Financial advisors are bringing their “second office” to the Internet, but they often experience migraines when deciding what that means as they get ready to hire and deal with a web designer. On the other hand, my designer clients often tell me that they want to rip their hair out because of the extra items their clients keep asking for after they’ve started a project.
Like your services, web design requires thought, planning, and lots of communication before you sign on the dotted line. We recommend that before you speak to a web designer, you present your business plan and ideal client profile to your designer. Then take some time to write down your likes and your dislikes as you visit websites and each of the 10 parts of a financial advisor’s website described below.
Just as a new building needs planning before construction begins, the creation of a website is preceded by preparation. Preparing for a new site includes having a business vision, an ideal client profile, and a clear picture of how your site will compliment your overall marketing strategy. From the web designer’s standpoint, it also includes where the files will go, what they will be named, the number and type of graphics, text copy, programming needs, server environment, and similar technical issues. What you don’t like is as important as what you do like. Make sure that your designer knows both. If you’re unsure what constitutes a really bad website, we recommend that you visit WebsitesThatSuck.com
Trustworthiness and Integrity
Much is made of the virtual business relationship nowadays: doing business with people you’ve never met in person. The fundamentals of a virtual business are the same as those of a brick and mortar business. As a financial advisor, your new site must exude trustworthiness or your visitors will leave faster than they arrived. As you search for a designer to hire, make sure all the candidates have a trustworthy site with a portfolio of their work (a must on a designer’s website). The article, “19 Ways To Make Your Site Trustworthy” www.marketingwithintegrity.com/does-your-web-site-build-trustability-and-credibility/, will assist you as you create an atmosphere of trust and integrity within your website.
Copy (The Words)
One of the most common embarrassments in the web design industry is the pervasive presence of misspellings, bad grammar, or simply poor writing. I’ve personally seen this on the sites of famous companies whose print publications are flawless. Another common mistake, especially on the home page, is writing copy that’s all about the firm and its owner, instead of the benefits the firm offers to its clients. Take the time to get it right the first time. Hire a professional copywriter or virtual assistant with marketing savvy whose forte is proofreading and grammar–not only for your website, but for all your editorial needs. Resource we use: www.WordPowerMarketing.com
You must know where every graphic on your website comes from and list the owners’ attributions. Make sure that your designer uses graphics they have legal permission to use. Do you know that you have to format graphics differently for the Internet than for your printed literature? The usual difference between a graphic that’s in JPEG, GIF, or PNG format is its resolution (how many dots per inch make up the photo). Which format is best to use and when do you use it? What shapes look best on websites? Too many graphics, or too high of a resolution of graphics are usually the reason a website takes extra time to show up. A good designer will make sure that your graphics are properly formatted. They’ll make sure that your new logo looks as good in black and white as it does in color. Free clip art or the logo you created yourself will damage your professional image. If you’re building a new business and aren’t able to hire a graphic designer for your logo, there are lower-cost resources to use. Resources we recommend: www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com/favorites/
Documents are often a special case, as they require the viewer to possess the proper helper applications (programs such as Adobe Reader, Word, etc.) in order to open them. Special software is required for PDF (.pdf) documents, Word docs (.doc, .docx, .rtf), or WordPerfect (.wpd) files. Provide your target audience with as many options as possible. If you are unsure which software applications your clients use, a good rule of thumb is to provide files in PDF and RTF. Consider putting all client forms behind a password-protected area (use one password for all your clients). On the Elevating Your Business website, we call this our Client Vault. You can also call this the Client Café, Clients Only or other such name. Just make it clear that it’s a special area for your clients.
Coding – The Language of the Internet
Your website is created through the use of one or more computer languages. The type and version of each language can affect who is able to see the pages, the cost to create the site, the difficulty of ongoing maintenance, and the ease of upgrading or making major changes. If you want to easily maintain the site yourself, include sophisticated forms, utilize a database, or provide services such as personalization or ecommerce, consider hiring a programmer qualified in an appropriate discipline, such as PHP, ASP, or Cold Fusion. Our forms are coded for us. We recommend: www.jotform.com/
Depending on your ideal client profile, multimedia usage can make a good site great or it can make it completely unusable. Movies, audio files, videos, Flash movie presentations: all are relatively large files requiring special applications (programs called plug-ins) to work. Multimedia has an impact on your site’s performance, too. Consider these questions: Where would a Flash movie best serve your viewer? Do you want music? Should your sound file play continuously or not? Are your ideal clients multimedia-enabled, or would they prefer viewing a website without multimedia features? Our recommendation: If your site contains videos, let your viewers click on them to listen to it. Don’t allow the video to automatically begin.
Now that you have made all your decisions and collected all your materials, it’s time to put the plan into effect. What is a realistic amount of time to get from this point to a finished site? Have you included extra time for unforeseen coding issues (bugs)? How long will the beta period (public testing time) be for your site and why is it necessary? Building a website is so much more than throwing images and text together on web pages. Invariably, the design team is faced with last-minute challenges that will threaten the professional image you are striving for. The only way to minimize this undesired impact is to allow for the time and resources needed in advance.
Did you hear the one about the company that built a website and nobody came? Probably not, because neither the company nor the site exists anymore! The Internet is comprised of millions upon millions of web pages, with a tiny percentage of websites getting the majority of the traffic. How is your site going to pull in its share of the pie? Your marketing plan should bring traffic to your site and also provide stickiness–convincing visitors to purchase your services, tell others about them, and come back time and time again.
Attracting people to your website is a beginning, but keeping their interest and continuing patronage is an ongoing job. A great customer service policy includes a code of ethics, guarantees, and consistency. Your viewers want to be able to easily contact you without providing a life history! They want to receive answers to their questions within a reasonable and predictable period of time. They want to know when you’ll be there to call and when you won’t. People may contact you initially based on what they find on your site, but they will only stay with you if they like what they find in YOU.
©2003 Maria Marsala and Darrel King. Updated 2013 Elevating Your Business.
Darrel King owned The Web Center, Inc., a firm that specialized in dynamic websites for small businesses from 1998-2007. He and Maria Marsala collaboratively wrote this article in 2003. In 2007, Darrel changed his career path to nursing.
Maria Marsala guides high-achieving independent financial advisors to reach their 5-year business and personal goals in 24 months. She is a business coach, speaker, and a former Wall Street Trader. Named one of the Top 30 International Coaching Gurus in 2011, Maria has been recognized as a thought leader whose ideas have been published in Financial Planning Magazine, RIA Biz, Advisor Max, Dow Jones, The Street, Entrepreneur Magazine, and numerous books, trade journals, and magazines. She has authored four business-building workbooks including, Attracting Clients You Love Working With: 6 Steps to a Profitable Client Base.
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