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7 Tips to a Top Site
by Breal Web Design

As a web site owner, I spend a lot of time online. I also spend a lot of time at other sites. These are the top seven tips I have discovered make or break a web site other than its design appeal.

1.WHERE ARE YOU? When creating a web site, tell people where you are, or whom you are targeting. I have read several regional online newspapers that haven't included their physical location. For these sites, this information is very vital. For example, http://www.clickart-gallery.com, is an art gallery featuring only Australian artists, so country information is important and you can find it listed in the about us section of that site.

2.CONTACT US. When gaining the trust of an individual, possibly a person who is new to the Internet, letting them know how they can make contact is vital. E-mail is most important. It needs to be easy to find. Again if relevant, you should include phone and fax numbers and a physical street address if you have a traditional business as well as your web site.

You may be amazed at how few sites have this feature, those that do often have it tucked right away; it may take six or seven clicks to find it! All but the most dedicated surfer will go away before going this far. That means a valuable potential customer goes away without you knowing. And they probably won't come back.

Do you have a means to capture information about your customers - legitimately? Do you ask questions, run surveys, encourage them to join a mailing list or any other means of leaving their information? If not, why not? You could be letting some future customers leave without you even knowing.

3.TIMELY INFORMATION How many pages at your site are not where you say they are? It can be very disappointing or frustrating to have 404 Page Not Found Errors because something has been moved. A simple solution is a custom 404 page that lists major areas of your site.

How many of your pages have broken links? Some sites excel at broken links and missing images. This translates as lack of interest in your customers. We all end up with one or two problems occasionally and the best way to overcome this, besides vigilance when designing pages, is to encourage your visitors to tell you. An easy to use program is Xenu which checks your entire site for broken links. On your web site, you could consider providing a way to let visitors know of problems they experience. Most won't but if someone takes the time to let you know, acknowledge them for their help.

Where you have names, addresses, e-mails and phone numbers on your site, keep them updated. It is annoying (and sometimes disappointing) to have an e-mail come back undeliverable because the address is no longer valid.

When using dates, it is VITAL to update. My local computer store used dates on their home page, informing customers they were behind as they were going on holidays soon. That message was displayed for almost two years! That was not a positive image to send to their visitors. What image do you want your site to present to the wider community?

4.RESPOND! You sent an e-mail to someone asking for more information and it never gets answered. Sound familiar? I wonder why some companies prefer to send potential customers to their opposition. When a potential customer is ignored, they will go elsewhere and they will never return. If they get a response from your competition, they will probably go there.

Consider automatic e-mail responses. Many times I have been sent an automatic response informing me someone will answer my query shortly. If that is what you are telling your potential customers, are you actually following up?

5.NAVIGATE I get to your site. Now what? Am I expected to know what I'm looking for? How do I know what's on your site if you don't provide me an easy way to get around? Provide simple navigation at the start, so your visitors can get into your site quickly. Too many options are daunting and not enough are frustrating. You need to achieve a balance that will depend on your content. Research suggests a maximum of eight links on the front page is best for your site visitors.

Can you break up your content into sections and tag the way to each section, expanding when you get there? One word of warning: don't make your visitors go to six or seven pages before they get any information. They won't do it and when they leave, they will never come back.

6.INFORM No matter what type of web site you have, you are there to inform your visitors. If you offer a product or service, let people know how much it costs, its sizes, colours, models and all other relevant information. If it is very detailed, use a summary with a link to more detail. Remember your online customer can't touch or feel, smell or try out your product. If you don't put this information directly on your site (if it's sensitive or requires further details to make a quote), then it's even more important that you have somewhere they can ask! When they do ask - ANSWER them!

Where are you? Your visitors are not from one geographic area. Being outside of the US, I see sites all the time that fail to offer any assistance to international viewers. This is a major oversight because you WILL get visitors from other countries. Provide currency exchange and delivery information if necessary or state your service or delivery areas clearly where it is easy to find.

7.DELIVER If you have a physical product, where are you prepared to send it? Where on your site have you told your customers? If you can only ship to a limited geographical area, make sure it is displayed prominently.

I recently compared companies about a particular product I intended to purchase online. I made my decision and completed the entire ordering procedure providing all my details including credit card number, before discovering the company only shipped within the US. I had looked in their ‘about' and FAQ's to see if they had restrictions on shipping but found nothing. It was only provided when shipping was being calculated. I found this frustrating and annoying because I had wasted my time. Do you have a similar geographic restriction? Is it prominently mentioned?

You can't get everything perfect for everyone, different cultures require different information, but you can strive to be helpful and courteous. After all, excellent service counts.

About the author:
Breal provides cost effective web site design and hosting with a full 30 day money back guarantee. Web hosting even comes with six months free hosting on yearly accounts. To find out more visit http://www.brealweb.com For a complete list of current articles, send any email to mailto:articlelist@brealweb.com

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