Building an Online Presence – Part 1: The Website

What does it mean to have a good online presence or “web presence”? It means having a firm grasp of how your target demographic uses the web. It means taking that knowledge and putting it to work in your favor by utilizing the tons of online resources that are available to you. Recognizing which of these resources will benefit you the most, is key to a solid online presence.

In this series of posts, I’ll be discussing thoughts on how to create a better online presence through various channels.

Start With Your Own Website

The vast majority of people I talk to aren’t happy with their website (the ones that have websites anyway). Web users are much more savvy than they were even 3 or 4 years ago. Even less “savvy” users know the difference between a good website and a terrible one. People are much more likely to respond in a good way to a well designed website. Aesthetics are important but website design involves much more than making a site look good. It also involves Information Architecture, User Interface Design and User Experience Design. What the heck does all that mean? Put simply, it means that when users come to your website, they get where we want them to go and they feel comfortable enough to hang out for a while. This is hard to achieve when your site has no continuity in it’s presentation of information, navigation, links, styling etc. Would you enter your credit card information to make a purchase on a website that looks like it was built in the late 90’s using free templates that have been hacked together? Would you put much stock in a company that isn’t willing to spend time and effort on their own website? Probably not.

Hiring the right person (or people) to design your website is key to building an online presence that gets results. Although your nephew may be able to put a website online and he works for peanuts, is he really the best person for the job? (Nothing against using relatives for web design. I have relatives too!) Do your research and figure out who will work better for you. More often than not, smaller web design shops hold advantages over larger agencies: agility, speed and quality of service.

Some things to look for:
the designer’s/company’s portfolio. Are there example projects that fit your vision or is there evidence of being able to create many different aesthetics? Is there a wide breadth of work even though you don’t see something exactly like what you have in mind?
available services. Is there a wide range of services available that can fit potential future projects like print advertising, logo design, SEO/SEM, marketing, etc.?
client testimonials. (if available) Are there happy clients singing the praises of this potential website provider?
SEO services. A website with no traffic isn’t a good tool. Can this company/person get your site found via search engines? Did you find them through a search?

All of these will help you get a feel about whether or not they’re a good fit for your project.

Up next: Building an Online Presence – Part 2: Using Social Media. Subscribe to the RSS feed or signup for spam-free email updates to get notified about new posts immediately.