How can you get the most from your meeting or incentive Web site? What can you tell your Web designers to maximize the site's user-friendliness and usefulness?
Most important, the design team should follow these three golden rules: 1) Make sure the site is easy to find; 2) See that it provides interesting information presented in a user-friendly and visually compelling format; and 3) Give visitors a reason to return.
Rule 1: Make Sure It's Easy to Find An average of 40 percent to 50 percent of all Web site hits come from search engines, the electronic card catalogs of the Web. Make sure that your site is listed with the five search engines that represent more than 90 percent of Internet traffic: Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), Excite (www.excite.com), Infoseek (www.infoseek.com), Lycos (www.lycos.com), AltaVista (www.altavista.com), and HotBot (www.hotbot.com).
The goal is for people to easily find your Web address (URL) by using key words when they do a search, which means that the URL should show up in the top 10 listings of search engine results. If your site is not coming up to the top 10, searchenginewatch.com has lots of information about how to improve your ranking.
Also, include the Web site address on all printed promotions, brochures, letterhead, and even business cards.
Rule 2: Make It Attractive Once people have found your site, you must entice them to explore it. Here are some ways to draw in visitors:
*Home page--First impressions are everything and your home page is your viewers' first impression. It should be cleanly designed, welcome visitors, have a central focal point, and succinctly state what the site is about.
*Design consistency--There should be a common look and feel throughout the site. Each page should have the same fonts, color scheme, and overall layout.
*Good navigation--A navigation bar that appears on each page of the site makes it easy to explore. Follow the "three-click rule"--that is, any page on the site should not be more than three clicks away.
*Speed--If the site's pages don't come up quickly on the screen, they won't be read--no matter how spectacular the graphics are. The opening page shouldn't take more than 15 seconds to appear.
Rule 3: Bring Them Back Again A meeting or incentive Web site is different from a company site because, of course, people want to return for the information they need. Nonetheless, consider ways you can regularly add fresh content or new features.
For example, Sun Microsystems (www.sun.com) is a terrific example of a content-driven site. A "hot topics" box on the company's home page highlights upcoming meetings, as well as the latest company issues. The meeting pages provide lots of continuously updated information about company events and meetings and contain streaming video clips of keynote presenters from past events.
Another way to add interest to a Web site is personalization. For example, qualifiers who enter Xerox Corp.'s Web site for its President's Club incentive are greeted with a personalized banner running along the bottom of the screen like a ticker-tape, saying "Congratulations.... You are a winner!" The registration form has already been filled out with the person's name, title, home address, work address, and other information.