6 Popular Website Features
How they Help, How They Hurt
So you're thinking about having a business website.
Part of that process is considering what features you want on it to increase your company's public awareness footprint, optimize visitor engagement, enhance your branding and, of course ultimately, maximize your profits. For some firms, a complete package with every single bell and whistle available is their heart's desire. They likely order pizza with "everything on it", but not all toppings go well together. Is 'everything' the best option? Here is a list of some of the most popular features available for websites, and what can result, both good and bad, from their use.
Having a site enabled with Flash provides the opportunity to have animation and other video displays featured on your site. We all know modern web surfers love their moving pictures, as YouTube's popularity will attest. According to industry analysts, site visitors are 60% more likely to click on your video before they even read a single word.
Sounds too good to be true? In some circumstances, it is.
The Big But - Flashy Flash has a Dark Side
Although video is embraced by website traffic, there can be serious downsides. For example, Flash technology can't be used on many portable devices such as Blackberrys, iPhones and Apple tablets. Half of all searches are now being initiated on portable electronics, making mobility a major consideration.
The other aspect you must carefully weigh is that most video features increase the page-load speed of a website significantly. Slow-building sites aren't viewed by the impatient masses and may affect your search rankings, since Google's rules punish sites that have slow load speeds.
For visitors who have Flash-compatible Android devices, there may still be problems if they haven't installed the latest version of the video driver. They will be asked to do so, which will definitely dissuade some prospective customers.
Another downside to Flash is that it cant be read by search engines. If video is a must, look into other technologies to deliver it. HTML5 is the most popular with JQery adding additional functionality. Your web developer will have many recommendations to provide video without the problems of Flash.
Pictures do indeed speak thousands of words. In fact, approximately ¾ of a human brain is involved in vision. (Dogs, in contrast, have 75% of their brains wired for smell.) Attractive and evocative images appeal to our dominant sense. Images are easy to update regularly in a gallery to keep your site fresh for SEO purposes. How can you go wrong?
The Big But - Copyright Can Bite
As attractive as photos are, there are many legalities associated with images on the Internet. It is fantastic to find pictures that enhance your site, however, the ownership of the image must be established, respected and documented. Somebody owns every picture on the Internet. It is against the law to use someone else's intellectual property without their permission, unless that property is in the public domain.
There have even been cases where permission of use of an image was initially granted, but then the image was purchased by a photo service who doesn't recognize the pre-existing permissions. Even buying photos can be tricky as records of permission must be kept for as long as they're in use on your site. You may wish to consider taking your own photos just to avoid legal issues.
Another important caution is that photos can be very large, hard to edit for a beginner and slow the loading process which hurts your SEO. Check your website on your smart-phone to see how long the image takes to boot up. If you don't know how to optimize, you should call in professional help before you get penalized by the google-bots because your site takes so long to load.
Having a frequently updated blog on your site is a simple way of updating your website to keep it fresh for Google's relentless SEO-bots. Well-written blogs that reveal your company's knowledge in their chosen field may enhance, in the minds of the public, your business' expertise. Writing carefully sculpted headlines and subheads is also a great way to properly use keywords and phrases to get better rankings without using the black-hat tactic of 'keyword stuffing'. Blogging can also feed a newsletter system to keep your contacts informed of new developments. The best part of blogging, however, is that it creates opportunities for sharing interesting content on social media which leads people back to your site. Google-bots look for site value and blogs that have been linked to often, help in that regard.
The Big But - Great Text Doesn't Grow on Trees
There are few downsides to blogging but it is imperative the blogs must have professional quality writing. If you can't provide that expertise in-house, you will have to pay for that professionalism like any other skillset. Doing it right is too important to just 'wing it'. Blogs with poor grammar, spelling errors and awkward sentence construction risk damaging your perceived authority.
Some companies initially think a blog is a good idea and approach it with enthusiasm and the best of intentions. The reality is that it takes time to write, edit and especially promote the blogs once they are produced. If you can't fin time to do this at least once a month, it may not be for you.
Having your website come fully equipped with it's own built-in e-store is a great addition for companies with a catalogue of products or services on offer. This is different from having a separate web store. The advantages are numerous:
- SEO efforts for both the website and e-store will be shared by the website as a whole, rather than be fragmented between two websites, if they are kept separate.
- Online customers are more apt to trust internal, rather than external links.
- It is less expensive for webhosting expenses to pay for only one website.
- It is usually much easier to manage one website rather than two.
- Most small stores fail because the store software is too complex and hard to manage, so a simpler store increases the likelihood of your success.
- Generally, it is easier for customers to make the connection between your site and your sales selections.
The Big But - Say Farewell to Fancy
An E-store section attached to your corporate website is usually less elaborate than a stand-alone sales site and could potentially limit the range of items you can list. This may be a positive, too, however, as many shoppers want simplicity over selection and can be overwhelmed by product pages with too many items. Having a separate sales site does also provide some opportunity for SEO enhancing back-linking.
Social Media Buttons
There is no doubt having social media tabs; buttons that post information directly onto Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, will get shared more than sites without that feature. According to knowledgeable sources, a website with sharing buttons are seven times more likely to be shared on Twitter than those that do not. It is smart to make sharing as easy as possible for your site visitor. Hoping they will copy and paste to their favourite social site may be an unrealistic expectation.
Having counters on the buttons will also tell your visitors that you have a popular site and will inform you about which pages work best with each social media platform.
The Big But - 7 Seconds You Won't Get Back
Having share buttons can slow down the load time of a website by up to seven seconds, depending on the complexity of the code. This is critical as some estimates suggest a single second delay in page loading can result in 7% fewer conversions. Long load times, as previously mentioned, also affect rankings. If your content is informative and engaging enough, however, and provides positive return on your visitors' time investment, longer wait times become less of a factor making share buttons well worth their while.
Another caution of social media buttons comes with tabs that have counters showing the frequency of shares. If the number of shares is always low, it can hurt your image.
Home Page Rotator
Also known in the industry as 'sliders' or 'carousels', this popular website feature lets web designers focus on more than one important selling point. It allows for more H1 tags (headlines) to be used to showcase your products, plus provide a moving image the human mind is hardwired to pay attention to. Rotators are attractive and stylish, especially if care is taken to ensure the images are powerful and striking.
The Big But - Mixing Your Messages
Providing your site visitor with three, four or more messages, instead of one, may serve to dilute all the messages. Internet experts agree that often, the content contained on the first slide is read a lot more than subsequent slides; dropping incrementally in viewership the farther down the list you go. Make sure if you use your rotator for your call to action, that action call is on every slide that appears.
Choosing the Features Right For Your Site
How your website is laid out and what features you want on it depends largely on what it is you want the site to accomplish. The type of customer you are trying to attract makes a huge difference, too. Additionally, sites designed to tell you something are different from sites designed to sell you something. Your best option for choosing the right features to produce the results you want is to discuss your website goals with your developer. They have the experience to suggest the right mix of features you need to consider to make your website perform exactly as you hope.
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