These days people are increasingly likely to use the Internet to find businesses for the services and products they need, and as a result they might become suspicious of businesses that do not have an Internet presence.
If you are a new business a web presence should be on your to-do list, but a website should of course be established after you have completed a number of other tasks essential to your business - company registration and finding staff come to mind. When you are ready to establish your web presence, it is time to think what your website needs to support your business.
Of course, there are a number of key features that any website needs regardless of the business it is promoting. Here then are some of the features we believe should be included in your website design.
Simple Domain Name
A website is not going to go very far without a domain name. Many people believe that they should buy a domain name that simply reflects the name of their business and in most cases this is true. In some though it is certainly not.
The purpose of your domain name is not just so the Internet can recognize your website - it is your first level of your marketing. For example, if is your business is a team of lawyers under the name “Aromdee, Atitarn, Chaiprasit and Associates” you might just be inclined to purchase ‘www.aromdeeatitarnchaiprasit.co.th’. But that might be a mistake - there is a very good chance that your customers will not remember a domain name like that. Something simpler would be better.
In addition, as domain names play a part in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) there is a much greater chance that a potential customer is going to search for (for example) “lawyers+bangkok” in order to find a list of suitable organizations to choose from.
A simple name like ‘lawyersbangkok.co.th’ may prove easier for existing customers to remember and for potential customers to find using search engines like Google.
Whether it’s available? That’s another story...
The chances are that your business already has a logo and that choosing a logo design was quite high and your to-do list. Obviously, a logo is one of the means companies use to help customers and potential customers keep them in mind.
But if your logo is an elaborate design that doesn't fit well on a website, perhaps it is worth considering a redesign. A logo should be clean and unobtrusive.
Take a look at some of the logos below - the likelihood is you know exactly which businesses they represent:
That's the power of a well-designed logo, and its especially important on a website!
It might be that your company does not actually have a tagline, but as with a logo, a tagline is a great way to help customers remember your business and what you offer.
Once again let's take a look at a few examples. I bet you know which companies operate under these taglines:
Guessed them? Of course you have (1. Kloster Beer, 2. TMB Bank. 3. AIS).
If your company has a tagline it really is essential you include it on your website.
You wouldn't design a brochure or any type of physical advertising without adding a telephone number or contact details. Likewise, contact details are an essential element to your website. After all that's what it is for - to get potential customers to contact you.
‘Call to Action’ Button
However, beyond simply having a page with your contact details listed, a website offers the opportunity to add a ‘Call to Action’ button.
Basically, this is a button on your home page and when customers click on it they are directed to an email form where they can contact you. Or the button generates a Skype call. Or a telephone call. Or it is simply a form where people leave telephone numbers, click, and wait for you to call them.
Whatever it is, a successful business website generally offers a ‘Call-to-Action’ button.
A map is of course essential as part of your contact details and these days companies often successfully utilize Google Maps for this purpose.
Google Maps can be displayed on your website and show your exact location, but users can expand each map and search around the area to find the best route to your premises.
Below is an example of Google's Map presentation of where the Wat Prakeaw is located:
Hours of Business
If you are a bricks-and-mortar business, it is probably best to provide your hours of business on your website. That way your website visitors will avoid useless visits to your premises only to find that you are not open or not doing business.
Top Level Navigation
Your website is bound to have some key sections that you wish visitors to visit and these sections should be represented in your top level navigation.
Most websites put this across the top of the site and it is a quick and easy means for visitors to just simply click on the key parts of your website.
Here's a great example from ClickseeDesign.com
As you can see it includes a ‘home’ button - a key element of any website that allows users to easily go back to the homepage of the website should they wish to.
‘About Us’ Page
A website that does not have an ‘About Us’ page is very unlikely to be an effective website. It is the page where you have the opportunity to explain your business and give your visitors an insight into how you do business.
Ideally this page will be part of your top level navigation.
Once visitors visit the main sections of your site they will go deeper into the site. As a result they might find themselves a little lost in your content. This is where breadcrumbs become very useful.
You've heard of the story where a trail of breadcrumbs that were left as a means of physical navigation? Well, this is pretty much the same thing.
Essentially, breadcrumbs list your position in a website. As you go deeper, the breadcrumbs become longer, and you are able to find your way back to any interesting content you might previously have found.
Here's an example:
If you are in the ‘entertainment’ section and you want to go back to the ‘food’ section, simply click on ‘food’ in the breadcrumbs. It is a link that will take you directly back to where you want to go.
