Technology is moving at a very rapid pace and many website owners are finding they are behind the times. Here are our top five website requirements that every website must have to meet today's consumer standards:
In reverse order:
5. Interactive lead management / newsletter
4. Integrated blog
3. Links to Social Media
2. Content Management System
1. Mobile device friendly
INTERACTIVE LEAD MANAGEMENT / NEWSLETTER CAPABILITY
Your website is a living document that reflects everything great about your company. For every visitor that finds your website via the search engines, there should be an answer to question he had when attempting the specific search for your products and services. Your goal is to begin a conversation with that visitor. Beyond the simple phone call, that conversation can begin automatically; if you can anticipate the question, you can provide the answer. The best sites will exchange great information for the visitor’s name and email address. Follow-up emails to the client can get more on point as your system gets better at understanding the visitors requirements (by tracking what he clicks). Advanced interactive marketing is usually handled with autoresponders – automatic response emails triggered by links clicked and other forms of interaction. Newsletters can be automatically generated as well. The point is that given that most small business do not have the time to nurture leads, and interactive lead nurture system embedded in the website will bring new clients to your front door. Additionally, don't presume even your best clients are visiting your site. Newsletters are a great way to update your client base on what's new and exciting!
INTEGRATED BLOGGING SOFTWARE
Blogging can take on many flavors. Blogs for testimonials, client referrals, current news, events, specials, services, announcements etc. The application of blog software is endless. The beauty of blogging software is in the ability to publish the information to third party sites (for example, social media sites) via RSS feeds. Having an integrated blogging platform can allow the web owner to keep his site current, publish new information on the site and at the same time advertise all of the information on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For the client who is wondering what to do on those platforms, this minimalist approach will keep him focused on blogging with the information being automatically published on those other platforms. It saves time and offers tremendous reach into the market.
LINKS TO SOCIAL MEDIA
The new word of mouth is social media. The proverbial “like” has found its way into every aspect of our lives…like it or not. The major platforms to consider are Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. As mentioned above, blogging is a great way to push information to social media but certainly a business isn’t limited to that approach – particularly if business employees have a propensity for social media already. Keep in mind that social media can be a double edged sword. It can be a huge time hog and opens your business up to publicity that may not be quite as flattering as the business owner would like it to be. Businesses who understand this have an established policy defining the behavior of its employees on social media. At the end of the day, many business might characterize social media as a necessary evil. Regardless, Google and other search engines are giving a great deal of credence to mentions and visibility on the social sites. It's best to embrace it. The payoff is there,
CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
A person that walks by a retail shop will stop noticing what’s for sale if what’s in the window of that shop never changes. Google takes a peak at your site every now and then and if the content stops changing, the site will start to fall into the realm of “not current”. In today’s world, “not current” = “not relevant”. Search engine ranks begin to drop.
Website content management systems come in many flavors. Among the most popular are the ubiquitous Word Press blogging platform that has evolved into a full content management system. It’s not just for bloggers anymore. Joomla, another popular platform, was designed from the ground up for content management. Our company uses DotNetNuke specifically because of the inherent security of the software, the ability to add applications and customized features along with very client friendly editing features. The whole point is for the website owner to be able to add, edit and delete web pages including adding multimedia rich content and graphics. This information no longer has to be coded making it easy to add and update information.
BE MOBILE FRIENDLY
Apple made a billion dollars in December 2013 (phones and pads)! Tablets are predicted to outsell PC’s in 2015. By some estimates, 74% of cell phones in the US are smart phones (Web / Text / Email). Regardless of the exact numbers, the writing is on the wall. A website that doesn’t respond to this will be left out in the cold. Consider what happens when a smart cell phone user browses to a website that is not mobile friendly. That person will see a tiny thumbnail version of the site which is likely not readable. Pinching and zooming will allow the site to become visible but all that scrolling and information is just not suitable to the expedient nature of what is needed on a phone. A website should detect mobile devices and either rearrange content to suit the device (called responsive) or present a much more concise, fat finger friendly version of the site that anticipates the basic need of the visitor (usually a little something about the company, contact and location type information).
That covers the top five requirements for websites in 2014. Also vying for the list include integrated analytics to measure response and traffic. There is no excuse for not having analytics given that one of the best platforms is also free (Google analytics). Also implied in some of the interactive features above is a user-friendly form development package allowing the deployment of forms on the website without requiring coding. Some web sites are also evolving into full blown CRM platforms providing a one stop shop for client management and client marketing. Interactive web chats have also proven very helpful in certain markets addressing a need for immediate customer service and response. Given the top five, applications for addressing specific requirements is becoming easier and easier. With most web content management systems, if you need something that is not so unique then there is probably an app for it.