Congratulations! By purchasing your own piece of cyberspace you have confirmed yourself as a serious internet marketer.
Before you delve into the joys of your cpanel it is time to sit down with a piece of paper and plan your online shop window.
What exactly is your site about? Who is your target visitor? What will they be looking for that you can supply? Write these fundamentals down at the top of the page.
If you were looking for your site, what would you do? It is likely you would start with a search engine such as Google or Yahoo so I suggest you do just that. Type your keywords in and do some research on your competition. What do you like about their site? What made you want to leave in a hurry? This is a valuable yet free education into what makes a successful website.
Some sites look like a parking place for ads. It can be very hard to find what the site can offer as any content is burried under advertising. First impressions are vital – one click of the back button and your visitor is gone for good. If all that fills your browser window is a large header graphic and some ads then would you bother scrolling down to see more? Worse still, imagine one of those ads offers just what you were looking for – you would click away without even remembering the rest of the site was there.
I’m all for adding income streams such as Adsense to your site but limit the advertising on your home page to some discreet links near the bottom of the page. If your website visitor has read down to the bottom of the page and not found what they were looking for then certainly offer them some alternatives but don’t hurry their departure.
It may seem pessimistic to think about your visitor leaving when they have only just found your site but don’t miss any opportunity to encourage them to return. Make sure you have a simple signup form on your home page and offer visitors something useful. This may be a newletters to keep them informed of your latest offers or an ecourse, for example. This is the only circumstance when a pop-up may be appropriate on your home page.
What is your target visitor looking for? If they are shopping around for the best price on something then they could probably care less ‘about me’. If you are offering a service or a business proposition however then this is a critical area for your consideration. You will want a welcoming head and shoulder photo of yourself with your name and contact details in plain view. If your visitor wants a good deal then your hottest offer will take this pride of place.
Is a picture worth a thousand words? If you are offering a graphic design service then by all means knock yourself out. If not then carefully consider how hard every image is working for you. Graphics are great for window dressing a site and making it more appealing. Graphics can also slow down your page’s load time. Have you ever given up when a page was too slow to show? Do you care that there may well have been a fantastic visual feast if you had waited longer?
Back to your piece of paper and work out where you want your visitor to go next. Try and keep the links from your main page at 5-10 only. There is such a thing as too much choice and too many options can give the impression that little of your site will offer what your visitor really wants. Would you spend time reading through lots of options when it is easier to click away and start again with another of the 8 billion sites competing for your attention? Not only are fewer links less confusing for your visitor but again less links mean a faster load time for your page. Work out the logical groups for your site’s information then link to these group menus from your home page.
What is the colour scheme for your site? Do you want something vibrant to inspire action? Are calming pastels that instill confidence closer to your goal? You will want to keep within a simple palette of colours thoroughout your site so it does not seem disjointed so consider your site livery carefully.
Does your shop window invite customers in off the street? Does it look like a classy establishment or a flea market? Keep your homepage clean, clear and simple and it will welcome website visitors into your site.
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