The business website remains subject to mass interpretation. There are as many different configurations as there are businesses. This article will attempt to layout some important and fundamental aspects for the business website. We won’t go into any fancy or splashy concepts at this time, just that which makes for a usable business website.
Homepage & Navigation
There are a number of important things to consider right from the beginning. Two of the most critical elements are the Homepage and Navigation.
The Homepage is the first page that browsers hit when they come to your site. Navigation is how a person visiting your website moves around the site. Let me first say a few things about the Homepage…
The Homepage should be as eye-catching as possible and show that there is considerable content at the site. If the site is just a big splashy page with cool graphics and pictures, but does not clearly communicate that there is useful and accessible content available, the user is likely to quickly move on.
Remember, Internet surfers are generally of the microwave and McDonald’s generation. If they can’t get it quickly, they will do without.
The Homepage must quickly and clearly show that the information I am looking for is available on the website and that the website has considerable depth, without being overwhelming. Another thing, the Homepage must load fast! Remember, microwaves and McDonald’s! If the Homepage is slow loading, I’m outa there! Get your website user something to look at quickly or you lose them.
Navigation is the next critical factor. You need to provide consistent and readily available navigation for your website users. This is fairly straightforward to do if you use a concept called frames.
This is where the top or the side of the website remains constant while the body of the website changes based on content selected.
The side or top frame provides consistent and always available navigation while the main or body frame changes with the various content selected.
There are some challenges with frames. First and foremost they violate the must be fast rule. Frames are not generally fast, so make sure your website developers do extensive testing.
Another challenge is that frames don’t work or look consistent across different browser types and versions. This means that your website developers will need multiple browsers and versions of the same to do thorough testing. This is not an impossible task, and when frames work they work very well.
If you spend much time surfing the Net, you will come across sites that offer both a frames and non-frames version of their website. This takes some work and I wouldn’t suggest it unless you are a large company with a good deal of capital to sink into the development and maintenance of the site.
There are a couple of other things that relate to Navigation. Make sure that there is always a link available that allows the user to immediately proceed to a Contact Us page.
If you do not have a well thought out and thorough Contact Us page you will likely never see that user again. This is one of the most frustrating experiences for website users.
I have seen what I needed to see and now have some questions or wish to start an e-mail dialogue with someone, but I can’t find anyway to contact someone at the business.
Most Web pages usually have an e-mail link to the Webmaster, but this is not the person I want to communicate with. Be certain to provide e-mail links to the folks at the business who can truly interact with and help me. Don’t send me to some geeky Webmaster who only knows how the pages work.
Another general concept to consider is that anytime in the body of the content there is reference to some other place or content on the website, or some other website all together, or a contact suggestion, place the link directly in the body of the content.
For instance, if you tell me Joe Smith can help me with my bookings, or you mention bookings at all, Joe Smith and/or bookings, those words in the website should be links that I can click on and be whisked away to the relevant page or have an e-mail message pop-up addressed to Joe ready for me to type in my inquiry and send off.
Little touches like this will get website users feeling like you really know what you are doing and that the website is a critical part of your business. You should be generous with your linkage in the content of the website. It greatly enhances the Navigation and usability of the site.
There you have it. If you do these two things well, you should be able to capture the lion’s share of website users interested in your domain and information space.
If you mess these two up, it isn’t likely that you will have many repeat visitors. Pay attention to these aspects and you will garner some loyalty from those who visit your site. Don’t forget, it is ultimately your content that must be useful.
Keep it thorough and fresh, changing as often as possible, and you will keep folks coming back for more. Provide lots of links to other useful sites and you will eventually be used as a portal of sorts. Your website itself will have value.
Vince Jordan has been employed in the data-processing industry for 27 years, the last ten of which have revolved around the Internet. His last company developed software specifically for use on the Internet. He is a semi-retired CEO who enjoys writing articles for his friends.