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Designing for the Future: Make Your Website Really Work for You

Tips for a successful website
By Dick Wolfe
August 08, 2012

There are a lot of trends squeezing the design and renovation market. The economy is one we don’t need to explore in any more depth. Despite news to the contrary, the recession is still with us, home values are still down and people are still wary of sinking any more money into an asset that has lost, or is even still losing, value.

The Do-It-Yourself trend is also another “competitor” as many consumers have become convinced by TV shows and websites they can do their own remodel. In fact, websites are springing up that facilitate the personal design movement. Some, like Pinterest, are sort of ad hoc idea-sharing spaces. Others, such as Project Décor, which was written up in The New York Times recently, are creating a business model around helping consumers who feel confident they can design their own space.

What can you do to stay relevant in the game?


MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS TELLING THE RIGHT STORY

This is no news flash and I’ve said it before in this column: Your website is often the first (and last if it’s not up to snuff) introduction to what you offer. It has to be engaging, informational and convincing. Consumers who visit your site need to come away with a clear idea of why they might want you for their renovation project. If the site is muddled, not compelling visually or too generic, no connection will be made. No connection equals no sale.

Following are a few things to consider when building or revamping your website.


DON’T LAUNCH BEFORE THE SITE IS READY

“Under Construction” is not a website. If you don’t have a complete website, it’s better not to go live until you do. While researching this column, I visited several local kitchen and bath remodeling sites. I found one that was particularly egregious in its lack of information and the inaccuracy of some of the information presented. I’m not going to share the link because I feel no need to embarrass anyone, but here are some of the problems:
Under “Services,” the only item offered was cabinet re-facing even though the company purports to be a full-service kitchen and bath remodeler.

Under “Products,” the site lists one branded countertop surfacing material.

Under “About,” which should describe the company and what it does, there was a sentence or two about how great the firm is and then the dreaded phrase, “Our site is under construction, please check back soon.”
This site also threw out on the cabinet re-facing page the statistic that you can recover “85.2%” of the cost of a kitchen remodel. There are two things wrong with that:
1) A cabinet re-facing is not a kitchen remodel.

2) The percentage quoted is overstated by about 20 points according to recent surveys.
If you can’t put up a site with full and accurate information, you’re better off sending flyers than being on the Web.


MAKE YOUR SITE PART OF YOUR ACTIVE SALES FORCE

Here’s a site that does a pretty good job of showcasing the company and what it does. The site's design is a little bit “blocky” and the colors are sort of Lowe’s-style, but there are good, large, rotating visuals in the middle of the page to catch your eye. The navigation is obvious and logical, and when you click on a tab, you get useful information.

However, the site’s most ingenious aspect was under the “Remodeling Process” tab, which was strategically placed as the second tab across the top reading left to right where it was sure to be seen. It has two drop downs: Ask Your Contractor and Do It Yourself? The “Do It Yourself?” page is not a tutorial on how you can do a project. It lists all the compelling reasons why you should use a pro. That’s using your site to sell.

One other tip is search engine optimization or SEO. Someone searching for services on Google will often be shown those sites that are within their geography since Google knows who you are and where you live. It’s worth a few hundred dollars a month to have a web company that specializes in SEO help maximize your visibility and get you on the first page for your locale.

Your website is part of your team. Like anyone else who works for you, make sure the site has the tools to succeed.


—Dick Wolfe is SVP of The MWW Group, an award-winning independent public relations agency that specializes in helping design effective marketing programs for well-known consumer brands and business-to-business companies. Wolfe brings deep experience as a trusted communications advisor to companies seeking successful brand positioning, marketing communications and visibility campaigns that focus on the design/build community. To contact Wolfe with questions and suggestions on topics for future articles, please email him at dwolfe@mww.com.
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