Essential features of a corporate website
What is a good corporate website? A good corporate website should follow the three Fs. It should be Friendly, Functional, and it should Facilitate your business.
- Friendly: Easy to use for novice and advanced users.
- Functional: It should be easy for you to manage and update your site.
- Facilitates Business: Your website should make a difference to your business.
Friendly: Easy to use for novice and advanced users
- Look and Feel: Distinctive, aesthetically pleasing, with intuitive navigation
- Searchable: Built-in keyword-driven search engine
- Search Engine Friendly: so the site can be easily optimized for high ranking
- Locator: Find nearby retailers, distributors, reps, branches by city or zip code
- Calculators: To let your visitors calculate their expenses and/or savings
- Downloadable Resources: Industry Standard PDF Forms, brochure, manual
- Events Calendar: Announce classes, training, shows online
- Discussion Boards: Builds a community around shared concerns
- Help Desk: Lets people contact you for support and ensures follow through
- FAQ Manager: Lets your customers help themselves 24×7.
- Shopping Cart: Lets people configure and buy your products online
Functional: It should be easy for you to manage and update your site.
- Easy-to-Update: Edit your own content without knowledge of HTML through a browser based Administration Interface
- Secure: It’s required for legal compliance but often overlooked until it too late
- Document Repository: for downloadable files, applications, printable forms, etc.
- Link Manager: prevent broken links
- Job Board: add, remove, and re-open job openings with one click
- Press Release Manager:
- Newsletter Archives:
- Landing Pages: Public and Private landing pages for marketing campaigns
- Form Builder: Ability to create lead generation and registration forms on the fly
- Mailing List Manager: Allows users to subscribe/un~ from your mailing list
- Online Payments: Lets your customers pay online for your services
- Web Stats: Learn how your visitors are using your website
- Multi-national: Multi-language and multi-currency accommodations
Facilitates Business: Your website should make a difference to your business.
- Lead Generation: Does it generate leads?
- Revenue Generation: Does it generate income?
- Process Automation: Does it save you time by automating processes?
- Increases Awareness/Loyalty: Is it a resource to your customers?
- Saves Costs: Does it decrease your support costs?
- Disseminate Information: Does it inform and educate your visitors?
- Global Presence: Does it create a multi-national presence for your company?
Depending on your business, you may or may not need all of these features. Its easy to determine which ones you need… just ask your customers, suppliers and check out your competitor’s websites. For in-depth understanding, we will now explain each of the above points in detail.
Friendly: Easy to use for novice and advanced users.
Look and Feel
You website should be distinctive, aesthetically pleasing, with intuitive navigation. It should be better looking than your competitor’s websites and it should be easier to use. It should make your business look mature and professional not like an amateur. It should instill confidence. Navigation elements to consider include quick links, drop-down menus, topic menus, and bread-crumbs.
Your website should have a built-in keyword-driven search engine so people can find pages, documents, and products easily. This is especially true for large websites. Large websites that are not searchable become a chore to navigate. Experienced users will get frustrated and leave. Competitive keywords and products can be hidden in invisible keywords especially if your website is database driven. Search terms should be written to a log file for your review… you’ll see patterns in the search log over time and you can use this information to make your site more user friendly and to optimize your site for search engine rankings.
Search Engine Friendly
Most of your visitors will use search engines like Google, AOL, MSN, and Yahoo to find your site along with your competitor’s site. It’s not only necessary that your website is human friendly, it needs to be search engine friendly so people can find what they’re looking for on your site through a search engine.
If you have retailers, distributors, sales reps, or branches, let your visitors locate these by city and/or zip code. The easier you make it for people to do business for you, the more business they’ll do with you. Let them select a radius from their city or zip. List the full address in case they want to print the page for reference and link the results to map and directions on map-quest, yahoo, or Google. Make your lists printer friendly.
Let your visitors calculate their expenses and/or savings. Not only should your visitors be able to view and print results from these calculators, they should be able to ask for your help in understanding the results…. This lets you turn each calculator into a lead-generation tool.
