- First Impressions Count: What Your Home Page Says About You
- Search Engines, SEO, Getting Listed, and Staying There
- Using Navigation
- Engaging Your Visitors and Keeping Your Content Fresh
- Marketing Basics and Social Networking
- Why You Need to Keep Your Web Site Up to Date
Once your Web site is created and online, the work doesn't stop. It is important to note that being the administrator of a Web site takes ongoing work to keep it updated, to keep your content fresh, to advertise and market it, and to keep your visitors engaged. Depending on what type of site you have created, the workload may be more or less, but all Web site administrators need to take a proactive approach and stay on top of taking care of their Web site. This chapter will explain some best practices and simple steps to keep up your Web site and to continue growing your visitor exposure and brand reach.
First Impressions Count: What Your Home Page Says About You
If you browse the Web randomly, you can see examples of all the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some home pages draw you into the site, and others make you wince. Here are some helpful tips on making sure your home page is a winner.
- Avoid splash pages. Splash or intro pages were really popular a few years ago. Usually it was just a page showing an image, Flash media, or video segment with a button or a link that said "Enter" or "Enter site" or "Skip intro." Splash pages really do not offer anything of useful value to your site visitors. They force your visitors to make an unnecessary click just to get to the information they came to your site for in the first place. They also add very little in terms of practical information and relevancy to search engines.
- Make your site navigation easy to locate and use. It can be tempting to be clever with navigation, but forcing users to play a game of hide-and-seek with your navigation will result in lost visitors.
- Blinking, flashing, scrolling, or animated items should be kept to a minimum and should be tastefully done. Items on your page that scroll, blink, flash, or are animated need special care. If items scroll, make sure the information that is scrolling is easily readable, and adjust scrolling speeds as needed. Blinking and flashing items are almost always not good for any site; most people will be turned off by items that are flickering or flashing, and for some people it can induce seizures. W3schools has more information on accessibility and the implications of blinking or flashing at www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20 . Slide shows or animation should be of high quality, the subject matter should be easily identifiable, and as with scrolling, whatever animation or slide-show speed that is used should be adjusted so that the subject matter is able to be understood by the visitor. Placing what is called "eye candy" on a site simply for artistic reason, without it having meaningful reason to be there such as an actionable item or to impart site information, will distract from the content of your site. Content and information are the two main reasons why people will visit your site.
- Dynamic sites such as those created by CMSs like Joomla! give you the flexibility to showcase new content in compartmentalized areas on the home page such as a list of latest news or updated content and products. This is a great opportunity to guide your visitors into your site and direct them to the actions or interaction you want your visitors to take part in.
- If your site generates revenue with any sort of advertising such as banners, affiliate links, or other advertising such as referrer pay per click, to be effective it needs to be tastefully done (see the earlier comment on blinking and flashing). Experiment with ad placements on your home page to see how your visitors' click patterns work. Ads need to be highly visible but should not interfere with the information you are trying to impart to your visitors and in no way should you be attempting to trick your visitors into clicking your ads by disguising them as your site content. Doing that will irritate your visitors and in some instances get you banned from participating in the revenue programs.
- Don't automatically play video or audio. (Also see the previous comments on splash pages.) There are a number of reasons to not use automatically playing audio or video. You have no idea how loud a visitor's speakers are, their bandwidth limitations, or the speed of their connection. It can be assaultive and intrusive. Another factor is that you don't know where your visitors are when they are browsing your site. If they are at work, it can be disruptive to their workplace or any environment where the visitor is located. You are wasting your bandwidth and also your visitor's bandwidth allotment on their ISP service when you automatically stream audio or video, especially if it is your home page. It can be annoying and frustrating to your visitors who don't want to watch or hear the same thing over and over again every time they visit your page. The best thing to do is to give incentive for people to electively choose to watch the video or listen to the audio; be creative, and give them a reason to click. The absolute worst thing to do is to insist on automatically playing audio or video and give the visitor no way to stop or pause it. That will pretty much guarantee that a significant portion of your visitors will never return to your site.
- Have a search module on your home page and every page in a consistent location. Users generally expect to find this on the top right of each page, so locate it there if possible.
Your home page is the introduction to your brand, your Web site, your work, or your product. It should exemplify exactly who you are and what you do. Depending on their purpose, some sites want the home page to show everything at a glance with details only one click away. Their intent isn't necessarily to have visitors explore the site, but to get the information they need quickly and efficiently. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some sites use the home page to direct visitors to explore and interact, drawing them deeper into the site and the information it contains. You should consider where your planned site fits in this spectrum. Every site wants return visitors; you want your demographic to come back to your site, your work, or your product and become loyal to your brand.
The other important part your home page plays is in search engine optimization (SEO). This page should contain rich key phrases that are relevant to your content and topic. If your site is geographically important, such as offering a service in a distinct service area, you should highlight that geographic service area in text. It makes sense to be targeting search users and visitors from that specific geographical area, and stating the area you service will make it easier for people to find your site. Although keywords and key phrases are important, it is important to make sure they are used in context, in other words, in actual human-readable and enjoyable content. Keyword stuffing (overly repeating keywords for phrases, content that is nonsensical, run-on sentences or just lists of keywords, utilizing keywords that have nothing to do with the site topic) is frowned upon by the major search engines and could harm your search engine rankings.