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How To Start And Run An Online Business

Article: 12. Building Your Online Business Website Part 2


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Plan Your Website

Planning your web site is the most important and interesting stage in the development and creation of a website. This is a time for introspection and for putting your thoughts together. Here are some of the key issues you need to consider and pen down your responses before you move further.

  • What are your goals and expectations of the web site you intend to build? Are you expecting to make sales or do you only want to provide information? Is your web site the face of your business or only a part of it?
  • Do you have any new business ideas you want to explore? Will the web site be a medium for your research or a marketing tool for the end product?
  • What is your target audience and how efficient are they as internet users? You would need to plan your web site differently if it is aimed at older people who frequent the internet less often than if your target audience are teenagers.
  • The search engines such as Google and Yahoo are the most popular way that internet users locate websites and businesses that may interest them. It is important that your web site is designed and planned to rank well in the organic search engine results.
  • It is vital that you research competitor sites and find out how they function and market their products. You will need to find a different way of doing things so that your target audience takes notice of your site.

Before you get ready to use software programs or hire a designer or web developer put together a plan for your web site on paper. Visit websites and decide for yourself what you like and don't like and write it all down. Look at everything from the quality of content, design, colors used to the navigation and e-commerce. When designing the web site you need to keep in mind two specific factors, your target audience and the search engines. Interestingly both your target audience as well as search engine spiders like almost the same things. They like clear and concise content that is interesting and relevant. They enjoy websites that offer clean designs and attractive colors and are easy to download. And finally they like websites that function smoothly and offer good navigation.

Design your web site with the following issues in mind:

Content:

Content is what drives internet users to any website. It is important that the content on your web site is relevant, interesting and easy to understand. It should be in a font and font size that is clearly read. Black is an easy color to read and the most popular.
Avoid designs as watermark under the content, as it makes it difficult to read.

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When you are formatting your content align it to the left side instead of centering it, as the latter technique makes it difficult to read. If you are adding images with your content, ensure that they are appropriate and not distracting. The text and images should be placed so that they use the space well and give a balanced effect. Ensure that your content uses keywords and phrases most likely to be used when an internet users is searching for your business or industry.

Do try to ensure that the most crucial information is provided in the initial part of the web page so that the visitors are encouraged to scroll down for more. The text is what your target audience is here for, so the more the better, but do ensure it is relevant and interesting.

Navigation:

Now that you know what you want to say, you have the basic web pages that you want to begin with. Navigation for your web site should be simple and it should be easy for your visitors to get from one page to the next and to the homepage without any trouble. It is also important that your visitors are not met with a ‘page not found'.

Opt for a left side menu that uses text and no buttons and makes it easy to get from one page to the next. On the top right side keep the site search bar. Use the sides to feature popular products and add some related graphics to accompany them. Also allocate a part of the page for recent news releases. At the bottom of the page have an expanded menu so that your visitors can also move on once they reach the end of the web page.

If you intend to sell products and services online then it is important that the e-commerce aspects also be taken into account in the navigation. It should be easy for visitors to view products that they are interested in and add it to their shopping cart and move on. You would also need to opt for safe payment gateways and your navigation would also need to include this.

Design and Layout:

It may be tempting to add dramatic Flash animation and myriad colors to your design, but resist the temptation. Do try to keep to a simple and sleek deign that is pleasing to the eye and will connect with your target audience. There are about 216 colors in the browser safe palette that can be viewed by almost all computers and it is best to go with these colors. You may prefer to incorporate the colors your business usually uses and also utilize your logo in the web site design. If you don't have a logo, this is the time to create one. Align images and text with careful consideration and utilize the space effectively.

The design of your web pages should complement the content and your business. Whatever the nature of your business it is best to go with a clean and organized look for your website. Do ensure that the images and any animation of the site are not time consuming to load.

Basic Pages Your Site Needs

Home Page:

The home page is the central page for your web site and gives an overview of what your web site offers to visitors. It should ideally be connected with all other pages on your site. It may often be the landing page for visitors who are looking for your business.

About Us Page:

The about us page gives your target audience insight into the history and structure of your business and how it functions. This page can play a great role in establishing your credibility as an industry leader and a business they can trust.

Contact Us Page:

This page may call to action and require the visitors to fill out a form. It is a medium by which your target audience can contact you for queries. The contact us page should also provide a business address so that the visitors feel confident about your site.

Policies Page:

This is important as the visitors need to know how you may use their personal information and how it may be safeguarded. Some states such as California require that sites must state their privacy policy if they request California residents for personal information.

Construct Your Site to Be Search Engine Friendly

Title:

The title tag is important to your page for many reasons. Firstly, every HTML document needs a title tag and here is your opportunity to clearly identify the contents of the web page. This helps in the search engine rankings for the web site when a relevant search is made as title tag shows up in the results. Secondly, the title tag is displayed on the top of the browser window so the internet user knows where they are. To make your title tags search engine friendly do ensure that they use relevant keywords used in the page and also your company name and capture the essence of the page. Try to keep your title to 64 characters to avoid it being cropped up by search engines

Meta Tags:

The HTML codes in the heading of a page are meta tags. These essentially include a meta description tags and meta keywords tags. Meta tags are meant for search engines and provide them key information about the web pages. This helps the search engines categorize the pages and also help the web pages find their way to the top of the search engine results.

Headlines:

Most internet users don't spend time reading an entire web page. They scan the headlines and decide whether the page has any information that may be of use to them. This is why it is important that the headlines for each paragraph capture its gist. Heading tags tell the search engine spider just what the web page offers and this can help increase your ranking on the search engine results.

Body Text (Content):

The body text in a web page should be apt, relevant and informative. It should use the keywords provided in the meta tags and elaborate on them. The idea is to provide content that will facilitate good organic search engine results.

Hyperlinks:

Hyperlinks are the links that lie within the web page and when clicked they link to another web page on the site. Hyperlinks are usually in the form of text with keywords. They place extra importance on the keywords used and search engine spiders take them more seriously. If you hyperlink Page A to page B the hyperlink emphasizes on page B of your website. It is ideal to use about 2 to 5 hyperlinks in your content in every page.

In later articles I will discuss more about creating the actual web site yourself or out sourcing the creation or even a combination of both methods.

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