Make your site resourceful by providing Industry Standard PDF Forms, manuals, brochures, catalogs, spreadsheets, and templates. These are things people can download and use off-line. These can also be print and fax forms that would be useful to your visitors. If you make your site resourceful, lots of other sites will link to you, and you’ll get higher search engine ranking. This is a very easy way to increase your search engine visibility.
Announce classes, training, shows, and let people wp-wp-wp-wp-signup.php online. You can promote your events through sponsors and email campaigns. The events page should not only list the event and details, it should include the logistics like address, link to map and directions, dress code for the event, and downloadable documents relating to the event. You should also have a link to auto-populate the event into people’s calendaring software (like MS Outlook).
The point of discussion boards is to make your website an indispensable tool for your customers. The more they use it, the more exposure your business will have. One of the most common uses of a discussion board is for a support forum. In a support forum, your users ask how-to questions and you and other users have the ability to answer. Over time, discussion boards make for a great knowledge base and will help lower your support costs and will increase your user satisfaction. If you’re an expert, or if you employ any experts, then you can also setup an online advice or second-opinion hotline on your discussion forum. If you’re going to setup a discussion board, then it’s critical that you have the resources to manage the board, otherwise it can reflect poorly on your business.
Many users tend to send emails for support. This can work great for a small business but it’s a really bad idea for larger businesses. The problem with an email based support system is that emails will eventually get lost and problems will go unresolved. If someone goes on vacation, then the emails get backlogged into their mailbox. What’s worse is that with an email based support system, the management will not have first-hand exposure to persistent problems. A well designed help-desk system maintains accountability and will provide exposure to management. Ultimately, your customers will be more satisfied.
A good Frequently Asked Questions database goes hand-in-hand with a good help-desk system. If you see some questions being asked over and over again, then put it in your FAQ database so your customers can help themselves 24×7.
You can use a shopping cart application to not only sell goods and services, but also to get down-payments, deposits, and collect on invoices. You can also sell downloadable,non-tangible goods, like documents, with a shopping cart. Make sure you shopping cart is search engine friendly and integrates with your web stats package. If your items are configurable, then make sure your shopping cart has a “product configurator.”
Functional: It should be easy for you to manage and update your site.
Add, edit, and update the content yourself without knowledge of HTML or programming through a browser based what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) administration interface. If you have more than one person updating the website, then workflow and revision control features may come in handy. This type of functionality is generally provided by Content Management Systems (CMS) and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems. For shopping carts, make sure you can easily create new categories of items, add new items, put items on sale, issue coupons and discounts, manage inventory and handle returns yourself.
It’s required for legal compliance but often overlooked until it too late. Credit card data, for example, should never be kept on your website’s database. If you keep any personal information on users, it should be secure and monitored. If this data is compromised, you are required to notify your customers by law. If you’re keeping any customer data online, make sure your website is hosted on a dedicated server, not a shared server.
This is for downloadable files, applications, printable forms, etc. A typical document can be referred to by many pages on a large website. When the document is updated, a webmaster generally has to go through the entire website and update all the pages with the new document. If you use a document repository, then the document only has to be updated in one place on your website and all the links to that document are automatically updated. You can even keep older versions of your documents if you like.
This prevents broken links and to notify users when they leave your site. This is not only true for links to other pages within your website but also to links outside your website. A link manager can be configured to check all the links on your website every night and notify you of broken links. Like the document repository, the link manager lets you fix the link in one place, and all the pages on your website referring to that link automatically get updated.
This allows you to add, edit, remove, and re-open job openings with one click. This is especially helpful for HR departments and saves them from coordinating activities with the webmaster.
Press Release Manager
This module allows you to post and remove press releases on the website. Using a press-release template, the marketing department can post press releases to the website without going through the webmaster.
If you send out newsletters by email or standard mail, then a newsletter manager allows you to keep archives of your past mailings on the website. You should be able to quickly add newsletters to your website. Make sure to integrate this with the search engine on your website so your visitors can find articles from the archives.
