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Give Your Web Site A Tune Up

Originally published: 07.01.07 by Guy Kawasaki


Changing a few things can make customers more comfortable interacting with your company online.

Some sites don’t allow people to search. This is okay for simple sites where a site map suffices, but that’s seldom the case.

Your Web site should do more than offer information about your company. Some customers want to interact with your company using online tools. Think about the modern family. Spouses travel, work long hours, and are busy with lots of other activities. Often they use the Web and e-mail to review options for major purchases and repairs. If your Web site does any of the following silly or stupid things, you should change it to make things easier for these customers.

1. Enforced immediate registration. 

Requiring a new user to register and provide a modicum of information is a reasonable request — I just think you should do it after you’ve sucked the person in. Most sites require that registration as the first step, and this puts a barrier between you and your customer. At the very least, companies could ask for name and e-mail address but not require it until a later time.

2. The long URL. 

When you want to send people a URL, the site generates

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a URL that’s 70 characters long — or more! When you copy, paste, and e-mail this URL, a line break is added, so people cannot click on it to go to the intended location.

Here’s a URL for a billiard table copied and pasted from the Costco site:

http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11197553&search=billiard%20table
&Sp=S&Mo=8&cm_re=1-_-Top_Left_Nav_Top_search&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&Ns=P_
Price|1||P_SignDesc1&N=0&whse=BC&Dx=mode+matchallpartial&Ntk=All&Dr=P_CatalogName:
BC&Ne=4000000&D=billiard%20table&Ntt=billiard%20table&No=0&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Nty=1&topnav=&s=1

Just how many billiard table models could Costco be selling? It’s good to have an easy naming convention for URLs. MySpace, for example, creates easy-to-remember URLs like this: http://www.myspace.com/guykawasaki.

Use this test: Can people communicate your site’s URLs to others easily over the phone?

3. Windows that don’t generate URLs. 

Have you ever wanted to point people to a page, but the page has no URL? You’ve got a window open that you want to tell someone about, but you’d have to write an essay to explain how to get that window open again. Did someone at the company decide that it didn’t want referrals, links, and additional traffic? This is the best argument I can think of for not using frames.

4. The unsearchable Web site. 

Some sites don’t allow people to search. This is O.K. for simple sites where a site map suffices, but that’s seldom the case. If your site has a site map that goes deeper than one level, it probably needs a search box.

5. Limiting contact to e-mail. 

I love e-mail. I live and die by e-mail, but there are times I want to call the company, or maybe even send something using postal mail. I’ve found many companies only allow you to send an e-mail via a Web form in the “Contact Us” page. Why don’t companies call this page “Don’t Contact Us” and at least be honest?

6. Lack of feeds and e-mail lists. 

When people are interested in your company, they will want to receive information about your products and services. This should be as easy as possible, meaning that you provide both e-mail and RSS feeds for content and newsletters.

7. User names cannot contain the “@” character. 

In other words, a user name cannot be your e-mail address. I am a member of hundreds of sites. I can’t remember if my user name is kawasaki, gkawasaki, guykawasaki, or kawasaki3487. I do know what my e-mail address is, so just let me use that as my user name.

8. Case sensitive user names and passwords. 

I know: User names and passwords that are case sensitive are more secure, but I’m more likely to type in my user name and password incorrectly.

9. E-mails without signatures. 

There have been many times that I wanted to immediately call the sender or send him something, but there’s no signature. Also, when I book an appointment with a person, I like to note his contact information in case I need to change it. Communication would be so much easier if everyone put a complete signature in their e-mail that contains their name, company, address, phone, and e-mail address.

On a corporate level, communication would be so much easier if companies stop sending e-mails with a warning not to respond because the sender’s address is not monitored. I don’t mean they should not include the warning. I mean they should monitor the address.

10. Supporting only Windows Internet Explorer. 

Actually, I’m not nearly as vehement about this as you might think. Supporting Macintosh, Safari, and other Windows browsers is a lot of work, so this is your call. If you define your market as only the people who use Windows Internet Explorer, so be it. You may have to really invest some effort into this one, but all the other items in this list are stupidly simple.

Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Forbes.com. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer Inc., where he was one of the individuals responsible for the success of the Macintosh computer. He is the author of eight books, including his most recent, The Art of the Start, which can be found atwww.guykawasaki.com.


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