Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Six Quick Spring Clean-Ups for Your Site

by Heather Jewell

It's time to say goodbye to cabin fever and the winter blues as the weather turns warmer and the days get longer. Each spring we devote time to updating our wardrobe for sunny days and even make room in our busy schedules for a little spring cleaning around the house. We want ourselves and our homes to look their best, so why not take the same approach with our business? The change in seasons is a perfect excuse to pay some attention to your Web site, the online face of your business or organization.

1.) Let's start with the obvious. Check to make sure that all of the links on your Web site work properly; broken links and images that do not display correctly will decrease your credibility with your audience. Also, test any links you may have that take the viewer to another Web site. With domain names changing so frequently, you don't want to lead your audience to a site that has moved. It is also important to make sure that such links will open in a new window (internal to your Web site) so that visitors can look at another site without having to leave yours.

2.) The next step in spring cleaning your Web site is to make sure that it has the right feel. Does your business have a professional reputation while your Web site has tacky scrolling marquees and flashing images? Because your Web site is the online storefront of your company, it needs to have a similar personality as your business. One easy step to helping align your Web site and your organization is to use the same colors on your site as you do in your company logo and other marketing materials. If your business's colors are navy and gold, why use red and black on your Web site? Incorporating your company's logo, using the same colors, and eliminating effects such as scrolling marquees and flashing images are a few simple ways to ensure that your online storefront provides the most accurate depiction of your company.

3.) Similarly, it is also necessary for your online content to have the right tone. If your business's mission is to sell insurance, for example, you don't want to describe your premier insurance policy as "awesome"or "neat." While that type of wording has a home on a personal Web site, it has no place on the site of a professional business or organization. Try using adjectives that are friendly, yet more professional. Incorporating a friendly tone into the content of your site will help to earn the trust of your audience, especially when your goal is to convert them to buyers. While using such a personal tone will make a connection with your audience, it's important to achieve a balance between professional and childish language; using language that is inappropriate will cost you a lack of trust and credibility. Examples are expressions like "looking to" or incorrect grammar, such as ending a sentence with a preposition, or the improper use of "I" and "me".

4.) The next step in spring cleaning your Web site is to make sure that the content is written with the audience in mind. Do viewers have to read through long paragraphs or is the content broken into small, manageable chunks? By dividing the content into shorter segments, you'll help your audience find the information they need quickly. One technique that is helpful is the use of bulleted lists. It allows you to provide information in an easy-to-read format and enables viewers to quickly search for the desired information.

5.) Next check the content to make sure it's fresh. Does the site include news releases or other content that is more than a year old? By the way, it's okay to have these older press releases up there, but they should go in the archived press releases section after about 6 months, depending on the number of press releases issued at your particular firm. Has the calendar of events been recently updated? Viewers will associate such stale content with an unprofessional company. Another great idea is to consider turning these sections into RSS reader. sections. It will help keep interested parties up-to-date through an

6.) Before folding up your reading glasses and calling it a day, there's one final step in preparing your Web site for spring. Read through each page on your site, looking for spelling and grammatical mistakes. What viewer will believe the information presented or be encouraged to purchase one of your products if your Web site is filled with misspelled words? With so many other Web sites only a click away, you need to make your site the one your audience wants to visit and bookmark for future reference. After you have read through the site, ask a few co-workers to check for misspellings as well; it often helps to have those not directly involved with writing the content to proof read it for you.

After you've checked off the above steps, your site is ready for spring! Don't let your attention for your Web site fade as the year goes on; make the changing of each season a reminder to update your site and ensure that it is the best online representation of your company.

About the Author

Heather Jewell is the Manager of Planning and Administration of NuRelm. NuRelm is a Web software and services firm that focuses on helping non-technical professionals utilize on the Web to build business. For more information, please visit www.NuRelm.com.