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creating a customer friendly website

Developing a website can be a little daunting - and it can be even more daunting trying to put yourself firmly in the shoes of those you wish to visit and use your site.

It’s often the one thing people developing a website neglect to do.

Keeping your website visitor or customer friendly is one of the best ways of developing customer loyalty. And customer loyalty is one of the most important challenges facing business today with fierce competition. Growing market share is hard, keeping it is harder.

So, when you develop (or indeed redevelop) your site, just about the biggest mistake you can make is thinking only about your organisation and your business needs and not the customer and their needs.

For example, customers usually just want the product, service or information - they often don’t care how your organisation is structured. And they certainly don’t want to have to search for the right business area to find the product!

There are several keys to creating a customer friendly website:

first, listen to your customers and learn from what they say. This will mean you have to be prepared to act on what you learn and change your mind about how it should be built in the first place or make changes to the site. It may also mean personalising your site.

add value. If you are a florist, this added value may be the convenience of ordering on line, being able to see examples of what you might be sending and offering a birthday reminder list; if you are a supermarket, again convenience is added value but you might also include recipes and on-line shopping lists people can work from.

enable two way dialogue. This may be as simple as making sure your site has all contact details and an email response form. It may also mean a chat room.

ensure the technology used to build your site doesn’t take too long to load. There are lots and lots of flashy software programmes out there which can make your site look fantastic. But just make sure your site doesn’t take several minutes to load. Customers on-line won’t wait for the site, they will go elsewhere and probably won’t come back. If you do want movement, you can achieve similar effects with simpler technology which won’t slow the site down too much.

show your organisation’s brand values and personality clearly. Your customer has to be able to see at a glance what you do, understand your attitude to service and the importance you place on your customers - they need to gain an instant impression of you.

keep the site updated and refreshed. How many times have you been to a site recently and it still says ‘happy new year’ or, worse still, ‘merry Christmas’ ! Customers want to feel you are interested enough in them to keep up to the minute information and products with accurate pricing on the site. It is better NOT to include seasonal greetings and other items which become out dated if you know you are not going to be able to keep the site up to the mark.

have enough links to lead the customer through your site easily. Visitors don’t want to have to click their way up and down the screen looking for ways to easily get to other pages. Clear text and page links are essential to easy navigation - but NOT too many of them.

make transactions easy, reliable and secure, leaving no room for mistakes and confusion.

Not only will these things help create a friendly site but they will also help develop customer loyalty. Of course, you also have to deliver what you promise and fulfil the expectations your site has created - only you can do that!

Written by Anna Hamilton, Oryx Technologies.

If you would like assistance in developing a customer focused website or a review of your current website, give us a call on 04 212 6160.

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