“How can we improve our Web site?” clients often ask me. A winning Web site requires first developing a sound e-business strategy, understanding your target audiences, defining the purpose behind your Web site, designing an effective site architecture, and developing relevant content. Short of revamping the site, what can you do to improve it? Start by reviewing your home page.
The home page is the most frequently visited page for most sites. It sets the tone and creates an expectation in the mind of the visitor. One common mistake is offering a splashy home page with little more than imaging effects and the words “click to enter”. This gimmick more likely than not opens doors only to mishaps. The graphics may fail to load, thus stranding and confusing the visitors. Visitors may think the Web site is not yet ready to launch, or may lose patience and leave.
Take a walk through your home page. Here is a checklist of things to look for:
Your home page announces your Web site and your business. Your visitors may take only a minute or two to decide whether to stay or leave. Make the homepage an effective gateway to your Web site. Your first-time visitors will want to know why they should invest their time, and your return visitors will want to quickly reach the information they came for. You can accomplish both objectives by offering a menu of key topics, and including well-written home page copy.
The home page copy may be in the form of bullets or may be several short paragraphs. It should tell your visitors what your business is, what sets you apart from your competitors, and what your site offers. The copy should be search engine friendly. Certain search engines index the text in your Web site and rank your site’s relevance based on the words used in the text. So, include key phrases important to your target audience in the copy and provide alternate text for graphics to earn a high relevance rating.
Make the copy click-friendly. The Web became wildly popular so quickly largely because it allows point and click, thanks to hypertext markup language. Take advantage of the fluidity and flexibility of the medium. Your visitors will want to explore in greater depth information that is relevant to them. Write the copy to include plenty of hypertext links to allow your visitors to move directly to important parts of the Web site. In this way you can let your visitors follow their thoughts and interests.
Next, consider ease of navigation. Every successful Web site has a well-designed navigational structure based on the information needs of its target audiences and the desired calls for action. Will visitors be able to easily find what they look for? Do the menu titles clearly communicate the content? Often, companies organize their Web sites based on their internal structure instead of their visitors’ needs, and use jargon and terminology that may confuse outsiders. Think about your visitors’ objectives, and use terms that are clearly understandable to them. If your Web site uses graphics for the navigational links, be sure to include alternate text for the graphical buttons. Better yet, also provide navigational links within the text. Then your visitors can always find their way around.
Can your customers easily find out how to get in touch with you or visit your brick-and-mortar store? Include your address, phone, and email address on the home page. If your customers visit you at your location, or you want to attract more foot traffic to your store, be sure to make it easy for people to find out how to get there. One solution is to provide a direct link from the home page to a page containing your hours, driving directions, and a map.
Finally, do not forget metatags. Metatags are directions hidden in the codes page for Web crawlers to index the home page. Include a description of the site, keywords and key phrases that your target audiences use, and a title that is inviting and meaningful.
If you can see your home page through your visitors’ eyes, you will get a whole new view of your business. Whether you’re in the business of affiliate marketing, you sell your own product, or are offering your own services, your home page is the front door and the display case for your business online. It’s the starting point for every new customer and most of your returning ones. So take a walk through it periodically. You’ll quickly see if the doorknob needs polishing.