The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

Creating World Class Websites


A company by definition is ´any entity engaging in business, such as a proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.´ Lets think about that for a moment. An entity engaging in business. Why then do the majority of websites not follow a business strategy? In simple terms they aren´t prepared to pay more than they think is necessary to get their ´online presence´. Poster sites I call them. Now there is nothing wrong with a website which says ´I am here, this is what we do, get in touch´ as long as the business plan is prepared for very little return on that investment. But companies in the past have expected so much from these static web entiti
es and then blamed everyone involved with the website for it´s failings when in reality it´s down to poor strategy on the part of the company executives.



When are businesses going to wake up to the fact that direct marketing is the real key to success on the web?



When asked recently what I thought made a world class website I gave an unexpected answer, probably the reason I was given the work on reflection! It required an explanation then just as it does now.



A world class website is about analyzing every detail in your marketing strategy and then building on those principles and rules so that your website can portray them effectively.



That´s the one line answer.



What does that mouth mangle of a sentence mean then?



It means that you have to take the reasons that your business is successful enough to be able to afford to pay for a high quality website and apply that to your web strategy.



Define your market


The first big failure of many websites I´ve seen is that everyone seems to think that because you´re on the world wide web we should be selling to everyone in the world. This is utter rubbish! When you look at the successful websites out there they gear their website to their target market. If you sell cars you are looking to attract people that want to find out about your cars or want to buy a vehicle from you. You shouldn´t be trying to keep anyone on your website who is not interested in your cars. Why bother? However you might also want to consider what else, other than the cars you sell, your audience might be interested in. For instance selling magazines and books about your vehicles, specialist tools, technical forums for mechanical issues, insurance, links to related services. You then give your audience more reason to come back to your site and you begin to develop a highly targeted audience. On too many occasions I have seen the line ´the ultimate site´ and ´get in touch´ on websites with no clear definition of what type of people should ´get in touch´.



Copy & content


Good copy is vital with a capital V! and must persuade the user to take action, content should be the reason that you want your audience to be at your site, the action if you like. They go hand in hand, copy and content should be complimentary. Talk to the audience using active voice, by that I mean develop a one on one relationship with the reader as soon as they start reading. Write as if you´re talking to them.



For instance take the f ollowing two sentences:



´Click here to proceed, the transaction is processed and then an emailed confirmation will be sent out.´



´When you click the button, we process your transaction and automatically send you an e-mail confirmation.´



Which one sounds better when you read it? If you think it´s the first sentence you shouldn´t be writing web copy! The second sentence talks to the reader and forms a relationship using we, your and you in a very effective manner. Be careful though not to overdo this or your copy will sound infantile. You need to get the balance right and think about every sentence your website contains. The best way I have found to write in this way, is to list what your message is trying to get across and then write how you would tell someone over the telephone about what you´re trying to say.



Formulate a style and stick to it. Your copy and content should wear a uniform if you like. Titles, bulleted lists, the text font, the way links are displayed should follow the same rules throughout the site. Right down to full stops being in the right place. For instance:



  • Here is a badly formatted Bullet List

  • with no formatted style or thought.




  • here is a well bulleted list.

  • with a style which is uniform.



The first style is bad because the top bullet has no full stop where the second has, and has capital letters where the second hasn´t. The second style is better because it follows the same pattern.



Persuasive architecture


You need to use persuasive architecture throughout the website to get your audience to do what you want them to do. All your copy should be focused toward your goals and objectives and link effectively to your content.



Usability


A 3 click system is a must. That means a user must be able to easily get to any part of your website with 3 clicks of the mouse. Amazon have a two click system which is even better! The navigation is tied in with the persuasive architecture mentioned but generally it must be fast easy to use and obvious above all else. You shouldn´t have to waste valuable copy space by putting the line ´use the links to the left to navigate our site´ it should be plainly obvious to the browser how to get around your site and keep the area where links are consistent so that your audience doesn´t get confused.



Design


I personally am not a graphic designer. It has become plainly obvious to me over the years that my PhotoShop skills while good are no match for the creativity and imagination a professional designer has. That´s why I concentrate on what I´m good at which is the programming (the technical bit) and marketing (the important bit) and let the designer concentrate on image. Image is an enormous part of creating a world class website. If it looks poor it doesn´t matter how good the rest of your site is all the rules I´ve described are worthless because people automatically think ´unprofessional´ and leave.



Functionality


Your website should work the way you require it too and there is no excuse for it not too. Web technology now is so far advanced from the days of static HTML that everything fr om Amazon´s website to a poster site can be designed by a relatively small team. What happens after that should not be down to that team it should be then down to your business. You get what you pay for and if the website you want is going to be kept fresh and current you are going to have to have a system which is easily updated. Keeping a website current is another important issue, your website should reflect what is happening in your business, every day if possible and you can´t afford to pay your designer to do that. So pay him to build in an administration system.



Summary


A world class website is about analyzing every detail in your marketing strategy and then building on those principles and rules so that your website can portray them effectively.