Value of a good Web site justifies redesign flurry

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With the stakes increasingly high in a global economy, businesses are coming to the realization that a simple home page no longer is an adequate online presence.

Today’s sophisticated buyers increasingly shop the Internet. They demand professional, efficient, engaging and secure Web sites, and they expect to find them easily through a search engine.

A company’s Web site can engage prospective buyers or it can turn them off. For many, it is the first impression of your company, and first impressions are more critical than ever in the electronic age.

The prospective customer is going to quickly make a judgment. If your site doesn’t convey professionalism, or if it’s difficult to use, a visitor won’t hesitate to move on to someone else’s site.

If a phone number is wrong or if a link doesn’t work or the design looks sloppy, all your marketing efforts are going to go down the tubes. The Web site can be a deal breaker.

I spoke to Rajeev Rajagopal, vice president of Tulsa, Okla.-based Managed Outsource Solutions (www.managedoutsource.com), who also thinks in terms of first impressions. He likened Web site redesign to interior office decorating.

“To me, redefining the Web site is like redesigning the front desk or the reception area,” he said.

Staff Writer Beth Rosenberg’s story on the number of companies that have redesigned their Web sites points up the importance of having a functional, yet informative site.

Rajagopal said the first step in redesigning a site is to know your audience. Companies need to have a full concept of what they want people to see on their site. Rajagopal used an analogy to make his point.

He said he gets calls from people, saying, “I want to redesign my Web site.”

“Why?” Rajagopal asks.

“It doesn’t look good.”

Rajagopal presses the caller for more details about his or her goals for the site.

“I’m hoping to drive some traffic to the site.”

He also hears some clients say they already have a design in mind and have seen two or three they like.

But knowing what you like is not enough. The company needs to have a clear understanding of who it is, what it is and what it provides, be it a service or a product.

That basic knowledge also translates to cost.

If you do not have a clear idea of what you need to turn your Web site into an efficient tool, then the cost of redesign can escalate. You and the Web redesigner can go back and forth a hundred times until the site suits you and your company’s goals.

On the other hand, if you have a clear understanding of what you want, the cost of redesign can be more manageable.

Web redesign should also be about drawing people to the site. You can have the best office in the world, but if no one walks into the office no one will see it, Rejagopal explained.

So it’s important for the company to understand its demographic and geographic markets and to identify the keywords people will look for.

That knowledge leads to the architecture of the Web site. Once you know the architecture, you know what needs to go to the home page. The design then becomes easier.

Keep in mind, though, that redesigning your Web site does not mean you will get more visitors. So how do you get people to your site?

It’s critical to make the site search-friendly, or search-optimal for certain key words. In the early days, search optimization was largely a matter of inserting enough keywords to make the site visible to search engines. In some cases, this still works.

The key words on your home page should signal search engines to find your company, product, service and much more.

Now that you have the prospect’s attention, how do you make sure you don’t blow it? You make certain you are prepared for a strong response.

Walker Bay Boats is a good example of a successful Web makeover. Earlier this year, the Washington-based company redesigned its main Web site and launched a new site dedicated to the Airis Inflatable kayak line. In March and April, the main site experienced a 9 percent spike in traffic, compared with the same months in 2007.

The Airis site, launched in January, has seen traffic increase steadily. Between March and April, traffic rose 100 percent, reaching 7,193 visits and 13,581 page views per month.

The company was swamped with customer inquiries from the Airis launch — so much so it had to double its number of customer service representatives.

That’s the best of the best.

— Lois Caliri
Editor

This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue.

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