporate who is currently building a website or has recently had one built, here are 5 take away must-haves to make sure are included.

1. Make Sure It Works

This may sound obvious, but make sure your website works before you go live. This takes lots of testing. Test all the processes, click on every link and try testing in as many browsers and operating systems that you can. You don’t want to leave a bad impression on your new guests so try and make the processes as good as you can for them.

2. How Will We Update It?

These days it is pretty easy to get a content managed website allowing you to change copy, images and even pages and navigation. If you instead have to pay a developer to make these types of changes for you, you are being ripped off! Content Managed Websites start from about $5000 (even less if you buy a restricted or off the shelf version) so there is no excuse for not having one. After all, if you cant update your content both your visitors and your marketing team will quickly become frustrated!

3. Use Calls To Action

This is a pet favourite of mine and I cant stress it enough. If you are selling online and you show a product, it is fairly obvious that you need a button or link allowing them to purchase that product and thus leading them through your shopping process. However, if you are using your website as a sales tool, but not selling online, the same principle still applies! I see too many websites which have pages and pages of content and at the bottom of the page the text finishes and then…nothing. No call to action, no guide to the next step, no instruction to tell me how to find out more, get in touch with the company, request more information etc.

If this is you, then you are missing out on opportunities! Make sure you at least have a text call to action on every key page of content on your website. Don’t create website dead ends!

4. Make Sure The Site Reflects Your Brand and Product

Sometimes I wonder how sites out there ever got sign off on their design. There are so many great things that you can do with a design and even if you’re on a tight budget there is no excuse for having a boring website.

  • Use imagery where possible – a site without imagery won’t stand out and won’t help you to sell your product.
  • Keep your colours consistent with your branding.
  • Maintain your style – although sometimes you might want to add bolded red, larger font to your homepage, resist it! There is a fine line between attention grabbing and tacky and there are definitely other ways to get your visitors attention without compromising your brand.

5. Make Sure You Track Activity – And Use Those Stats!

Ensuring you have some website statistics implemented on your site will ensure that you can optimise your website and content based on factual data. Not only do you want to know the basic info like how many people came and when, but you will want to know what they did, how long they stayed and whether they followed the paths through your website that you wanted. Google Analytics is a great base stats package thats free, so there is no excuse. Developers – make it a mandatory for any site you build!


Displaying Receipt Numbers

July 22, 2008

Online transactions are everyday now and it is easy to assume that your developers are across all the base requirements for processing transactions online. Sadly this isn’t always the case!

An important part of an online transaction is providing the user with a receipt number and this is something that can often be overlooked. Whether it is an online banking transaction, a new purchase or a bill payment a receipt number is relevant. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind for displaying receipt numbers:

  • Remember that a user will often want to write a receipt number down (and this is more environmentally friendly than printing too!)
  • Keep the number as short as you can. There are a number of different ways this can be done but one could be to use a mix of letters and numbers or to make sure you have a good number generation process in place.
  • Space the number in groups of 3 or 4 numbers on the page as these are easier to read and write down.
  • Don’t crowd the number on the page amongst other content. Receipt numbers are often the newest piece of information on a confirmation page and therefore putting this at the top or bottom of the other content will make it more easily visible to readers.
  • Putting lots of the same number next to each other in a line makes it difficult to get the number right.
  • Make the process user friendly. Test, test and re-test.

Here is one example of a receipt number I came across lately which broke a number of the above rules and thus proved a little challenging to write down!

Receipt number

Receipt number


Calculating your Website Valuation

February 18, 2008

This week I was asked to assist a client in valuing their existing website. As more and more people create and sell their online businesses this topic is an important one for any web entrepreneur so I thought I would share a few of my tips.

Identifying a value for your website can depend on a number of different factors. This article will consider each of the factors you need to take into consideration for your calculation.

1. Value of Assets:
In this case I am talking about the value of any assets associated with your website. In most cases this will relate to the cost of development – or more importantly the cost of re-developing your site to the level which it is today so that it has the same technical functionality. Don’t forget this may also include your IP, your brand, the setup of databases or an online shop.

An important asset associated with your website business may also be your customer or prospect database. If you are collecting information from website visitors or members this definitely has a value and that value will depend on the currency of the data as well as what degree of segmentation and opt ins you have for that database.

2. Current Earnings:
What are the current earnings of your website? This may be revenue derived from online sales, from Google adsense, banner advertising or referral income or membership costs for example. It is important in this element to keep in mind any costs associated with these earnings too so that you have a realistic understanding of your current position.

3. Potential Earnings:
The next step is to look at the potential earnings of your website. What if you were to expand your website to include more products, more functionality, service a greater geography? Would this increase your earnings? Again what would the associated costs be to expand to this degree? Often larger companies will acquire existing online, well –performing businesses with the view to expand them so it is important to keep this consideration in mind so that you can get an idea of what the future earning potential is.

