1. Comfort your visitors with familiar items and navigation. Think about walking into a department store or supermarket for the first time. Previous experience tells you where to go to find what you need because there are conventions — established and traditional traffic patterns for you to follow.
2. Keep it simple. The faster and easier the navigation, the happier your customer will be. Set up a plan to monitor every page periodically so that you catch broken links and make sure every page loads quickly.
3. Offer a guided tour. Find out who your visitors are and make suggestions about where they might want to go; this it can be done via navigational cues or by a clickby-click page tour or demo.
4. Tell your story. A Web site is like a mini-broadcasting station. It starts right on the home page, which should set the stage by telling a compelling story that positions the company against its competitors. Include clear, concise information about whatever differentiates your company in your industry or niche. Having an "About Us" section enables you to present the human side of your business by profiling your management team and detailing your company's history. Also, a section devoted to company news allows you to announce new clients, new hires, new products or features — through press releases you post there. These are "conventions" to many users. Don't discount their value.
5. Update your content as regularly as possible. If you want repeat visitors, you need an answer to every returning user's question: "What's new?" Even if your site is not content-rich, a key to getting repeat visitors is to offer something new when they return — new graphics, new product information, new offers, new article links, new company news, whatever. Consider having a blog.
6. Say yes to archiving pages. When designing or upgrading a site, it takes little additional cost and effort to add an archiving channel for press releases, investor bulletins, media clips, company fact sheets, sales presentations, product anouncements or specs, conference briefings, white papers and other content that you originally posted in more prominent places. You never know when a client will remember some data point or presentation you had on the site and return to forward it to your next prospective customer.
7. Test your labels and links. Before signing off on copy or design, put it through a usability test. Watch a live customer click page by page through your site to see if it's intuitive. You should also test all top-level site labels.
8. Always fine-tune your site after launching it. The most common mistake, say many experts, is doing everything right in taking the site live — but then walking away from the considerable consumer information it can yield. You should be checking into your server logs to monitor visitor and consumer behavior and traffic patterns.
9. Establish trust in your users. Many consumers have now been burned by online experiences, so you must quickly establish business bona fides. Web design conventions (see No. 1 above) can help put customers at ease, but you must also establish individual credibility.
10. Empower your visitors. Design your navigation and online applications so your visitors can find what they want. Yes, the site's overall look and feel is important and, yes, your copy and content must be assured and professional. But the main mission of your site should be to make each visitor feel that he or she is in charge of the experience. That's the route to attracting customers — and motivating them to return.