Alternative Media: Spruce Up Your Site

Take advantage of the latest Internet tools and bring your Web site into the new millennium
Jun 01, 2007

Sharon Callahan
You remember it well: that day back in the late 1990s, when your brand's Web site first went live. It looked great at the time, and you were so proud to have entered the Internet Age.

How many times since then have you enhanced the user experience, or refreshed the content and graphics of your Web site? Twice? Once? Not at all? Most companies, it turns out, are still hosting first-generation sites that were designed at the turn of the millennium.

Prudent brand stewards enhance the content on their Web sites at least quarterly and will redesign their sites at least once a year. Why? More than half of the visitors of a Web site decide whether or not to abandon it within the first 10 seconds of their visit. It takes just one experience with dated information for visitors to conclude they've hit a dead end or landed on an orphaned site.

Nip & Tuck

Whether its a quick face-lift or emergency surgery, work of any nature on your Web site requires a back-to-basics mentality grounded in sound Web strategy. Start by asking yourself a few questions.

Do customers come first? Once current and potential customers arrive at your site, they should easily find what they are looking for. Make sure your site has the information your customers need. If you're not sure what they're hoping to find, ask them what they would like to see on the Web site. Their answers may surprise you. This can be done through e-surveys (using e-mail addresses gathered from opt-in e-mail surveys) or from live polls on the site.

What is the call to action? What precisely do you want your customers to do when they visit your site? Do you make it clear to them how to request additional information, how to talk to their doctor about their condition, or how to sign up for your newsletter? Before you do anything new to your site, determine how you would define a successful visit for new and existing customers.

What is your competitive advantage? Before you begin the face-lift, research your competitors' sites and promotions to find out what is being offered. Once you've sized up the competition, determine what your competitive advantage will be.

Do visitors understand what is on the site? Patient insights should drive all of your work, online as well as offline. Tell your stories in the voices of patients. There's no question this approach adds credibility, but many sites don't use it. People relate to the stories others tell.

Is your site too pushy? It's OK to ask visitors to register to participate in message boards and the like. But visitors shouldn't feel you are asking for too much or invading their privacy. Web sites that fulfill requests for additional information should make online ordering fast, easy, and secure.

Is your site aligned with your brand? No doubt, you've evolved your marketing strategy several times over the past few years. Brands evolve as a result of a cohesive strategy conducted at a macro level. But Web sites usually grow in piecemeal fashion as new sections are added over time. As a result, brand positioning and messages are not always reflected throughout the entire site.

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