Essential Business Website Rules

Make Your Small Business Website Work
Easy Answers To Content, Navigation, and Design

By John Heartfield, Director, eCurtain Media LLC
Publisher: Rockport Publishers

“A guest is a jewel resting on the cushion of hospitality.”
Rex Stout’s fictional detective Nero Wolfe

In a very real sense, any business on the Web is a small business. No matter how famous your brand or varied your selection, people won’t tolerate bad service, not when they can instantly leave the site and find what they want at another that is more accommodating

Creating a great website navigation for small business is an “easy” task. The website has to be easy-to-use. However, the path to organizing and presenting your content to accomplish this goal is full of pitfalls.

You can avoid them by learning some simple rules, keeping in mind a few clear principles, and following the advice in this book. Here, by example, you’ll learn the basics of solid Web navigation design.

This Book Is Always Up-To-Date

This book doesn’t contain a lot of complicated terms or systems. It doesn’t discuss the most current Web software available. It isn’t about scripting or programming. In other words, it’s not about the technical construction of websites. Those topics are very well covered in other books. It’s also easy enough to find that information through a search engines like Google. Instead, Make Your Small Business Website Work easily helps you understand why some small business website show a profit and other fail. It provides straightforward advice on how to construct a clear, simple, and consistent business website. The type of website that’s good for your business.

Although the focus of this book is websites for small business, the tips offered here will help anyone who wants to build a website that is functional, not frustrating, for their visitors.

Why You Should Read This Book

Every day untold amounts of money are lost because of mistakes that should have and could have been easily caught and corrected. Consider the following true example. The product has been changed to protect the innocent.

A Web shopper hears about a website that sells a revolutionary new type of nail clipper. The shopper types in the website address and arrives at a homepage touting the new clippers, displaying a photo, and offering a special discount for buying direct from the website. There is a prominent “buy now” button.

The shopper is impressed, gets out a credit card, and clicks “buy now.” A form appears that asks for the usual information including a phone number field. The shopper types in all the information except phone number (people are hesitant to give their phone number to ecommerce sites) and clicks the submit button. Instead of verification that the order has been received or a “thank you!” message, the shopper is taken directly to the exact same homepage with everything, including the prominent “buy now” message, as it was before.

The shopper assumes it’s some kind of glitch but those clippers sure look good. The “buy now” button is clicked again and, once again, the same form appears. All the shopper’s information is still in the fields of the form. The shopper doesn’t see any errors in their credit card info and once again the “submit” button is tried and once again the shopper is sent to the homepage.

Forget it, the shopper thinks, I’ll live with my old clippers.

The problem? The form was located “below the fold” (the non visible area of a long vertical page in a browser open to normal size). When the shopper clicked “buy now” instead of going to a new page, the navigation used an “anchor” (an marker inside the page) to jump to the form at the bottom of the page.

When the shopper clicked submit, the website detected an “error.” The phone number field was empty. The page was loaded again. But since the form was “below the fold,” the homepage appeared normal. The only difference in the newly reloaded homepage page was that a small line was added high above the “buy form” noting that the phone number field could not be left blank. When the shopper click “buy now” again, the “you must complete the phone number field” message was so far away from the form it was, in essence, invisible to the shopper. Of course, the shopper could have put any phone number into that field.

If the person who designed the navigation above had read Make Your Small Business Website Work, that company would be shipping many more clippers.

Who Should Read This Book?

To get the most from this book you should have a basic familiarity with the Web and the way browsers work in general. None of the information contained in this book is specific to any one browser.

It is not necessary to have any background in interface or graphic design.

In short, this book is for anyone who’d like to ensure your website meets the needs of your visitors.

A Note About The Websites Featured in This Book

The examples featured in this book were chosen because they represent the principles of excellent Website design. No site is perfect and, in some cases, suggestions regarding minor areas where they might be improved are included. On the whole, they are superior models of small business websites.