Creating Website Stickiness
When I first heard the term "Website Stickiness", I thought it referred to a website that didn't flow smoothly. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the expression actually means making your website so interesting, so entertaining, and so informative that visitors will want to return time after time.
Strategies to create a "sticky" website:
- Know your target audience ~ Who you are trying to reach - children, teens, young adults, new parents, baby boomers, empty nesters, or senior citizens? What are their interests? Disposable income? Not knowing your target audience results in costly mistakes. The AARP doesn't design their website for children any more than Nickelodian caters to seniors.
- KISS - Keep it simple stupid [or sweetie]. ~ Don't load your site with cute or useless graphics. Don't display a dancing bear or exploding fireworks unless your goal is to sell teddy bears or fireworks. Graphics must relate to the website. Pages cluttered with animated graphics or personal pictures do not present a professional impression.
The few instances when pictures are recommended [in fact, desired], are, if you have a medical or dental practice. It is recommended that the pictures portray the physician or dentist in the working environment. People like to see in advance who they are going to trust to take care of their needs.
Whatever graphics or pictures you decide to use, it is important to keep the image sizes as small as possible. Excessive or huge graphics cause your page to load slower. The majority of your visitors will not wait for a large graphic to download. Visitors have very little time or patience. And forget loading your website with tons of awards - if you simply can't do without them - remember - quality not quantity.
Use plenty of white space on your website. Clean web pages give the impression of an organized business. Cluttered websites give the impression of a business that is unfocused and floundering.
- Make your site interactive ~ Add interesting pages to your site that will engage the visitor. Consider the following ideas:
- For a financial website - calculators, loan repayment schedules, car loans, schools loans, etc.
- For a carpeting retailer - a sample room where they can select the carpet color and wall color to display.
- For a pet store - a pet selector to help them determine which pet and breed will work best for their family
- Add articles with free - yes, I said FREE, information available to the visitor. Why? Your site will be the first they return to when they are looking for information and you will be the first they think of when a purchase or service is being considered.
- Provide an Email newsletter
Allow your visitors to sign up for free email newsletters that will inform them of changes on your website, upcoming events or special sales. Besides building a healthy relationship between you and your visitors, it will increase your number of return visitors. The form that they fill out should include basic information that will help you improve your website. Don't ask a ridiculous number of questions or any that are too personal. NEVER sell the email address list to other businesses.
- Add "Email this page to a friend"
Often a visitor to your website will want to share the information they have discovered with a friend. Adding this option, guarantees that the link will be correct. And an email from a friend is more likely to be read than unsolicited email.
- Never Spam
Spam is sending emails in mass quantities that was not requested. The sender often does not know the recipient and has generated his email list from a software package or bought it from a business that sells their information. Again, send only solicited email - meaning email that has been signed up for by filling out a form on your site.
- If feasible - add a message board
This is not a guestbook. It is focused on your products or services. Your customers could access the message board and share ideas, experiences and questions with others. The down side - if your product or service isn't as good as it should be your message board may be filled with complaints. Then again, if your product or service isn't good - correct it.
- Online inventory
This is great for customers to access your site and check the availability of a product for which they are looking. ComPortOne's programing department has developed a unique database that can be filled out on your home or office computer and when finished uploaded to your website - complete with HTML conversion! Any company that carries an inventory would benefit by checking into the option of online inventory.
- Online forms
Online forms are a boon to businesses. They are great for ordering products and services. They are also wonderful for volunteer agencies searching for new volunteers. The Rockford Area Literacy Council provides an online form to reach people interested in volunteering to help adults to read. Terra Creek Apartment Homes of Rockford provides online service requests for its residents. Valley Realtors has a searchable section for finding real estate within your requirements.
Online forms also includes ordering online. Charge cards are an option that is fast becoming the standard. However, be aware that it will cost more for your server to set up a secured website capable of handling charge cards and you will pay more in the monthly hosting fee.
- Change your site frequently
If every time someone revisits your site they see the same old thing, they probably will not return. It is important to occassionally add an article or new information. News sites do this on a daily basis, but for the rest of the business world that would be quite time consuming and expensive. A bi-weekly or weekly update would give the visitor a reason to return - at the very least try for monthly updates.
- Video and/or Audio
Video and audio are great additions in making your website interactive and interesting. However, the drawback is that often the plug-in needed to view the video or hear the audio is not readily available on their computer system. Stick to the common plug-ins, that are standard in most computer systems. Don't ask the visitor to go to another site just to download the most current plug-in so he can see what you have added to the site. Most often, the visitor will NOT download an additional plug-in. It's time-consuming and takes up valuable space on their hard drive. They will not appreciate the fact that you did not use a common viewer and may not return.
Give them the option of listening to the music. Some sites automatically load the music which is frustrating when all your visitor wanted to do was to read the information. The loading of the music is time-consuming and annoying for the visitor who isn't interested in a Mozart accompaninment to his reading.
- Don't forget the META tags
META tags are bits of code that the programmer inserts that are read by the search engines. The META contains a list of the key words someone might type in a search engine when looking for information. The words are coded in and not visible when the page is displayed.
- List your website only on the major search engines
With 400 plus search engines on the Internet, it is too time-consuming to be placed on all the search engines. Ninety percent of the persons searching will use one of the top ten search engines. So why waste your time [and money] submitting your website address to all the others. Often they will send their own "web robots" out to find your site.
Also, your position on search engines is unpredictable. Some use META tags exclusively. Others want to personally check out your site. "Loading" the META statement with repetitive words will often backfire and result in being blacklisted from the search engine. Coding in "white words" on the page will no longer work, either. Don't try to beat the system ~ work with it.
At last count it was estimated that over 70 percent of Americans now access the Internet and the numbers are growing. In fact, some day the question will be - who doesn't use the Internet?
The cost of having a web site designed varies greatly. I know someone who was involved in designing a $45,000 site. [yes, the amount is correct] I know of others who can get a 5 page, very detailed and wonderfully laid-out site for less than a newspaper ad. Okay, okay. Your saying where's the catch? They couldn't be making any money designing a site for around $500. Oh, but they do. After you get your business site designed, you must still have it hosted. That means you must have a server rent you space on his server. These prices also vary but the most reasonable I have found is about $20 per month for a static website [more if you have your own domain name] but still far less than the cost of a comparable ad in the telephone book. [Come to think of it - there is no comparable ads available in the telephone book.]
Putting information on a website is a sound business move. Your business information will be available to the public when they want to see it, allowing them to be more informed when they talk to you.
Now, that we covered most of the website basics - both pros and cons - you should be ready to design your own website or enlist the services of a qualified, imaginative and reasonably-priced web designer, like ComPortOne Web Services.
May your business prosper and grow into everything you dreamed it could be.
Connie Eccles, CEO of ComPortOne
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