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5 easy tips for maintaining a great website

During the current economic climate, small businesses need to be able to communicate their brand values and unique selling points successfully, and an engaging and easy-to-use website is key this.

Here are five tips for creating and maintaining a successful website at an affordable cost:

1. Make sure the website reflects the core values of the brand

As a business you need to identify the company’s core brand values before attempting to design the website. It is vital that these values are reflected in your online presence while at the same time ensuring the website meets the needs of your target audience. Everything you do or say sends a message: what you write and how you interact with clients influences the user, so you need to make sure your website mirrors your brand and its key messages.

2. Use engaging and quirky methods such as video and music to create different dimensions

As a business owner you need to make sure that your website keeps your audience engaged. By introducing more visual media such as video and music, users are more likely to spend longer on the site.

The use of video breeds increased customer engagement and can grab the audience’s attention. By implementing video, your company is able to tell a story or showcase work in an effective manner.

Online video is simple and inexpensive to develop yet it is still considered by many as high-tech and so is an easy way to make your website look more professional while gaining an edge on your competitors.

3. Choose the right images that are simple and yet create maximum impact

Selecting an image from a collection of millions is understandably difficult. Try a service like iStockphoto. When deciding which images to use there is five things to consider:

–       Purpose: what is the image for?

–       Tone: it’s not what you say it’s how you say it

–       Audience relevance: does your audience relate to the image?

–       Timeliness: how new is new?

–       Uniqueness: is your image one of a kind?

The issue of image rights is an important one here. One of the most common misconceptions about photography copyright is a tendency to believe that if a photo is published online it is part of the public domain. However, no matter where they are posted, images remain bound by copyright. To use photos that can be found online, you need to have consent of either the author of the image, or – when the licence agreement of the social network allows it – the administrator of the website. More information on this can be found at www.stockphotorights.com.

4. Make sure the website is easy to use and doesn’t look too cluttered

Images need to be kept simple but clear and highlight what you want to say. Packing out your website with visuals makes it harder for the user to read the important facts. As a result, they can obscure your message rather than supporting it. Images need to be there for at-a-glance comprehension.

If the website is cluttered it can reflect badly on the company so you need to prioritise messages accordingly. The key points – whether in text, image or video format – should be made prominent on the page, while at the same time you should look at creating room between elements and scatter images throughout. This may all seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many websites are hard to navigate because the owner has tried to put too much on one page.

5. Update the site regularly to show that the brand is active

In the online world, content is key. Creating quality content on a regular basis is the most effective way to attract and retain website traffic. By providing new information on existing web pages customers will be more willing to spend time reading your content. Furthermore, an active website boosts your search rankings. Search engines such as Google look much more favourably on websites with up-to-date and relevant content, so this is imperative to get onto the all-important first page of the Google results.

One of the best ways to bring more content to your site is to have a blog. Sharing your expert knowledge can be a great way to add content and provide additional value on your website. Other ways could be simply changing some of the featured images and graphics throughout your site to make it feel fresh and revived. Doing this every few weeks can peek interest and allow returning visitors to explore other parts of your website they may not have explored.

The above tips don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, but little touches like this can really impress prospective customers and set small businesses apart from their competitors.

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Rebecca Rockafellar

Rebecca Rockafellar

Rebecca Rockafellar is the general manager of <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/">iStockphoto</a>, the web's original source for royalty-free stock images, media and design elements. In this role, Rebecca oversees the global strategy and operational leadership of iStockphoto and the development of iStockphoto’s core websites, with a view to improving the company’s overall online customer experience.

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