Web can make or break business
My friend, Ana, was telling me about the types of Web sites she likes to visit. They're usually great-looking Web sites that are easy to use and make her want to buy products every time she visits. "What's so great about these sites?" I asked, bracing myself for a vague answer, like "Oh, I don't know ... they're just ... nice".
You know what she said? She said a great Web site "really has its act together." She's so right, but what she really meant was that the company itself has its act together because it has what sales guru Jeffery Gitomer calls "21st Century awareness."
That type of awareness means that the company is so aware of the power and reach of the Internet to highly special markets -- huge markets -- and also linking communities around our planet -- that it hired an experienced Web professional to develop its Web site.
The company knows that its Web site is as important as its mandate. Potential customers and future employees check out your Web site before they decide to call you. Customers certainly research your Web site before deciding whether or not to buy from you. If your Web site is still hanging out in 20th century garb and functioning like a 1970s appliance (clunky and green), it's time for a redesign.
And while you're at it, fix the usability factor and make it easier to navigate. Go all the way and put some strategy behind it so you can be sure to get the results you're after. Your Web site is that important to your overall success in business and in life. When your Web site operates as smoothly as your company, more people respect you and want to do business with you.
Imagine if your customers walked into your store or office and were greeted with amateurish decor, broken doors and windows that lead to nowhere and confusing layout of rooms. You wouldn't gain many customers with that type of environment. So, why does your Web site look and function that way? People should like your design and even be comforted by it, like a sigh of relief ("Ah. This company knows what it's doing."); usability should be easy enough for a 10-year-old to figure out; page elements should lean on the visual side, vs. text-heavy; and your site should be easy to find in Google -- somewhere near the top of the natural search results. Now that's a 21st century Web site.
Here's a checklist you can use to test whether your Web site is not "with it."
* Broken links
* Confusing or overwhelming number of choices in navigation menu
* Too much text
* Slow download
* Poor or amateurish design
* Too many page elements (where do I click first?)
* Amateurish photography and/or no diversity of people
* Lack of "gotta-have-this" features to click with certain market segments
* Just plain cheesy
When you purge those items from your Web site, you automatically increase your "21st-century awareness" factor. But remember that one of the most important things about your Web site is this:
When you show up in the top three natural search results (not ads), people perceive of you as a leader in your industry. You must know what you're doing if you're at the top of the list in Google---wouldn't you agree?