Obviously, the easier navigation is for your website users, the better the user experience, and the better the user experience, the more likely visitors will come back to your website.
Image or Slider
A picture paints a thousand words, and as a result can save you a lot of time in projecting the image you wish for your company. A picture also saves your visitors from having to read volumes of text.
A simple image of your company staff in a particular work situation will quickly demonstrate what type of company you are - relaxed, informal... strict, professional... etc. However well written your content, images are more likely to project the image that you wish for your company.
These days many websites have abandoned the idea of a single image and websites often include ‘sliders’ that allow multiple images to be viewed by a visitor. Images are presented one at a time and often arrows appear that visitors can use to click on and scroll through images at their leisure.
Here’s an example
Regardless of whether you are a start up or have decades of experience in business, the one thing visitors to your website will be interested in is what your previous customers think about you.
If you have any great reviews of your products and services, add them to your site. Reviews give potential customers the confidence they need to do business with your organization.
Well Produced Content
A website is an opportunity for you to promote your professionalism. If your website content is full of spelling errors and grammar inaccuracies the likelihood is that potential customers will believe the casual approach you have taken to your website will be reflected in your products and services.
As they say, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
Social Media Links/Buttons
As we said earlier in this article, a business without a website is likely to be viewed with suspicion by a prospective customer. Likewise, a business that does not have a presence on social media is equally likely to be viewed with suspicion.
A presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google Plus is not only a great way to contact your customers and potential customers, it is entirely expected by everyone who does business with you.
A key element of social media is the ability to add comments and discuss with other social media users the pros and cons of the products and services you deliver. If you don't have the confidence to have a social media presence where people can have discussions on what you offer, the likelihood is people are not going to be confident in what you offer.
As with physical media, an electronic newsletter sent by email is a fantastic way of keeping in contact with customers and potential customers. People considering purchasing your products and services at some time in the future will sign up to a newsletter and use it as a weekly or monthly reminder that they should investigate you further. Obviously, the quality of your newsletter is another means for you to promote your professionalism and the quality of your products and services.
When a potential customer has questions about your products and services they want them answered and they want them answered right NOW. A great way of dealing with this is adding Live Chat to your website:
Live Chat can give visitors immediate access to a support team who can provide answers to their questions. There are numerous Live Chat solutions available on the market that can be added to websites quite easily, and when your support team is not available, they give visitors the opportunity to send an email that your team can receive and follow up on at their earliest convenience.
One of the curses of having a website is spam. As your website must have some type of contact form for visitors to use to send their queries, robots scouring the Internet for will use your form to send you spam.
The likelihood is that you are inbox will be inundated with trivia and malicious emails. To avoid this most websites display an anti-spam solution. Google’s reCAPTCHA is a very good example of this:
Simply click on the box and Google recognizes you as a human and not a spammer.
Of course not receiving spam will prove more convenient for you, but as far as your visitors are a concerned, this shows attention to detail. Potential customers are more likely to trust a website that has this type of safeguard against spam than one that hasn't.
If you are going to have a website then customers are going to contact you. What you do with their email addresses or other contact details is up to you. You could sell them, or otherwise profit from them.
It very important to state your intention clearly with a ‘Privacy Statement’ that indicates that you are not going to do anything malicious with the information you receive from visitors.
If your customers and potential customers have questions about your products and services it is better for them to go to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page then to constantly call your support staff for answers.
An FAQ page saves you time and money and saves your customers from the aggravation that occurs when they can't get questions immediately answered.
Particularly if your website is rich with details on products and services (for example, prices and specifications) it can prove difficult for visitors to find the information they require. As a result an effective search function is vital to a successful website.
A search function allows visitors to add keywords and produce results that show where those keywords exist on pages within a site:
Some companies fear the prospect of allowing customers to make comments on their websites, but if there is nothing wrong with your products and services, you shouldn't fear them.
There are though occasions when malicious visitors (or even competitors) might write inappropriate comments on your site, and of course you need to be vigilant. The good thing is that most ‘comments’ software allows website owners to remove comments at will.
Don't be too hasty removing negative comments though as potential customers are more likely to trust a company that can successfully address issues as they are raised, even if it is just to say that you will deal the issues at some stage in the future.
Hamburger Icon for Menus
The ‘Hamburger’ icon has over the last number of years become the definitive icon for a website menu. Whenever it appears it shows users that they can click on the icon to find a menu that will help them to navigate the site.
Here’s what it looks like:
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