With unemployment at its highest levels in years as 2009 wraps up, many people are taking matters into their own hands. And many are finding success online.
The Web is a crucial place to do business, especially at this time of year. Anyone paying attention knows this, but you may not know the significance of the statistics. It’s too soon for 2009 numbers, but in 2008, Nielsen announced that the number of online shoppers had increased 40 percent in the last two years to 875 million people worldwide.
To turn more of those shoppers into loyal customers in the New Year, marketers and Web developers need an ambitious online plan. Here are seven New Year’s resolutions for Web development relating to:
• Mturk & crowd sourcing
• User testing
• Social media
1. I will… start small
Many entrepreneurs and Web designers suffer from an overwhelming amount of ideas. Their heads and subsequently their screens overflow with information – which is counterproductive. You must focus. You must start small. Find a niche, figure out how to be the best, and then grow in phases.
Not only is this important from a budget perspective, but it’s also important in terms of the scope of a project. If you start small, you can shuffle priorities easier and your Web team will produce results faster. Don’t get me wrong, plan for success. But, don’t get so absorbed in the dream that you aren’t making good decisions for the present. With proper planning, you should be able to add features and scale in due time.
2. I will… send a clear message
Focus is also important from a Web usability standpoint. When a customer comes to your site, it’s critical that your design and messaging are clear. Your focus will give customers a reason to stay on your site and a purpose to fulfill while there.
There are a couple of design trends entrepreneurs can employ, which essentially amount to doing a better job of introducing the company. First, display a clear, written message in a larger font in the header. This technique is known as an ‘intro box’. It draws attention and reinforces to the customer that they have come to the right place.
Secondly, display a large graphical banner prominently on landing pages, such as the home page, for featured product(s) or service(s). Screen resolutions have gone up over the years, so be sure to take advantage of the extra space and capture the customer’s attention. Both the intro box and graphical banner should be punctuated with appropriate calls to action.
I would recommend sending customers to a contact form or some other sales page rather than pushing them to content pages. If you can, get them into the funnel in that single click.
3. I will… put money into market testing
Many owners inevitably make the same mistake early on in a project and it puts them on the path to failure; they assume the role of target audience. Nine times out of 10, they aren’t the most accurate audience.
As a new business owner, you don’t need to guess or assume. You can inexpensively conduct your own market research by crowd sourcing on websites such as Mturk. One of my current clients is building a new e-commerce website, and we used surveys on Mturk to get:
• Slogan ideas
• Logo design feedback
• Votes on slogan and logo finalists
Surveys like this can be done for less than $20 each. You can also use Mturk for content like product reviews.
Speaking of branding and crowd sourcing, if you’re on a tight budget, you can even use a site like 99Designs for logo design.
4. I will… create content
One very effective way to create and manage your own content yourself is through a website powered by WordPress. Many entrepreneurs have heard of this software and/or seen it in use. I’m merely reiterating how effective it makes managing a website yourself, without knowing much about HTML or coding in general.
You can also create your own blog, which SEO experts will tell you is very helpful in attracting traffic to your website.
On a related note, if you want to add products to your site, take a look at xCart shopping cart software. This is a search engine friendly cart that will allow you to quickly get up and going with eCommerce. Also, aside from credit cards, accept PayPal. About one in four online transactions are through PayPal now, so it has crossed the threshold of importance.
5. I will… put money into usability testing.
After you have created a beta website, you need to perform usability testing. This used to be an expensive endeavor, but you can get affordable usability testing from Usertesting.com. Be sure to watch the sample video because you’re getting a good deliverable for $29.
You can also inexpensively do browser compatibility testing through Browsershots.org. You can draw your own conclusions from statistics on the W3Schools.com site about which browsers your site must be accessible in. At minimum, I would recommend Firefox (47%), IE 8 (13.3%), IE 7 (13.3%) and Chrome (8.5%). Don’t get me started on IE 6.
6. I will… promote my site.
Be social. Twitter and Facebook may be fads, but human interaction has always been part of life. Social media is just the latest way to feed that need, so extend your influence and reach prospective customers. Create a multiple accounts on each destination so you can have your own personal account and a company-named account.
I’m not going to go off on a tangent about how to maximize your social media presence, just reinforce that it can be done right and yield results. Take this effort on your own shoulders and be a spokesperson.
7. I will… quit smoking/lose weight/get fit
Ok, so that one isn’t about Web development. Still, it’s a good idea if you plan to have the energy that keeps your company growing and enjoy your wealth.
I hope you had a great 2009 and wish you a prosperous 2010.
|About Mike Benson
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