Web Site Basics: What you need to keep in mind while building your website.
1. Think of your website as a tool for dialogue.
There are no special skills needed to communicate the essence of your practice to present and prospective clients in a few easy-to-read lines. Make sure your clients understand your communications in the same way that you do - test this by asking friends for their interpretations. Use a conversational, but not familiar, style - i.e. use 'we' and 'you' in your communications, but not phrases like 'have I got a deal for you?!' Think of your website as a tool for dialogue.
2. Be coherent
Make sure that visitors feel like they are moving about in the same environment as they move from one page to the next on your site. Keep your business logo and name ever-present. Maintain a similar format for page layouts. Use a consistent writing style and business line throughout your site. Use links to previous pages and to your home page to orient the visitor as they browse your site. Avoid external commercial site links on your Home Page. This can distort your website message and lead clients away from your site before you (or they) are ready. If you choose to use linked commercial banners on your website, put them down low or in the page footer where they won't obstruct the view.
(see 9 below).
3. Content breeds loyalty
Visitors to your site judge the professionalism of your practice by the content presented. Good quality, readable content can engage the visitor and encourage repeat visits. Keep your content up-to-date, otherwise visitors may suspect that the site is lying dormant. Build content resources at your website around specific themes that visitors to your website may find interesting.
4. Refer clients to your Pet Medical Library on your website at every opportunity!
In the practice, on the phone and in all your other communications with clients, refer them to your website and especially your Pet Medical (Client Education Library) from the VIN. This brings clients back to your website often and gives you more credibility as their one stop source for their pet information needs.
5. Three clicks and you're in
Unskilled net-navigators and impatient users want to go through no more than three clicks between identifying your site and finding the information they require. Make site maps and internal search facilities available at the home page. Use hyperlinks and easy-to-use menus throughout your site and always provide a route directly back to the home page.
6. Keep it simple, stupid
When people are surfing they generally don't want to spend more than a few seconds on any one page until they have found exactly what they are looking for. Too much text on your home page will cause visitors to move on. Provide brief introductions using short sentences and display clear and enticing links to more detailed information.
7. Lower the entry ramps
Following on from the last point, don't leave the visitor waiting too long to receive your pages, especially the home page. There are some t
ricks for speeding up the process.
- Use (i.e. keep dimensions and file sizes small), especially for the essential images that appear on the top of the page.
- Use People and Pet Friendly Photos with happy staff members and happy pets, preferably both together
- Use standard text fonts and avoid the need for extra plug-ins (software needed on your visitor's computer), that may need to be downloaded from third party sites, unless this is essential to your site.
8. Encourage follow-up
Visitors need signals of credibility, especially if you are hoping to make them repeat clients. Easily accessible contact details including telephone, fax numbers, postal address, and automatic email links build trust. Use your forms manager for client feedback about your staff and your practice to get their impressions about you.
9. Cross-Linking internally or externally
Clear internal links between your pages and among documents presented at your site will increase the number of page views from each visitor. Cross-linking your site with documents and information on your Home Page to other websites may lead visitors away from your site before you are ready for them to leave.
Many third party companies often ask that you place their banners on your website in prominent positions. Unless your main website message is "Buy! Buy! Buy!" or "Go here! Go here! Go here!..." you should avoid this practice.
Think of third party company banners like bumper stickers on your car; too many banners (too large or displayed high up on your Home Page) can degrade the appearance of your website just like bumper stickers on the hood of your car. A bumper sticker on your car windshield or a banner in your website page header can obstruct the driver's view and the true message of your website which should be about your practice, first and foremost. If you choose to use linked commercial banners on your website, put them down low or in the page footer where they won't obstruct the view.
Provide a good "Links Page" on your website. If a visitor remembers you as a source of many valuable links you will be used as a starting point for searches for particular types of information - again and again. Investigate the possibility of establishing reciprocal links back to your site from sites you provide cross-links to.
10. Blow your own horn
Maximize traffic to your site by creating strategic external links. Register your site with major search engines. Always provide a link to your site from your documents that may be hosted at other sites. Become involved in discussion forums and always sign off with a link to your site. Get your URL (domain name) on as many other sites as possible. This is the primary consideration GOOGLE gives to ranking your site on their search results (link popularity).