Today we have a special report from Martha Retallick on designing your Web site. I thank Martha for this excellent report, and I trust you will find it beneficial in your business.
George Matyjewicz, C.M.O.
Moderator, E-Tailer's Digest
Web Presence: Planning Your Website
Copyright 1999, 2000 by Martha J. Retallick.
All rights reserved.
Introduction: It's Your Decision
You might think that a report published by a web design studio would start out by saying that every business should have a website.
Not by a long shot.
In fact, I'd like to start this report by asking six tough questions:
1. Why do you want to have a website?
2. What will happen to your business if you don't have one?
3. What are your expectations?
4. What measurements are you going to use to decide if it is a success?
5. How is it going to integrate with your other communications functions?
6. Where is the site traffic going to come from?
Feel free to share these questions with others in your company. The collective process of answering them will help your organization make a better decision.
Outline Of This Report
This report starts out with some ideas to get you thinking. In addition to those six tough questions listed above, you'll get some tips on website planning, including some ideas on what to do with a website. Then we'll move into a brief discussion of online promotion.
After ideas come actions. Get ready to do some figuring on the Website Cost Worksheet. Then, last but not least, you can work on your Website Agenda and Goals. This is an actual form that I give to my clients. I thought you might find it useful as well.
Planning Your Site: Five Tips
The following five tips will help you work with your web designer to create a great site. If you'd like to discuss them further, please send an e-mail to me at info(at)Lrpdesigns.com. Or call me at 520-690-1888.
1. Decide what you want to say. Bear in mind that World Wide Web users aren't looking for ads and sales pitches, they're looking for information. They want to know about your company and its products and services, and they want to engage in a dialogue with you. One caveat: If you're getting on the Web in order to sell something, don't be shy about asking for the sale. Similarly, if you're looking for leads, encourage people to contact you so you can get the sales process rolling.
2. In order to decide on what will go into your site, you'll need to visualize the "big picture." For this process, I suggest using an organizational chart or flowchart format. (My personal favorite is the organizational chart.)
Up at the top of the organizational chart is the "home page." This usually consists of a company logo, "welcome to the website and here's how it will help you" message and a menu of sub-pages. I don't recommend putting much more than this on the home page - most of your visitors won't care to wait for long downloads.
How much should you put on each page? In order to facilitate retention of your message, I'd recommend that you provide two screens full of information per page -- that's roughly equal to one printed page of text.
3. Shop the competition. Do your competitors have websites? Make careful notes of what you like and dislike about them, then use this information to make your own site even better.
4. A picture is worth 1,000 words. In other words, all text and no art makes a dull website. However, try not to overdo it with the graphics. They take longer to download than text, and Web users don't like to be kept waiting.
5. Interactivity rules! The World Wide Web offers many opportunities for creating relationships with customers and prospects. You'll want to take advantage of these opportunities on your site. Include e-mail links so that visitors can contact you. You can also offer an e-mail newsletter, host discussion groups, and have live chats.
What to Do with a Website: Four Ideas
1. Offer a financial incentive for online purchasing. In other words, a discount.
2. Just the FAQs, ma'am. Do you hear the same questions over and over? Answer those Frequently Asked Questions on your website.
3. Be a resource. Make your site the "resource center" for your field.
4. Show what you can do. For example, if you're an artist, put part of your portfolio online. Are you a musician? Offer sound clips. Or, if you're a consultant, provide some case studies and project summaries.
Promotional Tips: Five Dos and Five Don'ts
First, the dos...
1. Set yourself apart from the competition by having an online marketing plan.
2. Get involved with the Internet.
3. Keep your site fresh and up to date.
4. Understand that your site is "on" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Make sure it reflects well on you and your company.
5. Integrate your website with your overall marketing plan.
Now, the don'ts
1. Don't have unrealistic expectations.
2. Don't jump in without doing your homework.
3. Sending unsolicited commercial e-mail (aka spamming) is a big no-no.
4. Don't ignore your e-mail. Those messages could be from people who want to do business with you.
5. Don't get carried away with technological bells and whistles. Use the Internet to communicate and build relationships, not to show off!
