Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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How to build an informative web presence.

Published: 30 Jul 2011

I am opinionated but please, listen. The advice below can get you additional customers. Simply by not having potential customers immediately close the browser and move on. It’s hard for a business owner to build a web presence. They’re at the mercy of other people. It’s hard for them to gauge quality and skill. Obviously, everyone wants someone good to work with.

How do you determine good? In this case it’s easy and can be determined in one simple question. How do my customers go from the Internet to the door? If your potential partner can easily explain all paths a customer will take in finding you to making a purchase, they’re good. If not skip on to the next one.

In the current brick-and-mortar world customers make purchases in one of three ways:

  1. Non-Internet (word of mouth, local ads, etc), not covering this here.
  2. Internet Search and coming to your store.
  3. Internet Search and buying something online.

Most local stores cannot be competitive with online vendors. Amazon will always cut a better price. Don’t optimize for the online shopper unless your online shoppers account for the majority of your business.

The main path you want to optimize for (pick one path, and only one) is the person who wants to come to your store.

Optimizing for the local visitor.

A local visitor needs 3 things to get to your location:

  1. A reasonable image of what the store front looks like.
  2. The address and preferably a map.
  3. The business hours.

Anything else that is prominent on the front page of your website is distracting. Distractions lead to lost customers. Avoid distractions.

Above is an example of a fairly good restaurant webpage. It’s from a local ramen place we frequently eat at.

Notice that all the important text is highlighted.

They clearly state the hours; and they’re open 7 days a week. The important information reads from left to right. When they are open, how you can call them and then the address.

If I were to design this page, I would put the address in the center, though. A map on the entrance is not that useful, but having a link to a Directions and Map page is.

The photo is good as it shows exactly what they serve. A photo of the exterior would be helpful. Unfortunately, this restaurant doesn’t have good curb appeal. Probably a better choice to go with the dish. It’s important to be flexible but always be focused on optimizing for a specific path. Having a photo of the exterior can be placed on the Directions and Maps page.

For a business that does primarily does local, in-store transactions the Internet presence is extremely important. Having a website does not optimize for the local visitor means missed opportunities. That translates directly into lost sales.

Get a piece of paper, write down each decision someone may make while deciding to visit the business. If the site doesn’t do that easily, potential customers are being lost.

Also, any animated entry page, especially if it plays music, is losing customers. Not only because it is annoying, but also because the iPhone cannot display those pages. Many people find local businesses on mobile devices. This is why sites like Yelp are so popular. They present more useful information on the business than the business itself does. This means the business is losing the dialog with the customer and is at the mercy of a third-party. Even with positive Yelp reviews this is a different experience than what a business wants to deliver.

One final tip: Don’t focus on graphic design, focus on the information being conveyed. It’s easy to get graphic design put on top of an informative website. It’s much harder to take a useless but beautiful page and make it informative.

After this is mastered, then worry about Twitter and Facebook and Groupon. One thing at a time.