I recently attended the first GrowSmartBiz conference, sponsored by Network Solutions. There were many great speakers and panels, but one panel, “Marketing and Innovation”, stood out in my mind. One of the panelists, Ramon Ray, is a “Technology Evangelist”, who runs Smallbiztechnology.com, a company that helps small businesses with their technology needs. He gave a list of rules for small businesses to follow and they are applicable to how to create an excellent, user-friendly website as well.
(His rule is first, the one applicable to websites is after the equal sign.)
- Have a great product = Have a great website. How does a company go about creating or redesigning a website? There are valuable resources for those who want a 101 education, but the best way to create a great website is to notice the ones you like to use, and notice the ones you find difficult to interact with. There may be pieces of certain websites you like. Write them down. Create a master list. And then find consultants who can help you hone your marketing messages and create a user-friendly website that consistently addresses the core principles of your business.
- Have a relationship with your customers = understand your users and anticipate their questions. I covered this in my last blog post, “5 Rules for understanding and answering your users’ questions”. Briefly, it is critical when designing, developing and writing for a site that you think about all your users’ possible questions. Then answer those questions, using all different kinds of content (text, video, photos, podcasting) and interactive possibilities (downloadable PDFs, surveys, online analysis widgets, etc.).
- Know needs of your customers = LISTEN to your users. There are so many ways to do this, and yet so many great design teams fumble on this one core principle. Analyze your data on a weekly, if not daily basis. Look at visitors, page views, bounce rates, paths travelled throughout the site. Watch your search data and incoming traffic. Post surveys. Do usability testing. Talk to your users, if possible.
- Take no gracefully = I think Mr. Ray’s comment here was really about not burning bridges. If your user does not want you’re offering, then accept it with grace and move on. Consistently iterate by watching your data so you can know what you’re doing wrong. However—
- Take no with a but = this is a critical Web rule. Find many different doorways to entice your user on your site. There have to be many pathways to the same content found pages. If your user is about to jump off your site, make sure you have a few different ways for them to find the same thing.
- LISTEN =LISTEN. I think I covered this in 3.
I found his comments valuable, both for running a business and for consistently reminding myself about the putting your user first. No matter the marketing strategy, social media strategy, online strategy, the core part of any business is the buyer, customer, user. Make sure you are always putting them first in your priorities.