In football, your best strategy as head coach is to put your players in the best position to succeed. You wouldn’t start your kicker, say, in the defensive tackle spot. As CEO, you’ve likely faced similar strategic situations, gathered a solid management team, and delegated tasks where they fit best.
In addition to a solid team, CEOs need to keep their fan base in mind. The primary way to do this is to ensure the company website is positioned to reach them. It is not uncommon for companies to get their site up and running and then to forget it, making the assumption that it’s doing the job. We all know that technology, like a linesman after the ball is snapped, waits for no one. Making sure your site is current, relevant and that it meets the needs of the ever-changing mobile marketplace is critical for continued success.
So my advice is, don’t underestimate the importance of the players you select to handle the content, look, and feel of your website. You don’t want to fumble away opportunities to the opposition. What do you need to execute the most effective solution? The following are the top 10 essential website features. Include them and you’ll win.
- A solid foundation – The absolute best engineers use something called wireframing to create a map of functionality. You should be able to sit down with a design firm and outline a map of space relationships in terms of where certain items will be placed. This creates basic functionality of the userface (where stuff happens) and will ultimately affect how the site will operate. Body content, contact information, and your logo will be placed in this step. And it’s really boring. Fonts are plain, empty boxes act as placeholders, and there is not a color in sight. A finished wireframe is like laundering whites. Like a Playbook, not sexy, but necessary.
- Information – Meat on the bones, so to speak. Clear, concise, to the point. Easily searchable. Some companies think more is more, but in most cases, less is more. They make the mistake of overload because they don’t want to leave anything out. There’s a way to do that, though. Journalism schools teach the inverted pyramid method, which can apply to website copy. The concept is simple: most important information comes first. Top to bottom, left to right, make a plan of what goes where. And remember, don’t overdo it. The average visitor has only a few minutes to get in, get what they came for, and get out. Chop-chop.
- Security – People have three basic needs in life: Food, shelter, and a really, really safe feeling. CNN reported that nearly half of all adult Americans were hacked last year. That’s an astronomical number, and it’s bound to rise going forward. Your business is important, from your position as CEO all the way to the guy in receiving. InfoSec is a term used to describe defense of information. It can be achieved, among other ways, by keeping software updated and using really strong database passwords. These are the ones even you’ll forget, the longer and more complex mix of characters the better. There are apps available to help generate a great one.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization. It pretty much goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: your site should be search engine friendly. If you manufacture widgets, someone on the other end of your website should be able to find you with a simple search. Embedded within your copy should be words that are frequently searched. Be mindful not to overdo it, though. Again, sometimes less is more. Words aren’t the only things that make up a great SEO plan. What the words say matter too. Something called “hyper relevance” involves whether the subject matter is search engine friendly. This means that content is unique to the Internet. Try a subject search and take a look at the topic’s Wikipedia page. Perfect example of solid SEO.
- Links – Links to your social media and sister sites, if any, are a good way for visitors to check in with what you’re up to. Being social – even though, on its face, is as antisocial as locking yourself in an empty room, is the way consumers want to be reached. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr. Have it all, and have a dedicated person in place to update them frequently. Backlinks, or incoming links from external search engines that show your website’s popularity, are good indication that SEO is working according to plan.
- UI/UX – “It’s all about the experience” – some famous actor must have said it in a movie once, and it’s true. UI/UX is a fancy way of saying what you’re looking at and how a site interacts with you. UI, or User Interface, is the stunning sunset. It is the picture, what garners the “oohs and ahhs” of a really pretty website. UX, or User Experience, is the hands-on portion. It’s the button you cannot resist pushing, which is embedded in the UI. Together, they work in harmonic balance. Bottom line, you probably won’t have an enjoyable UX without a solid UI. Your site should be pleasing to the eye; otherwise, there’s no reason to return. A solid design team will make sure your site is up to snuff.
- Adaptable Hosting Capabilities — Some things are certain, like the standard death and taxes. Also in the conversation has to be adaptability when it comes to all things tech. It’s going to change, and you should heed the call. The best way to keep things fluid is to become one with the Cloud. Cloud servers allow for software to be run independently, so it doesn’t rely on what you have installed internally. That’s a big plus when you make upgrades. It is an economical, fast, yet stable choice for hosting.
- Contacts – People want to see faces, and they want to be able to reach you. Make it easy on them, and they’ll be more likely to reach out. Include your management team, have some neat pictures taken. Smile! If someone sees they have the ability to email you, they’re more likely to think you’re cool. You definitely want that. Also new and hip is live chat, for those who are on the go and would rather ask a question and get an answer right away than do a search. Offering as many options as possible is good business, and there’s not a lot of added cost involved.
- Portability – While meal portion sizes continue to bust our national seams, the opposite trend is true of tech devices. So, your site had better be able to adapt to Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs). Responsive design, also commonly referred to as RWD, is a web design method that allows the website to change to provide the best viewing experience across all devices. Is your site mobile friendly? Google has a neat gizmo that will help detect whether your site is worthy.
- Navigability – Business consumers don’t have time to dawdle. Being able to easily navigate your site’s pages will allow users to find what they need quickly and get out. This includes the transition to mobile devices – your site should be easy to navigate on both platforms. The best way to achieve this is to keep things short and simple. Basic page names, concise sentences, clickable menu choices. A quick click on your logo should direct the user back to the home page.
With a sharp focus on the end results and execution of the fundamentals, your website will score every time.
Written by Craig Lamb
Craig Lamb is partner and CIO of Envative, a Rochester, NY-based web and mobile app development company.