Tune Up Your Web Site
by Gary Elfring of Elfring
Fonts and CD-Ship
Once you have gotten your web site up
and running, you should start to think about what your
customers are experiencing when they visit the site.
How well does your site really work? Is your site making
sales for you, or is it driving your customers away?
And is there any way to improve your site? Can you improve
your site's: download speed, html code, and navigation?
Can you increase sales at your site by simple changes
in its design? I have spent a fair amount of time tuning
up my web site of late, and hope you can benefit from
The first thing to ask yourself is, what
factors influence your customer's web site experience?
How fast your first web page loads is a major concern.
If the first page takes too long to load, your potential
customer might leave before ever seeing any of your
site. Building a small first page is important. The
first page of your site is an introduction to your firm.
It is not the right place to describe your products
or their features in detail, if at all. Ideally you
would like the first web page to be limited to a single
screen. You also need to minimize the number and size
of the graphics on this page.
Reducing the size of your graphic images
is fairly easy to do. First trim all your images, removing
any extraneous portions that don't contribute to your
site. Then make sure that the html code that displays
those images has the width and height defined. (That
speeds up page display.) For example, use:
<img src ="complogo.gif" alt="Elfring
Fonts, Inc." width="150" height="98">
Next you need to reduce the amount of
memory each JPG or GIF requires. There are a number
of web sites that will reduce image size by removing
extraneous data and by reducing the number of colors
in the image. Try the WebSiteGarage at: http://websitegarage.netscape.com.
You can upload an image through your browser or have
the WebSiteGarage download a copy from your web site.
Once the WebSiteGarage has your image
it will process the image and show you a number of different
versions of the image. Each successive version will
require less memory, since it has fewer colors. At some
point, this process will degrade the image and become
noticable. Back up a bit and save a better looking (but
smaller than the original) image by right clicking on
it. The WebSiteGarage will tell you exactly how much
memory you save for each individual image. You can typically
cut from 25% to 50% of the memory requirement for each
image. That means each of those processed images will
take 25% - 50% less time to download! The end result
is faster page display for your customers. This is especially
important on your web site's first page.
Next on the list of web site tune up tips
is basic html code checking. Small errors can creep
into your web site each time you change the design,
or even update it. This is especially true when you
hand code your own html. The Dr. Watson web site, http://watson.addy.com,
can check the html code at your web site for basic errors.
Once identified, you can correct the errors.
Why fix the errors if the web site looks ok? Even small
errors can slow down page display in both IE and Netscape.
In addition, the errors can contribute to differences
in the way pages display between IE and NetScape. Once
the html errors are fixed, it is time to carefully check
how each page displays in both IE and NetScape on your
system. It is important to have current versions of
both IE and NetScape installed on your computer and
use them both to check every single page of your web
site. You need to ensure that all web pages display
properly, and hopefully look the same in both browsers.
Now it's time for another major portion
of your web site tune up. Does your web site have more
than one page? If so, then how do your customers find
out what is located on each page? How do they get to
those pages? If you limit your customers to a few static
or graphic links to your site's other pages, you are
forcing your customers to think the way you do. That
is probably causing you to lose sales. Why not let your
customer search your site on their own terms? You do
this by adding a search engine directly to your web
site. You don't need any programming knowledge to do
this, other than a little html copying. There are a
number of different web sites that offer search engine
service. Try http://www.atomz.com for an easy-to-add
web search engine. You copy some simple html code to
your web site. This places a short search form on your
main page. Your customer enters any search terms he
or she might desire. When they click on the search button,
they get a list of your web pages that match the search
terms, (if any). The Atomz web site indexes your entire
web site, handles all the search tasks, and presents
search results directly to your visitors. Your visitor
sees only search results related to your site, plus
a small Atomz logo. You can customize the way the search
result pages look to match your own site, adding background
and logo graphics, changing colors, etc.
Once you have added a search engine,
you can view search reports at the Atomz web site. These
reports will show you the search terms your customers
are using to move around your web site. If they consistently
use terms you don't use, you can add those terms to
your web pages and your meta tags. This is a great way
to peer into your customer's mind. You should now have
a good idea of what it is that your customers are looking
for. So it's time to consider site navigation. A search
engine is just a small portion of overall site navigation.
How many mouse clicks does it take your customer to
move to any given page? How many clicks to buy your
product? It's a good idea to let your customer move
to any page on your web site within one, or possibly
two mouse clicks. (Never more than that!) The more pages
a customer has to wade through, the more likely that
customer is to leave before even getting the chance
to buy your product.
I visit a lot of web sites, sometimes
as a customer, and sometimes just to try and see they
do well and what they do poorly. There are a few simple
things that all the good sites have in common. Good
web sites are designed to sell something. Sure there
are other types of web sites, designed to do other things.
But that's not why you are reading this article. You
want to make money. You do that by selling products
to your customers.
Your potential customer wants to buy something.
If you make it easy for the customer to buy you have
a good chance of making the sale. If you make it difficult
for your customer, they will go to your competitor's
site. How do you make the customer's buying job easy?
First, you need to remember that your job is to sell
a product. You aren't a shareware distribution site.
The point of your web site is not to emphasize shareware
downloads. The point of your site is to sell things.
You sell things by presenting useful information about
a product to your customer and by making it easy for
that customer to buy your product. That means every
product description page needs to have a Buy Now button.
Don't make your customer hunt around trying to find
a way to buy your product. Make it obvious. (And this
also means you must offer automatic electronic purchase
and downloads. Unless you can do this yourself, you
need a registration service.) A very large portion of
my sales are people who want the product now, not tomorrow
or next week, but now. If they can't get the software
from me now, they will go elsewhere.
You also need to make it easy for your
customers to download the shareware or evaluation version
of your product. Once again- every product pages needs
a Download Evaluation Copy button. Don't make the customer
hunt around your web site for this. The last major point
is file size. Never make your customer guess how big
the sample version or the retail version is. Those buy
and download buttons need to have file sizes posted
next to them. Many of your customers only have a 56K
modem. Rather than risk that your product is small enough
to download, these customers may just move on to a competitor's
site. Tell them just how big that product or shareware
file is. Hopefully, if you follow these tune up instructions,
you can increase your sales and make your customers
happy at the same time.
Copyright 2000 by Gary Elfring
article provided by
Gary Elfring has been developing both
shareware and retail software since 1985. He has been
chairman of the ASP board of directors, on the board
of directors of STAR, and is currently on the board
of the SIAF. His top selling retail program made PC
Magazine's best selling application list 3 times in
a row. Gary currently has 20 separate shareware products
available for sale.