This module lets you to quickly create public and private landing pages on your website. Landing pages are specific web pages referenced by most marketing campaigns. E-mail campaigns, print campaigns, and search engine marketing campaigns all need landing pages. Make sure your web stat package can monitor activity on these pages so you can see how many hits you’re getting over time.
This module give you the ability to create lead generation, registration and survey forms on the fly. You should integrate these pages with your landing pages to collect user information. The data collected by these forms should easily port to your e-mail campaign manager. You should be notified via email very time a record is created and the submitted data should be kept online so it can be securely accessed by your webmaster.
Mailing List Manager
Allows users to subscribe/unsubscribe from your mailing list. You should be able to import, export, and merge mailing lists. Unsubscribed users should never be emailed again. If you continue sending emails to unsubscribed users, then that’s considered SPAM and there are legal consequences to that.
Lets your customers pay online for your products and services. The payments module is generally included with the e-commerce engine, but can be installed separately so your website can accept credit card payments from your customers. The stand-alone payments module can be used to let your customers pay their invoices with credit card through your website. You can also setup recurring payments with this module so your customers are charged a certain amount every month/quarter/year.
Learn how your visitors are using your website. This lets you see how many people are visiting your website, how they’re getting to your website, and how they’re navigating your website. You can learn what search terms are being used on search engines like Google, MSN, and AOL to find your site. You can learn which files are being downloaded the most and where people are entering and exiting your site. You can see which marketing campaigns are working the best and which ones are not (A/B testing.)
Multi-language and multi-currency accommodations. If you have a multi-national presence or you have a base of multi-lingual clients, then you should consider having a site that supports multiple languages and currencies. The infrastructure for sites with these capabilities is certainly different enough that if you want this capability in the future, then you should consider setting up the infrastructure upfront so you don’t have to redo the entire site later.
Facilitates Business: Does your website make a difference to your business?
These are basic questions that you should ask yourself about your website. If you’re starting a new website, then use some of these as the objective for developing the new site. If your website doesn’t do any of this, then why bother having a website in the first place.
Does it generate leads? Does it help qualify leads? Many service oriented businesses rely on a lead generation system. There are many ways to design a website to generate leads. You can,
1) require registration in return for something valuable
2) you can sell a loss-leader service or product
3) you can mail out free samples
4) you can have a contest
5) you can do a give-away every week etc.
Does it generate income? Many companies rely exclusively on their website to generate income. This is generally done with an e-commerce application that manages customer registration, order history, and processes credit cards online. Make sure you e-commerce application interfaces with Froogle and EBay if you’re selling commodity items. For e-commerce websites, most of the ongoing revenue is generated by repeat customers, so make sure that you can issue and redeem coupons on your website.
Does it save you time by automating processes? Does your website increase your efficiency in working with clients, supplies or partners? Using simple workflow, your website can route requests to the right people/departments. Websites, especially when using ECM technology, can be extended to create intranets that can automate and simplify processes for your company.
Is it a resource to your customers? A perfect example is the addition of a discussion board/support forum to a website. Countless companies have not only decreased support costs by implementing support forums on their website, they’ve gained loyalty from their customer base. Customers use their site for research and they keep coming back to the site.
Does it decrease your overhead and management costs? There are many ways to use a website to save costs. Using a CMS/ECM should decrease your overhead and website operations cost. In addition to this, many companies routinely use their websites to decrease their everyday operational costs. For example, you can you’re your website to distribute PDF documents instead of printing and distributing manuals. Using email marketing and running search engine marketing campaigns instead of print campaigns can save you tens of thousands of dollars. Communicating with your customers through email broadcasts paired with web content instead of using snail mail can save a ton of money over time as well.
Does it inform and educate your visitors? At minimum, your website should be used as brochure-ware. Tell your prospective customers who you are, what you do, and why it matters. Tell your customers how you’re different from your competitors and how you can help them. Your website can be your best sales person working 24×7 if you let it.
Does it create a regional/national/global presence for your company? Your website should reflect the size and presence of your company. Contrary to popular belief, your website should not make your business look bigger than it is. However, it should not make your business look smaller than it is either.
Work these elements into your website and watch your website work for you. If you need assistance, we provide end-to-end turnkey solutions.