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Your Web site is a mirror

March 2, 2008
Williamsport Sun-Gazette
You know how some folks believe that the clothes we wear are a reflection of our personalities, or that first impressions are the only important impressions? Well, the same can be said about the Web site design of your business. Your Web site is a mirror; a mirror that reflects your beautiful eyes and at the same time shows every minor blemish on your face. In addition, your Web site is an invitation to come inside your business, and as such, should give the customer the same experience that they would get if they visited your business in person. If you are thinking about designing a Web site for your business, or if your organization has been using the web for years, here are a few things to consider.

The homepage should convey the key message of your business. By the way, do you know your key message? Are you a cost-leader or a differentiator? Are you trying to attract customers from a broad or focused market? Or, are you trying to employ an integrated cost-leader/differentiation strategy? I am sure you can see by my questions that knowing your business strategy is a critical starting point for good Web design.

The colors, fonts, images, and tools need to look good and be consistent with your business strategy. For example, a high school web design should probably use colors that match the “school colors,” but if your organization doesn’t have a defined color scheme you might want to think “interior design” when creating your Web site. If you are a differentiator, then think upscale and trendy. If you are a cost leader, then go for efficient and sleek. By the way, did you hear about the McDonald’s restaurant in southern California that was redesigned using Feng Shui? The owners used the eastern design technique because it looks cool and they cater to a large Asian population in their area. If you went to their Web site and didn’t experience the same decor, it just wouldn’t make sense, right?

Make sure to keep your site updated constantly. Have you ever been on a site, clicked a link, and the link dies or shows you information that is clearly out of date? You can’t let this happen. One way to take advantage of your hard work in frequently updating your site is to create a “what’s new” section on your homepage. Moreover, you can bring people to your Web site to see “what’s new,” by having them subscribe to an online newsletter or receive automatic alerts.

Your site should be interactive, and allow the users to engage in a virtual customer experience. It should be set up to instantly handle and process customer questions, send messages to you from customers via online forms they fill out, and give them access to immediate information. In short, your Web site should not just be an electronic business card; it should be a place of business.

Finally, one of the best ways to think about creating or redesigning your Web site is to study your immediate competitors and businesses in your industry. See what they are doing, and decide if that makes sense for you. I also think it is very helpful to study Web trends outside your industry to see if you might import exciting methods into your way of doing business. And remember do not put all of this work on your Web designer or your information technology professionals. They tend to have a myopic and technical view of what can be done in the world of computers, and may not be thinking about business strategy when creating an awesome design.

So I have to ask you, has your business seriously considered what clothes it is wearing lately? If not, you might want to take a good hard look in the mirror.



Dr. Neil Boyd is an Assistant Professor of Management at Lycoming College

Dr. Boyd can be reached at Boyd@Lycoming.edu

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