|Let’s discuss one of the more overlooked aspects of building a website, how to define your website. Now that you have your business plan laid out it’s time to start building your web site, right? Well, not just yet.The next few steps involve taking your business plan and building a structure based on it, much like building a house. You need the framework of the house in place first before you can start filling the rooms with furniture and hanging pictures on the wall. The same goes for building a web site. You need to define the structure of your web site before you can start adding images and content. Otherwise you will end up with a web site that lacks clarity and functionality. |
Having a web site doesn’t serve much of a purpose if your potential customers are leaving because they cannot navigate their way around the web site to find what they are looking for.
Based upon your business plan you need to determine what kind of web site you want. There are many types of web sites but they can be broken down into three basic groups; brochure web sites, interactive web sites, and e-commerce web sites. Each type of site has its purposes based upon the type of industry your business is in. Here is a brief outline of each type:
- Brochure web site: A brochure web site is just as the name implies, an online brochure. These types of sites are useful for a business that is trying to educate their customers on a specific service that they offer. Users general just browse the web site to gain information, look at some pictures and find out more information about your company.
- Interactive web sites: An interactive site is the next step up from a brochure site. With this type of site you allow users to either request information or leave comments by way of a form, blog or message board. Interactive sites may also offer downloadable forms, content and software for free or a small fee. Interactive sites are also a great way to generate sales leads and promote services and goods that your business offers.
- E-commerce web site: An E-commerce web site’s main objective is to sell products and/or services online, increasing your sales and reaching an audience that your storefront location could never achieve. E-commerce sites generally provide a shopping cart and a secured checkout where payments are accepted.
Once you have determined what type of site suites your business model, it’s time to think about the site navigation and flow.
“Pulling it together”
Ok, you have now analyzed your site and determined the purpose, audience, budget, and the type of site that will work for you. So creating the site’s navigation should be easy, right?
One of the most important aspects of your web site is the navigational layout. Poor navigation is the number one reason users leave a web site. So it pays to spend time getting it right. The general rule of thumb is that if it takes users three or more clicks to find what they are looking for on your site then your navigation needs help.
Sure you may understand the flow of the site, after all it’s your business and you built the site, but will your potential customers be able to follow the navigation?
Take the time to examine your site’s flow before you start building the pages by creating a flow chart. Does the flow make sense or does it seem too confusing?
- Streamline the navigation and try to put the most relevant information on your top tier pages rather than hiding it in sub pages.
- Clearly define the links so that they are not too ambiguous to the viewer.
- Consider cross-linking your pages within the content of your web pages.
The quicker a user can find what they are looking for without searching too much… then the more likely you will be in closing the sale.
Kevin is a Project Manager at The BrandBuilder Company.