The following is an an excerpt from “Make Your Small Business Website Work, Easy Answers to Content, Navigation, and Design”
John Heartfield wrote and designed this comprehensive book on building and maintaining business web sites (Rockport Publishers).
The small business website information presented in this book refers to the timeless best practices for creating an effective small business website.
Available on Amazon.com
Every day, untold amounts of money are lost because of mistakes that should have, and could have, been easily caught and corrected.
Here’s one example (the story is true, but the product has been changed to protect the innocent): A web shopper hears about a website that sells a revolutionary new type of garden tool. The shopper types in the URL and arrives at a homepage touting the new tool, displaying a photo, and offering a special discount for buying direct from the website. The site boasts a prominent “buy now” button.
The shopper is impressed, gets out a credit card, and clicks “buy now.” A form appears requesting the usual information including a phone number field. The shopper types in all the information except the phone number (people are hesitant to give their phone number to ecommerce sites) and clicks the submit button. Instead of verification that the order has been received or a “thank you!” message, the shopper is taken directly to the exact same homepage with everything, including the prominent “buy now” message, as it was before.
The shopper assumes it’s some kind of glitch but feels the tool would really make gardening easier. The “buy now” button is clicked again and, once again, the same form appears. All the shopper’s information is still in the fields of the form. The shopper doesn’t see any errors in their credit card info and, once again, the shopper in sent to the homepage. Once again the shopper is sent to the homepage.
Forget it, the shopper thinks, I’ll live without it.
The problem? The form was located “below the fold” (the non visible area of a long vertical page in a browser open to normal size). When the shopper clicked “buy now” instead of going to a new page, the navigation used an “anchor” (an marker inside the page) to jump to the form at the bottom of the page.
When the shopper clicked submit, the website detected an error. The phone number field was empty. The page was loaded again. But since the form was below the fold, the homepage appeared normal. The only difference in the newly reloaded homepage page was that a small line was added above the buy form noting that the phone number field could not be left blank. When the shopper clicked “buy now” again, the “you must complete the phone number field” message was, in essence, invisible to the shopper. Of course, the shopper could have put any phone number into that field.
If the person who designed the navigation above had read this book, that company would be shipping many more orders.
These days, almost very small business owner thinks, “I need a website!”
Of course, if you’re selling online or providing a service that can be described with extra benefits to the consumer, the obvious answer is: “Yes, you do need a website.” There’s a great deal of information on eCurtain Media’s site to help you build one.
However, it’s possible that your small business does NOT need a full-blown website. Don’t let anyone simply talk you into building a website because EVERY small business needs a Internet site.
Let’s consider two examples.
Example One: There’s an established medium-sized neighborhood hardware store. Its benefit over large outlets such as Home Depot is that it maintains a good basic inventory, has reasonable (though not cheaper prices), and an excellent knowledgeable staff. It has a loyal client base because customers know they can walk in, say, “I need a 2 1/2 inch bolt,” and they’ll be guided directed to the part they need. They don’t have to drive 20 minutes to Home Depot and look around the store for another 30 minutes. Also, they won’t be tempted to spend extra money on another new pair of scissors. This store needs to be found on the Internet. However it doesn’t really need a website. The convincing arguments for customers to go to this small hardware store are obvious. All the customers need to know is that it exists, its contact information, and how to easily find it. These pieces of information can be added to Online Yellow Pages and several other Internet Information Outlets.
Example Two: There’s a neighborhood auto repair shop. It’s won awards for service. It has strong professional affiliations with several major parts suppliers. It has many recommendations from its satisfied clientele. Its mechanics are all experienced pros. It has a guaranteed turn-around repair time. Someone from the shop will come to your house, pick up you car, repair it, and bring it back. It’s essential that such a small business has a strong professional website to bring those benefits to the public’s attention.
You should always consider the ROI (Return On Your Capital Investment) when you’re thinking you need a website.
Consider Example Two. The amount of extra profit the repair shop will make by investing in a great, reasonably priced web site demands that the shop invests in the kind of website that reflects the quality of its work and the benefits to its customers.
eCurtain Media can help you decide if you really need a website.
A Message From John Heartfield, eCurtain Media’s Director
John Specializes In Small Business Ideas & Answers.
My posts will be short and straight to the point.
I’ve run my own Internet small business companies for more than eighteen years. I’ve helped countless small businesses shine on the Internet.
My posts will cover a variety of topics.
For example: There are certain key factors you should consider when you look for a individual website developer or a website company. eCurtain Media is a business consulting company, not a “business website factory.”
I only build websites for a select number of clients. I don’t sell websites in bulk so my advice is always objective. My goal is lasting business relationships helping clients with business ideas to create and maintain great business websites and succeed with their business dreams.
I often hear something like, “Hey, my brother-in-law’s cousin knows a little HTML. He’ll build the site for just the experience. Why don’t I just have him do it?”
Why not have your brother-in-law build your website? After a few months, you’ll either wind up with a weak ineffective (possibly destructive) website or no website at all.
I’ll try to communicate in these posts with many kinds of business owners. Some know about “hosting companies.” Other don’t know the difference between a Domain Name and a Street Name. I think both kinds of owners will find clear useful advice.
I’ll share my personal experiences with vendors (I’ll name some of them) and clients (anonymous).
This is my person-to-person place. I’ll try to chat with you just as if we were sitting together over a cup of coffee.