Watching the Money: Website Budgeting
If you've been in business for any length of time, you know that budgets are important. Just like everything else in business, an online presence requires a budget. The following pages will help you think about what goes into your online budget.
The Website Cost Worksheet
The direct costs of an World Wide Web presence can be broken down into the following areas:
1. Access to the Internet. In order to get online, you'll need to sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP provides the actual connection between your computer and the Internet. In general, home users and small businesses connect via conventional telephone lines. Large corporations tend to build their own direct lines to the 'Net, which, as you might expect, costs a lot of money. I've also heard of companies that have a satellite connection to the 'Net.
NOTE: This is an ongoing expenditure. For individual accounts, American ISPs charge around $20 per month for a conventional phone line connection.
2. Initial design of the website. This usually includes the designing of the page layouts, creation of custom graphics, preparation of existing artwork (i.e., photographs, drawings, graphics, etc.) for use online, formatting of pages with the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), programming, and registration with major search engines.
NOTE: This is a one-time expenditure and the design fee is based on the size of the site and the client's budget.
3. Hosting of the website. This refers to the computer (also called a server) where the website lives. If you'd rather not set up and maintain your own server (which is a fulltime job in itself), you can rent space on someone else's.
NOTE: This is an ongoing expenditure.
4. Domain name registration. So you want to be www.yourname.com? You'll want to have that moniker registered as your domain name. If you're a for-profit business, that will cost $70 for two years. Your renewal fee will be $35.
NOTE: This is an ongoing expenditure.
5. Website updates. This refers to adding new pages to the site, or adding new material to existing pages. When such updates are made, the site should be re-registered with search engines, in order to keep their listings "fresh."
NOTE: This can be done on an as-needed basis, or for a monthly fee.
Some Thoughts on Marketing
After you've had a website designed and put on the air, you'll need to tell the world about it. In Internet parlance, this is called "driving traffic to your site."
And if you want your site to meet your business goals, this must be an ongoing effort. In other words, you'll want to keep driving new traffic there - and keep the old traffic coming back. How will you do this?
With marketing. Lots of marketing.
Although you often hear about "marketing and sales," they are not the same thing. A savvy retailer once said that marketing is everything you do to get people to come into your store. Selling is the process of persuading them to buy what's on your shelves.
So what's involved in marketing? Lots of things. Here are some of the marketing tools I've used over the years:
Premiums and gifts
Presentations to professional groups
Any one of these things can be used to promote your website. An especially rich area of opportunity is in premiums and gifts. That's the official term for those pens, calendars, tee shirts and computer mouse pads that come from companies you do business with. Any one of these things can be imprinted with your www-dot.com information.
As with anything else in business, marketing costs money. It also takes time. Much of what you'll do to promote your site on the Internet involves networking. And effective "Internetworking" involves making the commitment to participate in newsgroups and on electronic mailing lists, seeking out links with other websites that are compatible with your own, writing for online publications, and moderating mailing lists and newsgroups.
Website Agenda and Goals
1. What is your reason for having a website? What do you hope will happen?
2. If you were your customer, why would you visit your site?
3. What do you have that your competition doesn't have?
4. Relative to what you offer, what other interests do your customers have?
5. If you were your customer, what key words or key phrases would you use to find your website via a search engine?
6. In priority order, choose the ten most important words or phrases from your answer to the preceding question.
Thank you for taking the time to read this report from Lrpdesigns. As you have seen, I do not ascribe to the "everyone needs a website" point of view. To the contrary, I believe that the decision to put your business on the World Wide Web should be made carefully. So take your time and make the right decision.
I hope that this report has helped you with the website planning process. If you have any questions about anything I've covered, send an e-mail to me at info(at)Lrpdesigns.com. Or give me a call at (520) 690-1888.
Published by Lrpdesigns
Post Office Box 43161
Tucson, Arizona 85733-3161
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If legal, accounting, medical, psychological or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.