Congratulations! You have made the decision to bring your business to the World Wide Web! There are a few important points that you need to keep in mind when looking for a web designer or designing a website yourself. Your website is a direct representation of your business and should be created in a way that accurately reflects that. If you are a fun, whimsical company that caters to individual orders, then make your site fun and playful. If you are a company that focuses on the corporate orders, you will need a site that is professional and informative.
Some important design techniques to keep in mind whether designing yourself or having someone do it for you are:
- Contact Information!!! Make sure your address and telephone number are easily located. People like to know whom they are ordering from and that if there is a problem, they can get in touch with you. Your phone number is very important, as some customers still prefer to talk to a person when placing an order.
- Create a site that loads quickly. Studies show that customers will not wait for a site to load, but move on to the next business. You must keep in mind that customers, for the most part, are shopping online to make it quick and easy. They should be able to find what they need right away.
- Make sure that your website is easy to navigate. Customers should be able to click and find what they need without getting confused or lost on your site. When creating a website, always keep the phrase “Keep It Simple Stupid” in mind. You need to create your site in a way that the customer does not have to think in order to find what they are looking for.
- Create a site with a simple, light colored background. Studies show that customers are more receptive and willing to stay on sites that are light colored. The dark or busy backgrounds tend to distract from what you are trying to say and sell. Remember, the main focus of your site, should be your products.
- When it comes to your product pictures, it is important that they are clear and professional looking. This does not mean you need to hire someone to do them for you. If taking them yourself, make sure you have a backdrop of some kind and take them in a well-lit area, preferably outside. You need to get as close up to the product as possible. Again, you must remember, it is your product that the customer is interested in, not the background. They want to see what they are paying for.
- While it works for some sites, music, or sounds of any kind, is a turnoff to most customers. Many people find it annoying and may move away from your site for this reason. Remember, the most important thing in site design is to keep the customers looking.and ordering!!
- Keep your ordering process easy!! Make sure that your shopping cart is easy to navigate and that there is no way to misunderstand the ordering process. They may love your product and want to order one, but if they get confused in the ordering process, they may move on. Make sure that there are areas for them to fill in their information, the recipients information (if different), and that they get their total charge, including shipping and taxes.
- Make sure to include a policy or information page that states how your business handles different situations. This can include everything from satisfaction guarantees and return policies, to confidentiality statements, cancellations, shipping information, and more.
Now that you have these basic design ideas together and have created your website, you have to make it work for you!! You may have the most beautiful website and the most wonderful product around, but if customers don’t know you are there, or can’t find you, then your efforts will be lost! The search engines are constantly changing in the way they rank sites, but there are a few main items that all search engines look for.
The first, and most important item is your website content! Your home page should include the keywords you want to target. For example, if you are a gift basket business in San Diego, California and want to attract customers looking for gifts in this area, you would want to have something like “Offering Custom Gift Baskets in San Diego, California and surrounding areas.” For the main keywords you want to rank in the search engines under, you want to have them on your page a few times. Something else that can increase your rankings in regard to your content words, is having the keywords done in bold. Say you have a total of five keywords or phrases that you are trying to optimize for. Normally you would have each of those keywords or phrases mentioned 3-4 times on your page. Only make ONE of each of those keywords bold and only make the keywords bold, not entire sentences. For example: Buy your custom gift basket from Premier Gifts, San Diego’s #1 gift basket retailer.
- The next item is your websites Title Tag. This is where you need to be able to create html code and write your meta tags. The title tag is becoming more and more important to search engine algorithms. High search engine ranking can be achieved by ensuring your title contains sufficient keywords while still remaining attractively descriptive of your sites contents. For example: Custom Gift Baskets, Corporate gifts in San Diego California by Premier Gifts.
- Next is the Keyword Tag. Although nearly all search engines ignore this tag, it can be useful to place keywords here in order to help you focus on the keywords when writing your website text. A top search engine ranking is never achieved through stuffing keywords in your meta tag. Search engines like content!
- Another very important tag is the Description Tag. This tag allows search engines to match what you have said about your site to the content you have listed in your site, and is a great way to improve rankings on search engines like Lycos, MSN, and HotBot. Your Description Tag is just what it says, a brief description of your website and what is there. Two main tips are to keep your description below 250 characters and do not list strings of keywords. For Example: Beautiful custom gift baskets for all occasions from Christmas to Easter, Mother’s Day to Thanks you gifts, and much more. Delivering to San Diego, California and surrounding areas. Nationwide shipping of all gift baskets also available.
- Now that you have created a website that is search engine friendly, you have to let the search engines know you are there. There are many ways to do this. Many search engines still allow you to submit for free, though they do not guarantee listings. Msn/Hotbot (fed through Inktomi), Alta Vista, and Ask Jeeves are 3 good places to start for the paid search engine submissions. Their fees start at about $30.00/year. Another form of search engine submission is the Pay-per-click option. We have not found this to be very productive, though your experiences may be different. You can achieve high rankings without having to pay for people to click on your site.
- One of the biggest tools to increase your search engine rankings is what is called reciprocal links. The more websites on the World Wide Web that link to your website, the higher your rankings will be. Gift Basket directories, free advertising websites, and wedding directory sites are just a few good places to get more links to your site. The search engines want to see that you have joined in the “ocean of the internet” and are not just a lone fish!!
Now, if all this sounds like too much for you to do yourself, then the time has come to find a website designer that will work with you to get the site that you are looking for. There are many web designers out there that offer many different packages and prices. Here are a few key items to keep in mind when looking for a designer:
- First and foremost, you want to find a designer with whom you are comfortable working with. Follow your instincts. If something is uncomfortable, chances are it will make things much more difficult for you to achieve the site you want.
- Find out if domain registration is included in their packages. If not, you will need to register your domain separately.
- Ask for references and check out other sites they have designed.
- Check out their different design packages and what is included with each one. With a good web designer, you will pay for your basic start up design, hosting, and usually some free time each month included for changes. You should look for a package that includes 20 – 30 minutes of page changes per month before additional charges are incurred. This is going to be your site! Make sure you can have changes made without large fees adding up each month!!
- Find out if they design your site as well as optimize it for the search engines. Also find out if they submit to search engines for you and if that charge is included. Once again, a beautiful site is great, but if no one can find it, the website will not work for you!!!
Taking your business to the World Wide Web is a big step, but can be a very profitable one if it is done right. Always remember that for your website and any other marketing tool you create, your products and the services you offer, should be the main focus!!! Don’t spend your time adding fluff and stuff to your site, just give the customers what they are looking for.your products or services!!! Now is the time to introduce your business to the World Wide Web, so take the steps and create a winning site that works for you!!!