Christopher Parr of Parr Interactive wrote the following article for Madison Magazine in 2001, defining the top 10 things, the secrets, you really need to know when creating a successful corporate or small business web site. He recently rediscovered the article — and is publishing it as a 10 year retrospective on online marketing and web design. Before Facebook, Twitter and Klout, revisit 2001:
Creating a web presence? Madison, Wisconsin-based web designer and marketer Christopher Parr offers the inside scoop on what you should know — and what you should avoid.
- Know your audience. Create a site for the customer, not what someone in your company or an agency “thinks” the site should say or do. Also, consider the new visitor — look at your site with this fresh perspective — and explain who you are and what you offer at a brief glance.
- Simplify the site. Make it fast and easy to navigate. The colors and images should naturally flow from section to section. Be intuitive.
- Update frequently. No one will return to your site if the content never changes. Give potential customers a reason to come back for more. From their view, a stale site reflects the nature of your company.
- You get what you pay for. Not all designers and developers are created equal. Put the money into it and build a site of value that will last. Consider it an investment.
- Not everyone needs a dot com. If you’re a liquor store or a local dentist, sure, create a brief site that includes directions, phone numbers and an e-mail address. Have an “about us” page. But there’s no reason to build an $80,000 wiz-bang site with Flash animation and distracting bells and whistles. Don’t be talked into something you don’t need.
- Be prepared for a long and bumpy ride. Regardless of what anyone promises, it’s not easy to create an online presence — especially an e-commerce site. From selecting Internet service providers to working with developers or implementing consumer service software, the process may take twice as long as expected.
- No presence is better than a bad presence. As customers compare sites and services — a quickie site created by your nephew with Microsoft Front Page might be a turnoff. You may be the best in your field, but first impressions are everything.
- Cruise the competition. You might be able to catch their mistakes before you make them online. Learn by their strengths and weaknesses.
- Get the facts. You may go with a developer because you admire one of the sites they created — but the designer who created the site is no longer there. Or, perhaps they just host the site — someone else designed it. Ask who’s working on your project; find out skills and experience; call their clients and ask if they delivered as promised.
- You’re online. Now what? With the glut of Web sites, it’s hard to get noticed. Be proactive; include your URL on billboards, letterheads, business cards and ads. Avoid blowing your entire marketing budget on that Superbowl ad. Submit the site to search engines and directories, promote it on newsgroups and initiate cross-promotions with other sites. Buy banner ads on Yahoo or purchase keywords on GoTo. Provide excellent customer service and deliver as promised. Basically, you’ve just begun.
Christopher Parr, CEO of Parr Interactive, is an award-winning writer and online marketing strategist. Since 1995, the Madison, Wisconsin-based internet pioneer and marketer has launched numerous successful web projects, viral videos and online marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. In addition to creating blogging and buzz marketing platforms, services include web design, social media marketing, digital marketing and SEO in Madison and Milwaukee (WI). Visit www.parrinteractive.com to learn more.