10 keys to an effective website

October 05, 2009 | Websites

Lots of companies are redesigning their websites these days, looking to equip them with the latest Web 2.0 capabilities. Good idea.

But before you hand off this critical component of your corporate operation to a web design firm, consider some important factors. Understand that many web designers – whether consciously or unconsciously – are more interested in showing off their creativity and buffing up their portfolio than getting you results. So be sure to give them some direction.

Before you can do that it’s imperative you understand what makes a website work effectively. Here are 10 keys to effective web design and content:

  1. Decide on the purpose of your site and gear it toward that objective. Are you trying to sell products? Services? Build your company’s brand? Provide customer service? Promote a cause? Create an income-producing affiliate site?
  2. Make the home page about your visitors, not about your company. Any serious visitor wants to know the answer to this question: “What can you do for me?” Answer it correctly and you have a new customer and revenue stream.
  3. Reach out to visitors by trying to establish a continuous flow of communication. That means giving them an opportunity to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter, a blog, a podcast or other communication channel.
  4. Use a clean, simple but elegant design with adequate use of white space. Simplicity forces you to prioritize your offerings. White space allows the page to breath and creates separation of elements.
  5. Anchor the design of each page by using a dominant graphic element, then build the rest of the page around that element. If the page is filled with equally-weighted items the screen will look too busy and people won’t know where to look first.
  6. Offer prominent and clear navigation links. When a person is viewing any single page on your website they are blind to the rest of your site. If you don’t create a strong table of contents they will have no sense of destination.
  7. Give your site personality. If you sound like ever other company in your category your message will quickly fade into white noise of the crowded marketplace. Make sure your copy doesn’t have the drone of an annual report or company brochure.
  8. Write in terms everyone understands. Using phrases such as “software solutions provider” isn’t specific enough to mean anything.
  9. Beware of flash animation. Yes, it can look very impressive. It can also load so slowly that visitors bail rather than sit around waiting for the overzealous artist to complete the canvas.
  10. Make sure your website is fully optimized for search engines. If your business is strictly local, place special emphasis on optimizing for local searches.

Those are just 10 of many factors to take into consideration. You probably have some ideas of your own. Share them with me by clicking on the “comment” link.

The long and short of business writing

September 28, 2009 | Writing

Tired of people telling you that length counts?

Well … not to keep pressing a sore point … but they’re right when it comes to writing. Then again, they almost certainly have the virtues of length backward in many instances.

When it comes to particular types of writing, length counts for plenty – and there are years of research to prove it. Before you continue operating from the premise that everything you write should be as short as possible, click on the headline to check out today’s blog post. You will be surprised by what you find.

The 10 most beautiful words in the English language

September 21, 2009 | Writing

Words have power. The British Council discovered some of the most power when it launched a project titled the Most Beautiful Words in the English Language.

Find out what they are in this post, and read examples of how they can be used to strengthen business writing.

Hot new numbers for Web 2.0

September 09, 2009 | Web 2.0

Web 2.0 technologies are hot worldwide, according to a new research project by management consulting legend McKinsey & Co.

The percentage of companies that plan to maintain or increase spending on blogs, podcasts, video, RSS feeds, wiki content creation, etc., is very high – despite the flaccid economy.

The numbers and analysis tell the story in this blog post.

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