Last night I participated in a panel discussion at eTuesday!: “Maximizing the Internet.” My fellow panelists were Doug Hammer of WSI Internet Consultants and Tim Sweet of Nauticom, and both had excellent information to share.
For my part, I focused on the most common problems I see on small business websites, and how a small business can avoid or solve them. Here is the core of what I said:
A lot of the problems I see with business websites can be sorted into two groups: Problems of Too Much, and Problems of Too Little.
Examples of the Problem of Too Much:
- Too much text, long paragraphs of multi-syllable words (tech or marketingspeak) that no one will ever want to read
- A list of everything the company does or has ever done
- Photos of a dozen “featured products” rather than one or two features
Examples of the Problem of Too Little:
- Hidden contact or location information, or no contact information
- No single sentence to say, very simply, what the company offers or sells
- No tie-ins to the rest of the company’s marketing/advertising
Both the Problem of Too Much and the Problem of Too Little have the same root cause: Not looking your site the way a customer or prospect would. (Of course, your website can have a number of audiences: prospective customers, current customers, potential employees, current employees, vendors. The same issues apply no matter which type of site visitor you need to serve.)
To think about how to solve the Problems of Too Much and Too Little, consider an example of a site with a great home page: Flickr
If you’ve never heard of or looked at the Flickr site before, you can tell within seconds what the site is about — or at least, what they want you to know about them: they want to be known as “the best way to store, search, sort and share your photos.”
New visitors to the site see that message loud and clear. Everyone can search or browse photos easily. And members can sign in to jump into the meat of the site. It’s the clearest home page on the Web.
How can you improve your home page?
1. List the people/kinds of people who you expect (want) to use your website.
2. Prioritize them. You can’t help everyone equally, so you need to be selective. Who’s most important for your business right now? Prospective customers, current customers, investors, press? Rank the order in which you want to serve their needs on your website.
3. One by one, define what each kind of visitor wants from your site, and revise your content and design to make sure they can get that information quickly.