4. Traffic:
Of course any traffic coming to your site also has a value and this will depend on factors such as number and frequency of visits, referral sources (for example is your website doing really well in natural search listings), quality of traffic and session duration. If your website is currently attracting 200,000 unique visitors a month to your site, obviously the value of this site is much higher than one attracting 200 visitors a month.

5. Promotion:
The last key factor for consideration is promotion. In this case I’m not talking about regular paid marketing activities (as this would be considered a cost when looking at your current earnings), but rather any other promotional arrangements from which your site is benefiting. For example you may be receiving promotion on an associated TV program weekly. You could have a syndicated content arrangement with a high profile website meaning that you gain large amounts of traffic and referrals from that site, or you might be a key client in an affiliate program. If you are receiving any promotion which is due to a ongoing arrangement or better yet, promotion that money can’t easily buy, then that is definitely a consideration in your website’s valuation.

In Summary:
By looking at all of these key factors you will be able to break down the various components of your website in order to start calculating a valuation figure. There are a number of other online resources available to help you with this process, however beware of most of the online tools as they only consider the value of your domain based on search rankings. Here are a few articles which may be worth checking out:

http://www.stuntdubl.com/2006/02/20/website-valuation/
http://www.powerhomebiz.com/vol151/selling.htm


My Lemonade Stand – Integrating Applications

September 11, 2007

Lemonade StandReferral business has always been big online and recently some companies have setup ways to further leverage this in a social networking environment.

I recently tried out “Lemonade” where members can create a “Lemonade stand” showcasing some of their favourite products. This application can then be imported into a blog or Facebook so that friends can see what things you like and better yet, purchase the products you recommend. The way the model works is that Lemonade provides its members with a commission on any sales made through your stand.

I found the setup process with Lemonade a little frustrating, with the search functionality to find key products being a little clunky and no browse option available.  It is also primarily setup around American products and their range is far from complete which makes it hard to refer more specific or local options. All in all though it is a neat demonstration of the way in which application development is expanding and how business can now base their whole model around integrating their application with an established base.

(To see my lemonade stand, you’ll have to find me on Facebook).


Defining Your Website Goals

August 21, 2007

One of the most important things that I find in online marketing is defining your website goals. This continually comes up whether it be a conversation about a website development, a strategy, online marketing or a search campaign.

Often when I ask my customers what they want to achieve out of their website, I get responses such as “develop an online destination for my target audience”, “have an easy to maintain website”, “make it user friendly” etc. It is always vital to consider what the value proposition of your website is for your target audiences, but it is also very important to consider what you as a business want to get out of your website.

Do you want to visitors to be submitting an inquiry form, calling you via the telephone, submitting content, subscribing to your newsletter, purchasing online or something else? Often there are a number of defined goals which you will hope that your visitors will reach through your website. Once you have defined these goals, your website pages should collectively be guiding visitors down paths towards these goals.

Website GoalsWithout this clear definition, websites end up being a collection of non-linked pages that have no defined outcome for visitors. However if you can make sure that every page is working for you to reach that goal (and this means having calls to action and links to those goals on each page), then you will have a much more effective offering.

So who does this well? Unfortunately not many companies have got this in place and instead are relying on visitor defined goals only. One site I did come across which leverages calls to actions on most pages is the Commonwealth Bank.


WebAward

April 11, 2007

The web marketing association is now accepting entries into its WebAwards competition which recognises the best websites around. Read more about the WebAwards.


Lonely Planet TV

April 2, 2007

Lonely Planet TVLonely Planet has jumped into web 2.0 with the launch of their new Lonely Planet TV website.

The new website contains a whole bunch of video clips on a wide range of destinations with most of the clips being user submitted. As you’d expect once you’ve joined you can rate the clips, leave a comment, add to your favourites or indeed upload your own video.

I found the video streaming a little slow which resulted in a poor experience however once they did download, the few videos that I did click on provided quite good content. I was surprised that there wasnt a strong linkage between this site and any other Lonely Planet content though – surely an opportunity missed?

I could see this site being used to assist in pre-travel decision making however I would have found it more useful if the search results included a place name rather than some of the random (user generated) titles. Better still, have the videos better organised by location to allow for optimum user friendliness.

As video content moves from all encompassing sites like YouTube to subject specific content like this one, people who are time poor will start to interact with video more. The key will be to streamline the video searching and viewing process to accommodate this “purpose related browsing”.


Websites That Don’t Work

April 2, 2007

The pressure has been on all companies in the last few years to get a website up and running, but it’s apparent that many businesses still don’t understand websites or indeed their potential. When a company decides to have a website its important they understand that it is an ongoing commitment requiring time, input and thought. If a website is not going to actually provide benefit to your customers and visitors, then I’d question the reasoning behind having one at all.

Here are a few examples of websites I have come across lately that are not reaching their potential:

Read the rest of this entry »


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