Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time for an Online Health Check

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time for an Online Health Check

Article excerpt

Byline: GUY CLAPPERTON

If customers are abandoning your website, it is probably time for a check up.

Guy Clapperton has the diagnosis

THE problem with many websites is the customers. They drop in, look around, sometimes buy something and then do not come back. In real life, of course, it is no use blaming the customers - if they do not come back, there is usually a reason.

Fortunately, there are a number of places where free or inexpensive help is available, although all should be looked at in the context of advice from internet service provider Poptel: "Gimmicks can be used to encourage people to your website. It is, however, good content that will see them returning time and time again," says Alan Mills, the company's online marketing manager.

Clearly a site needs to have some substance behind it - solid design and salient information for customers is indispensable.

Organising this is not always an easy task, however, and this is where advice from people like the Business Link and the Department of Trade and Industry's UK online for business scheme (operated mostly through the Business Links, details at www.ukonlineforbusiness.gov.uk) come in handy.

Unlike advice from web design professionals, you will not pay for it in the first instance.

There is a lot you can do without moving from your office, however.

The services at www.websitegarage.com are cheap and often free, and include an overall health check-up on your site: how ready it is for search engines, how well it will show up on different browsers and how it will look on different-sized screens. You can also pick up on bits of bad coding and get suggestions for alternatives, although if you are not well-versed in HTML - the language in which websites are written - this will not be much help.

Websitegarage is also among the sites that will offer you a webcounter, to track who is coming to your site and where they are coming from, although it is usually wise to keep these discreet or even invisible - they tend to be regarded as the IT equivalent of fluffy dice these days.

Equally ill-advised when used injudiciously is the affiliate scheme, in which you link to someone else's site and take a cut when they buy something through your link. …

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