Building a Web Site That Reinforces Your Brand

If by any slight chance you're wondering if you need a Web site — or a stronger Web site than the one you already have — make a list of brand names you know, and then look online to see if each one has a Web site. You probably won't find a great brand that isn't backed by a great site. That's because in today's wired world, building a great brand and building a great site go hand in hand.

Before building or strengthening the Web site for your business and your brand, give some thought to the kind of people you'll be serving online, the kind of information they'll be seeking, and what you want to achieve through your online presence. Answer the following questions:

  • Who is likely to visit your site? Will your site be visited primarily by current customers? Or will it be used by job seekers, suppliers, customer prospects, or others seeking information about your business?
  • How will people use your site? Will people want general information, such as your location, open hours, and product lines? Will they want answers to frequently asked questions about your offering? Will they want to study your organization's background and experience or find out more about your products? Will they want the ability to request quotes or to study customization options? Will they want to buy online? Will job seekers want to apply online? By knowing what people will want from your site, you can design its features and functions accordingly.
  • What are your goals for your site? Every site should advance the brand image. Beyond that, do you want your site to generate leads, capture online sales, provide customer support, or simply deliver information about your business? Your answers in this area help you weigh site development costs against the value you expect your site to deliver.

Settling on the right type of site

Most Web sites fall into one of the following categories:

  • Company contact sites: Easy and economical to build and maintain, these sites are like online business cards, with graphics that advance brand images while delivering the facts that online users seek about businesses. Minimally, a contact site provides your business identity and description, information about your products and services, your open hours, and how to reach you online and at your physical location.
  • Brochure sites: These sites are online cousins to print brochures. This kind of site needs to advance your brand image while delivering clear information about your company background, products, and services.
  • Support sites: These sites reinforce existing customer relationships by providing online service and customer communication, including information about product usage, installation, troubleshooting, updates, and news. They're useful when many customers have similar questions or service needs that can be addressed online by companies prepared to respond immediately to user questions.
  • E-commerce sites: These are sites designed to sell goods online. They invite and allow customers to view products, make choices, place orders, submit payment, and, often, track delivery. Because of the complexity of the functions required, these are the most expensive sites to build and maintain.

Considering content

Content describes electronically delivered information, including text, photos, or graphics. As you plan the content for your brand Web site, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Build your site page-by-page. Don't think of your site as a single unit with many pages. Think in modular terms, with an introductory home page and links to pages that each covers a single topic.
  • Think of your home page as the welcome mat to your entire site. Just as you wouldn't try to tell your whole story on the cover of your brochure, don't try to tell your whole story on your home page. Use your home page to establish your brand image, convey your brand promise, and invite users to click for specific information.
  • Use keywords to your advantage. Keywords are words or phrases that people enter into search engines when they're seeking information or a particular Web site. As you develop each page on your site, think of the keywords that describe the content of your page. Then use those words in the page headline and several times in the page copy so that, when consumers seek information through keyword searches, your page has a chance of appearing in the search results.
    Keyword searches may send users to internal pages of your site rather than to your home page, so be sure that every page identifies your brand and provides an easy link back to your home page.
  • Be spare with words and generous with design. Online, people skim pages, grabbing information from headlines, clicking on easy-to-understand buttons, and stopping only when they see information that seems to meet their needs. To catch the attention of these fast-moving page skimmers, avoid long blocks of text in favor of quotes, testimonials, headlines, graphics, and a design that's clear, clean, and capable of conveying your brand image at a glance.

Mapping out easy navigation

Navigation is how users access information on your site. Most sites use menu bars and colored or underlined text or icons to help users navigate Web pages and know where to click to reach the information they want.

On your home page, present clearly labeled selections so that site visitors know exactly how to proceed to get their questions answered. When you're putting together the content of pages other than your home page, follow this advice:

  • On each page, provide navigation keys so that users can jump from site page to site page with ease.
  • On each page, provide a link back to your home page.
  • Keep navigation choices clear and to a minimum.
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