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We don’t care about your website user experience

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A guest post by Media Relations guru, Tony Garner, Viva PR.

Web Sites that Work

We live in an exciting age. In some ways it has never been easier to communicate with people and a lot of that is thanks to this T’interweb thingy. Blogs, websites and e-shots are cheap and relatively easy to set up, even for techno numpties like me.

But therein lies one of the problems — how, amid this plethora of words and images, can you stand out and get your voice heard?

Websites are funny beasts. One of the common traps businesses fall into when they commission a site is to concentrate exclusively on how it looks NOT what it says. Flash images, break beat sounds and pictures of the chairman’s cat are all well and good but somewhere along the line the fundamental purpose of having a web presence appears to have got lost.

They’re potentially great communication and marketing tools but you have to remember the basics: what you are trying to achieve with a particular web page and what you hope the reader will do next.

So what’s the answer? Easy. Combine dazzling eye-catching design with fresh and original content. Don’t get blinded by the look. Instead, commission copy that’s well written and easy-to-follow and then keep it fresh by regularly updating it.

If you can manage that then you are probably in the top 10 per cent bracket already. Unfortunately, a lot of what is churned out these days is poorly constructed and chock full of spelling and grammar errors. Like sloppy service in a shop, these errors are offensive to the potential customers because they say, “we don’t care about your user experience here in our cyberworld”.

Another cardinal sin is a failure to do regular updates. Once the novelty of the communication tools wears off, too many firms leave their website or blog to fester.

So please don’t have news pages that haven’t been updated for more than a month. What message does “Latest News — November 2003” convey about your business?

Another thing to keep in mind is that — thanks to Pay Per Click campaigns — a visitor to a website might arrive anywhere in the site. For example we do some work for a solicitor who has a number of specialities. The bulk of his traffic arrives via his Google Adwords campaigns, but it is directed to a page linked to a particular service. The visitor may never see the ‘home’ page.

So, it’s worth pausing here and thinking what that means. It means you’ve got a number of different entry points or ‘home’ pages. We’re getting a bit technical here, but it’s simply a case of putting yourself in the shoes of the visitor and working out how and why they’ve landed where they have on your site.

I’ll close this little rant by revealing our own office pet hate when it comes to B2B copy. It applies to copy we see both online and offline. Sadly, we see it daily. It’s when a company refers to itself in the plural. We lost count of the times we have read Firm A are expanding. The firm is one. It’s singular. It’s Firm A is expanding.

Here endeth the lesson.

No, actually, here endeth the lesson — don’t lose site of the most precious marketing tool you have – words! There are millions of them and they’re mean, moody and magnificent.

Tony Garner

Tony Garner is a media relations specialist and a student of my AdWords success programme.

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