Extreme Website Makeover BostonSo what’s the connection between a website and a party? Consider your website as your brand ambassador — your host/hostess — smartly dressed but not over flashy. The overall theme is decidedly trendy but not so funky that it will become dated tomorrow. Can people find you (the host) and your location? (Note how many times this week you can’t find a phone # on a website). Then there’s content, your community and the conversation. Plan ahead. Match your theme to your attendees.

Join your peers and industry leaders Wednesday, April 29th from 6:00 – 8:30 PM at 28 Degrees in Boston to see what site deserves an Extreme Website Makeover!

I promise not to shout MOVE THAT MOUSE! But, I will do a before and after presentation to show how the winning website has:

o Branding — serves as a brand ambassador — a party host per say!
o SEO features — keywords and design to attract and wow a crowd
o Call to action — lead capture tools; ways to draw an audience
o A RSVP or more info spot
o Means to get the buzz into the community

These aren’t just nice things to have in a good web site design, they are required. So why do so many web sites fail? Why are so many parties boring? Because web technology, search, and social networking have rapidly changed the overall marketing and community landscape.

Keeping up with the latest technology requires constant effort. For example, when you scroll down a page, you move away from the navigation bar. To solve this usability issue on our blog, we found a nav bar that follows you down the page. Although there are multiple solutions for this, we chose one that has a smooth sliding movement — like a Travolta move (on most current browsers) and stays in a fixed position on older browsers.

“Search” is the hip party term for all things relating to Search Engine Optimization. Making your site searchable goes much deeper than just getting found. With concerted effort and smart design, you can get your company cataloged, linked to, and talked about. Searchability really is key. This can be done by carefully planning the hierarchy of content, and by using keyword-rich typography as a design element. Good design firms optimize the back-end code for search and include unique keywords on page titles. Extraneous code is separated from the main pages to allow for easier indexing of content by search engines. (See some upcoming trends on the Search Engine Journal blog.)

Social Networking blends both technology and search into an additional network of interactivity and community. (Read Bob Cargill’s post: Five Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Use Social Media) To start with, social networking helps your company on a brand loyalty level. Customers who “belong” will not only promote your brand, but will protect it as well through blogging, comments on other blogs, and recommendations. Social networking is also viral. So the more people who are in your network, the faster (exponentially) you are able to broadcast your message. And social networking offers opt-in subscription models to ensure that people who want to hear from you never miss your message.

Usability is often overlooked in favor of fitting all the “right” content on the page. Of course you have a lot to say, but you need to show restraint in your message. Say only what you need to in order to get the desired response. Other usability factors include section titles, navigation options, and e-commerce paths. Make it easy and quick for your users. Give them a positive experience so they talk about you and come back for more. Note to self: When is our next party?

Call-to-Action — What are you trying to get your site visitor to do? Buy a product? Download a demo? Sign up for a mailing list? Call you on the phone? Whatever it is, it should be everywhere and prominent. Stay focused on the call-to-action. The purpose of your web site may not actually be to educate the user about your product, but to get them to buy it. Educate only as much as you need to achieve that goal.

You’ll see what I’m talking about on April 29th. One lucky organization will be selected for a homepage redesign, social media PR makeover and email marketing offer. In front of a partying crowd of marketers, social media makers and my peers, I’ll show you a quick before and after presentation. Complete with gratis martinis and tasty apps. Networking and tweeting is optional! Sign up here!