Tim Kimber, UK product manager of Office Live, says: ‘If your business isn’t already online you should really be thinking about it. There’s a massive amount of opportunity on the internet but you need to go out and get it. There are thousands of companies online and you need to stand out as best you can.’
To help make the most of your online presence, the Office Live team and SmallBusiness.co.uk offer the following five tips:
Keep it simple
Too many websites are filled with speckled backgrounds, unusual fonts and bewildering buttons cluttering the screen. Try to resist this when you’re designing your own site. Think of iconic design these days and it’s always the simplest and clearest designs that are memorable. If you want to compete with the big players, you need to reflect these mature design values. You won’t see Amazon or Yahoo using pink marble or shadow logos for their site backdrop and with good reason.
Your website must be extremely easy for people to find their way around. Consumers will simply move on to another site if they can’t locate the information they need quickly and easily. The navigation system should be designed so that even a young child could master it. Monitor which pages your customers visit most. If they’re spending a lot of time on the ‘sitemap’ then you should re-think your site’s navigation.
Catch them at the first glance
Your front page must be designed to act both as a stop sign and a fast, effective messenger. In two to three seconds the person should know exactly what the site is about and what the business does. Make sure you only use quality images, to increase the perception of professionalism.
Think carefully about what image and message you want your customer to get in those first few seconds, and design your website’s front page with that in mind. Ask yourself, what is in it for them, as this is all your visitors are interested in. Make sure you highlight the key benefits of your product or service in a few short sentences, summarising what your business does.
Update your website regularly
If you want to generate repeat traffic, it’s essential that you update your website regularly. So many businesses will get an initial site up and running only to leave it stagnant for months on end. Try to create interest in your site by providing information of interest to your market and regularly providing updates – consumers won’t be impressed to see postings about what you were doing in 2004 when they visit. However, if you don’t feel you can update your site regularly, make sure you don’t include any time-sensitive information that might give the game away.
Interact with your customers
It’s a good idea to institute and monitor a permanent customer feedback email address that visitors can access from any page on your site – to maximise professionalism, make sure the email address matches your domain name. This can be for feedback on the site, or their experiences with your business. It’s also a great way to generate leads and to better manage your relationships with customers.
You can use your site to solicit feedback on its effectiveness by doing some online market research. You can add a temporary customer survey to the home page and offer an incentive for completion, such as a prize. You can ask questions about site navigation, the design, or ordering processes.
Get people to visit your site
Maximise the chances of visitors reaching your website by ensuring you do at least the basics on search engine optimisation (SEO) – such as keywords in the title tag, good description in the meta tags keywords, open graph tags for your social media etc. See the following pages for more advice on digital website marketing: