A User-Centered Website
A User-Centered Website Having a quality website is critical to success in the online world. After all, your website should be at the center of your online presence. If we are to liken your online presence to hosting an event, having a good website is like finding the right location for your event. Despite all of your planning the success of an event can all come down to location, location, location. The right venue can make a good event even better and a bad venue can make an otherwise well planned event fail.
If you already have a website, you should start by taking a moment and really looking at it. As you look at it, ask yourself some key questions.
Does my website serve the purpose I originally planned for it? Does it convey what the purpose of my business is?
Whom do I want to visit my online business? Am I providing content that those types of visitors want? What is my website really being used for? These are all essential questions to ask yourself about your website in order to make sure that it is user-centered and effective. Generally speaking, the end result of all of your work on social media, search results, and online ads is to get customers and potential customers to your website. That is because, ideally speaking, your website is where your potential customers can be converted into the real deal and where current customers can find what they are looking for.
If you don’t have a website, we encourage you to use the following steps to help your website be exactly what your customers — both current and future — are looking for. However, we also encourage you to make sure that you are not spending all of your budget on a website that nobody can find. Hold some budget back for marketing your site.
Step 1: Have Good Hosting When it comes to your site running well, hosting makes all the difference. In our opinion, some of the best hosting sites are:
- Go Daddy*
- Amazon Web Services*
Picking a hosting platform with the right resources for your business will set the stage for your website and business in the digital realm. You may be wondering, what does a hosting site do? In short, they keep your website up and running, meaning that your site cannot survive and thrive without them. The hosting platforms mentioned above have different strengths and weaknesses. You need to do some research to determine which hosting service is right for you. Going back to our event analogy; strong hosting for your website is in direct correlation to the environment, location, and resources of a venue. Picking a hosting platform with the right resources for your business will set the stage for your website and business in the digital realm. Using a good venue — i.e. hosting service — makes all the difference for your guests. In a business situation, the hosting platform will take care of essentials like file storage, email hosting, server space, databases and more. They provide these types of resources so that you don’t have to provide them yourself. Below we have listed a few key metrics and questions to guide you as you find the right hosting platform for your site. Basic Metrics to Look For in a Hosting Company: • An uptime of 99.9% — this means that your website will be up and running on their servers 365 days a year. Anything less can and will be damaging to the business.
- Unmetered/unlimited bandwidth
- Unmetered/unlimited webspace or disc space
- Quality customer service • High ratings Additional Questions to Consider:
- How many domains can you have?
- Do they support e-commerce functionality?
- How much does it cost?
Step 2: Choose an Effective URL
A URL is basically a global address for specific documents, pages, or other resources on the World Wide Web. Put more simply, your URL is what is commonly referred to as your website address and people use it to locate USER CENTERED WEBSITE 6 7 your site. In fact, the word locater is even in the name: URL stands for Uniform Resource Locater. Netmark’s URL is Netmark.com — okay, technically our full URL is http://www.netmark.com/ but we’re trying to keep this simple. Following these tips will help you create an effective URL. Make it Relevant Your URL should represent either your company name or what visitors will find on your website. It is common practice to use your company name with no spaces followed by a domain name like .com or .org. However, there are times when it makes more sense to have a URL that is related to what you do instead. Either way, your URL should be relevant to your company. If you choose a URL that is not readily associated with your business, you may need to pursue a variety of branding opportunities to connect your web address to your business in people’s minds — making your URL relevant to your company. Believe it or not, there was once a time when nobody know what the URL Google. com was for. Keep it Short and Simple There are a lot of good reasons to keep your URL short and simple. Of course, short is relative but you need to make sure that your URL is short and simple enough to be typed without difficulty. Long and/or difficult addresses can cause problems for users and introduce opportunities for typos to land people in the wrong place.
Things to avoid in your URL:
- Words or names that are difficult to spell
- Excessive and/or irregular repetition of letters
- Long strings of words
- Hyphens and underscores When listing your URL on both physical and digital assets, you may choose to capitalize the beginnings of words to help separate them in people’s minds. For example, if your URL is something like manywordsstrungtogether.com* , you may want to think about listing it as ManyWordsStrungTogether.com* . The capital letters won’t affect people’s ability to get to your site, but it will help separate the words in their minds.
Make it Effective Your URL will be present in many different locations. In order for it to be effective, you’ll need to think about how your URL will be used on your social media platforms, on other websites, and even on signs and other physical assets. As mentioned above, you may choose to use capital letters to delineate words within your URL. Whatever you decide, however, make sure that you are being consistent in your use. To really be effective, it needs to be both clear and memorable. You should also determine if you will want to pursue your URL as a keyword for search results because this will affect how you use your URL on your site and elsewhere.
Keep the User in Mind In short, you need to keep the user in mind when creating and branding your URL. When your URL is memorable and easy to type, people are more likely to visit your website directly because strong URLs make it easy for users to get to your site.
Some Examples of Strong URLs Are:
- color.adobe.com* – Very simple and highly relevant to the site’s content especially since Adobe is already branded in most people’s minds.
www.mashable.com* – Easy to remember and has been branded in the minds of users.
www.idahofallsfamilydental.com* – This example URL has very strong ties to both an industry — family dentistry — and a location — Idaho Falls — making this a very strong URL. Some Examples of Weak URLs Are: • www.manyonline.org* – Without strong, targeted branding, most people would not associate this URL with the Museum Association of New York.
- www.a4pt.org* – This URL is so simplified that it could lose all meaning without strong, targeted branding. • www.commoncompanyname.com* – Using a common name for your URL gives no indication of what your company is or does, and can become confused with similarly named companies.
Step 3: Build a Strong, Effective Website As we already mentioned, a strong, effective website should be at the center of your online presence.
All of your social media outreach, search engine results and online advertising should be geared toward directing qualified traffic to your site so that you can sell your products or services. In order to accomplish this, your website needs to be built on a strong foundation — on a strong Content Management System (CMS). Some of A User-Centered Website A User-Centered Website Long and/or difficult URLs can cause problems and introduce opportunities for typos to land people in the wrong place. A strong, effective website should be at the center of your online presence. 8 9 the best and most commonly used CMSs are WordPress* , Wix* and Joomla* .
Finding the right CMS for your website is the key to effectively managing your time while still having a great website. Even if you know how to code, manually coding your website can drain a large amount of time and energy that could be directed more effectively elsewhere in your business. One of the main benefits of these CMSs is that they do most of the background coding and programming for you. If you don’t have any web design or coding experience, we would strongly suggest that you have your website designed by a web design company. However, you’ll want to make sure that they build your site with a CMS that you can learn how to update yourself. You generally don’t want to be responsible for making big changes to your site, but being able to make small updates without working through a third party can be very beneficial under specific circumstances.
Most hosting services will allow you to connect your website directly to your chosen CMS, but it’s important to make sure that you can use the two together. The whole point of your CMS is to make website creation easier, not more complicated. Some additional ways that a good CMS can help you include: Pre-Designed Themes A pre-designed theme is essentially a template that can be used with a specific CMS to build a strong, attractive website more quickly. Some of these themes are available for free, but most range in price from $50 to upward of $100 depending on the developer and the features that are included in the theme. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for so it can be a good idea to invest in a quality theme.
ThemeForest* , TemplateMonster* and Wix Templates* offer many attractive, effective, and mobile friendly templates that can be used to create a strong website. Many of these themes are also designed to be responsive and look good on a variety of mobile devices as well as in web browsers. CMS Plugins Most CMSs offer a variety of plugins that can be used to help you create landing pages, slideshows, and more. Most of the plugins are quick and easy to install, but you may need to take some time to learn exactly how to use the plugins to your advantage. E-Commerce and Back Office Options If your website needs to have ecommerce functionality or any other back office options, you’ll want to make sure that you choose a CMS that is designed to support these functions. This will allow your website to function correctly without having to spend a lot of time on custom coding.
Step 4: Create Useful Content Once you have the right hosting platform, a solid URL, and a strong website to send your users to, it’s time to fill it up with content. If we go back to our event analogy, content correlates to the drinks, appetizers, entrées, and desserts that you serve in order to satisfy your guests once they are at your venue.
But you may be asking yourself, what is content? To put it simply, content is information that you present in order to help your clients and prospective clients. Content comes in a wide variety of forms from onpage text to infographics and videos. This section is not intended to be a comprehensive look at content marketing, but it should help you understand the basic idea. In our experience, content should be used to strategically funnel your website visitors toward the actions you want them to take. To this end, we suggest creating a variety of content that fits into different sections of what we call the content funnel. Each piece of content should be designed to help your website visitors in some way.
The main portions of the content funnel — and the ways you can help your visitors — are to: • Inform • Instruct • Solve • Sell Depending on their needs, visitors to your site may enter at different points in this funnel. The best results come when you provide content that addresses their specific needs at the point at which they enter your funnel. Keep in mind, that users are generally looking for a solution to a problem and you can provide that answer.
As with any other strategic funnel, the upper levels are designed to expose a large number of people to your information. The trick is to use upper level content to help create more qualified traffic to your lower level content. Content can take a wide variety of forms, but it’s your job to make sure that it is the relevant solution your users are looking for. And, yes, one piece of content can sometimes fill more than one of these needs.