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So, you want to compete on the web

What Has Your Website Done For You Lately?
By John Houle

A decade  ago, you  heard that you needed a website, so you went in the same direction where many other businesses turned. You basically took your brochure, and had someone who you believed was a web developer place it on the Internet.

Today, you may have heard about how your website needs to be more integrated into your marketing, how it could serve as a resource for your customers, and how it could bring in new business for you. You also may have been told that you need to promote the site through Google and other paid search engines.

You may have thought that you finally had it all figured out, but now a new term is thrown at you – search engine optimization, which quite simply is driving people to your site when they search for products and services.

So, where do you start, or how do you reinvigorate your website?

To build a website that is right for your business and your customers, consider what your customer wants, and then do what you’re already supposed to be doing – exceed expectations.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your website rests in its functionality, the relevancy of its content, and the ease of use.

Can you go to any place on your site with one click of the mouse?

Does your home page tell visitors what you do in easy to understand terms? (Plain English, not Industry Speak)

Is the layout visually pleasing, or is it challenging to find areas of interest?

In the end, content wins, but it must be delivered in a format that is understandable, easy to navigate, and useful to the client.

At first it can be a bit overwhelming to plan out an entire website. To handle that process, we recommend development in stages, much like you’ve done with your business.

  • Clearly define what pages and features will be developed within each phase. This makes for a more effective project management plan.
  • Work to ensure that you, your team, and your web developer are all in line with expectations and who is responsible for specific tasks, such as who will be writing the copy, gathering pictures, working with vendors, etc.
  • Allow for “wish lists” and future modules to be created for discussion, functionality and budgetary evaluations. In almost every case, once the website process gets off the ground, there is great excitement  with wonderful ideas about what should be incorporated into the website.
  • Add newly recommended features into a wish list, so that once the current phase is completed, the wish list can be evaluated for its cost and its purpose, as part of an effort to control and better manage expectations.

By working to take a smart look at what is needed now and what is needed down the road, you can be ahead of the curve with your website. Planning your website to adapt to your business is a key ingredient to development from a marketing point of view.

John Houle is president of JH Communications, a marketing-communications agency in Providence, Rhode Island. Visit www.jhcom.net for more information.

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