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12 steps to web site success

12 steps to web site success

Over the last 10 years, we've learned a lot about what works (and what doesn't) on the web. Whether your goal is to make money or make a difference, these 12 steps will set you up for success:

  1. Know why you have a web site. Too many organizations build web sites without thinking about why. Answer these questions: How will your web site help your organization? How will it help its visitors? Deciding what to do p. 8

  2. Build a site for the user. Not for you. This is the most important lesson to learn on the web: Your web site is for your users, not you. They've arrived at your site with a purpose in mind, and your job is to help them accomplish it. So focus on what they need to do, and not what you want to say. Getting to know your users p. 44

  3. Fill a need. You can build it, but will they come? If you want to attract visitors, you must first fill a need. The more specific the need and the more effective your solution, the more people will seek you out. Predicting what users will want p. 58

  4. Write a plan. It's simple advice that's so often ignored: You should always make a plan—and write it down—before starting work on a site. This helps you think through decisions and estimate costs. It also ensures that team members agree on what, exactly, they're building. Writing a plan p. 21

  5. Collaborate. Every successful site is a collaborative effort, requiring people from different disciplines—design, engineering, marketing—to work together. But they think differently, work differently, and speak very different languages. They may need some help. How to encourage collaboration p. 330

  6. Pay attention to site traffic. By watching what visitors do—where they come from, where they click, how long they linger, when they leave—you can learn what's working (and what isn't) on your site. Monitoring and evolving your site p. 240

  7. Let your site evolve. After your site launches, the real work begins. You should watch how it's used (see No. 6) and gradually make changes to better meet the needs of your users. Monitoring and evolving your site p. 240

  8. Make your site easy to use. It's a tried-and-true equation: The easier your site is to use, the more people will use it. So if you want to gain momentum, make your site simpler and more straightforward: Make choices obvious, choose clear names, and follow the design conventions users have come to expect. Designing for the user p. 82

  9. Test, test, test! It's hard to predict what will happen when a site appears on different browsers or is used by different people. So before you go live, be sure to test! Test the design and technology on different systems. Also test whether the site is usable: Do people understand it? Can they accomplish their goals? Designing for different systems p. 90, Usability testing p. 129

  10. Use email to keep in touch with visitors. People visit your site only when they remember to. And email is the best way to remind them. No matter what kind of site you have, email is the best way to keep people coming back. But remember: There's a fine line between reminders and harassment. Don't overdo it! Email strategies p. 282

  11. Stay focused. It's easy to think of a thousand things to do, given infinite time and resources. But more isn't always better. From the user's standpoint, a good web site is a simple web site, and extra features just get in their way. Deciding what goes on the site p. 16

  12. Speed it up! You can do everything else right, and still fail, if your pages load too slowly. Improving site speed p. 219

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