Software Marketing Resource Articles: Tune Up Your Web Site

You wrote the code, now how do you sell it?

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Tune Up Your Web Site

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 my experiences.

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: 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,, 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 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 Elfring Fonts

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.


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