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Don’t just get online, get noticed

We’re well and truly at the epicenter of the online era. People shop online, play online, communicate online and research online. A recent article by PricewaterhouseCooper estimated that Australians will spend a massive $13.6 billion online in 2011 – a figure that’s tipped to soar over the next few years.

Surprisingly, Australia’s SME industry is largely behind the eight ball when it comes to the World Wide Web. Our recent Business Monitor Online Special Report revealed that only 39 percent of small businesses have their own website, and out of those who don’t, over half don’t plan to get one anytime soon.

That’s a lot of lost opportunity.

But that’s not the only opportunity lost for our 2 million-odd small businesses. A quick visit of a few SME websites this afternoon made me realise that not only is Australian industry failing to get online – when we do, we don’t always present ourselves in the most attractive way.

Did you know that you have just ten seconds to grab someone’s attention with your website? That’s the amount of time psychologists estimate it takes a consumer to form an impression of a website, and decide whether they’re going to stick around, or go to the next result in their Google search. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you get the maximum impact, fast.

Keep it simple, stupid

For many potential customers, your website is the first impression of your business – and a messy home page is just as bad as a messy reception area. Resist the urge to shove as much information as possible and keep it clean.  Make it user friendly, easy to navigate, and stick to your top level offerings and information. Avoid excessive colours and a plethora of images. And remember, the most important information should be above the fold (a fancy term for what’s in the first frame, before you scroll down the page).

Make sure there’s a point

Do you want people to purchase your product? Sign up for your e-newsletter? Contact you for more information? Most people won’t engage in more than one action point per visit, so you should decide what’s most crucial and ensure your website is flows in a way that leads visitors naturally to this outcome. Most importantly, make sure you have a point. If there’s no call to action, you can’t expect people to act.

Forget fancy Flash

While Flash offers some impressive functions, unless you’re web savvy, it’s virtually impossible to get working smoothly. Either leave it to the professionals or leave it alone. And don’t forget that Apple computers don’t support Flash.  When viewing on a Mac, all Flash elements are invisible – and essentially so is your home page. With mobile browsing on the rise, keep your site user friendly and keep the Flash to a minimum.

Research overwhelmingly supports the notion that businesses with a website perform better than those who don’t, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach your target market without any form of web presence. So make sure your site stands out from the pack. Make it user friendly, keep it simple and make sure those first ten seconds make the best possible impression.

What do you do to ensure your website makes an impact?  Do you have a simple design?  Do you think the aesthetics of your website projects a positive image of your brand?

What do you think?

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Julian Smith

Julian Smith

Julian Smith is responsible for MYOB’s corporate affairs, government and public relations in Australia and New Zealand and is also New Zealand general manager. The qualified lawyer has spent much of his career at large multinationals in a range of senior legal, sales, marketing and customer management roles. Julian is a regular keynote speaker and business commentator and sits on a number of government and industry boards and advisory panels. Julian can be found on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/JulianTSmith">@JulianTSmith</a> or contacted via email Julian.smith@myob.com

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