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By Jay Lipe

If you want your small business website to stand out from the crowd, follow these practical website design tips. If you do, you’ll harvest more traffic, higher conversions and more sales from your site.

1. Know your site’s objectives – The success of your company’s website should, at the end of the day, hinge on how well it achieves your objectives. To help with identifying your website’s objectives, here’s a starter list of the most common ones:

• Generate more qualified traffic
• Produce more leads
• Sell more products
• Educate buyers
• Generate passive income
• Increase employee productivity.

Once you identify all the objectives for your site, see if you can’t prioritize what the top three objectives are. Keeping these top three objectives for your website in the forefront, you’ll do a far better job of designing a website that achieves your objectives.

2. Make your online identity synch up with your offline one – Most small businesses have spent countless hours and dollars developing an offline company identity. This identity, found in existing signage, PowerPoint presentations or brochures, may have already established an image in the minds of visitors who land on your site. That’s why you should work hard to incorporate logos, icons, colors and typestyles from your offline identity into your online one. To drive this point home, picture a visitor to your site with one of your brochures in her hand. Now, imagine her reaction if she sees one identity reflected in the brochure and an entirely different in your website.

3. Identify the key three tasks for your site - A short time ago, I was hired to audit a client’s website. When I met with the owner, I asked him to name the top three things he wanted visitors to do after arriving at his website. He said he wanted them to 1) place an order for his spa covers; 2) understand why his spa covers were superior to the competitors’ and 3) order accessory items. But when I visited his site for the first time, I couldn’t see how to do any of these three tasks. For your small business website to succeed, first identity your Key Three tasks and then make each one blindingly obvious. Use whatever design ideas you and your website designer can come up with (i.e. box them in, shade them a different color, use bursts), but just make sure they’re as obvious as the nose on your face.

4. Draw visitors in with your first two paragraphs of copy - Based on studies, you’ve got between 15 and 30 seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your site, so your first 100 words of copy have got to be compelling. I once heard a webmaster refer to these first 100 words as your “opening statement”. And much like the lawyer arguing in court, if your opening statement doesn’t convince your visitor, you’ll fail to win your case.

5. Consider including a search box - According to website marketing guru Jakob Nielsen, 50 percent of all website visitors are search-dominant; meaning they arrive at a website fully expecting to search its content using a search box. So, if your site contains many pages (over 100), articles, white papers, or back issues of newsletters, provide a search box that’s easy to find and use.

6. Use a tagline - Good sites use a tagline to communicate what their site is all about, and place it inside the front page header for maximum exposure. Some of the world’s most popular websites use this approach including:

• Ebay – “You Can Get It On Ebay.”
• YouTube – “Broadcast Yourself."
• MySpace – “A Place For Friends."

If you’re wondering how to develop a distinctive tagline for your site, try my book Stand Out from the Crowd; Secrets to Crafting a Winning Company Identity which features a step-by-step approach to generate taglines for any business.

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Jay Lipe is the Founder and President of EmergeMarketing.com.
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