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Wed, 26 August 2009

These days, websites are the shop fronts for most new businesses. Find out how to use them to best effect.
Websites can be great tools for communicating with customers. A website has many unique advantages over other forms of communication
• Always-on/always accessible
• Small distribution costs
• Can be updated at any time with no legacy problems
• Can be customised on a per-user level
• One website can contain discrete levels of information
When considering what to include in your website, it is crucial to view the website as being a business application. Most of the decisions and ideas surrounding a website are managerial and functional not technical. It is critical that from the outset that you view the website as simply a tool of the business and not a means within itself. Perhaps most importantly, clearly define the purpose of your website.
The internet has made starting a new business simple. In theory anyone can be a bedroom entrepreneur with just a computer, an internet connection and a great idea.
However just building a website and putting it out there isn’t enough. You need to think carefully about what your website is saying about your business and whether it’s fulfilling its potential as a useful tool to help your venture grow.
Yell’s web design team team has come up with five questions you should ask yourself when planning a business website:
1. Does it fulfil its purpose? 
When planning your website, it’s best to start from the very beginning. It may sound obvious but if your business is all about selling product, your site will need a shopping cart and a way for customers to pay you. If you’re providing a service, clients will need to be able to contact you or book online. If the vital component is missing, your site, and therefore your business, won’t get off the ground.
2. Does it have enough information?
When figuring out what to put on your site, you need to get to the bottom of what your customer wants. Potential customers are unlikely to commit to making a purchase unless they have all the necessary information. People can still be wary of making a financial commitment online as it removes human interaction. Including phone numbers will help them to feel reassured. Your site should also feature details about who you are, your products and services and what’s special about your business to advertise it in the best possible light.
3. Is it well presented?
Your business model may be great and your site might have all the answers, but visitors won’t get past the homepage if it looks a mess. Most sites are arranged in grids, reminiscent of newspaper pages, which keep everything neat and easy to navigate. Think about the design of your site as you would a shop front; pick inviting colours and choose a font that’s clear and easy on the eye to encourage potential clients to spend longer browsing your pages.
4. Can people use it?
While presentation is important, it means nothing if visitors to your site don’t know where to click. For a business site, simplicity and signposting will ensure that potential customers don’t get frustrated and give up halfway to the checkout. Dynamic, arty formats are great for portfolios but do corporate sites no favours. Make menus clear and obvious. A breadcrumb trail is also a must for large sites, so visitors know how they arrived on their current page.
5. Can people find it? 
So your site, looks great and functions properly, but you’re business still isn’t doing that well? It could be because nobody can see it. Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) is a technique you can use to help people find your site. It works by looking at the words your potential clients will type into search engines, such as Google.
If your website is full of relevant content, which clearly shows what your business is about, then Google should pick it up naturally.   Making sure it’s well structured will also help. Incoming links to your site and title tags for each page (which appear in your Google listing) will also put you in the search engine’s good books.
Alternatively, if this all sounds a bit complicated, you can ask your web designer or a separate SEO provider, to take care of this for you.
Article supplied by the Online Marketing Team

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