A Web Site Checkup for Small Business

Whether you plan to build a Web site for your business or you already have one, a user-friendly, accessible and informative site is essential to good business. The California Society of CPAs provides the following checklist to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your site.
  • DETERMINE OBJECTIVES AND MESSAGES. The first step in building a Web site or enhancing your current one is to determine your objectives. What do you want your site to accomplish? For example, do you want to offer services or sell products online? Or are you trying to improve customer relations?
  • COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY. Once you know your objective, the next step is to determine your messages. What do you want to communicate and to whom? Make sure the writing is geared to the audience you want to reach.
Many sites have an "About Us" section, which provides an overview of the business or organization, including mission statements, goals, services, and client or customer benefits.
  • FOCUS ON CLEAR NAVIGATION. Your Web site's navigation is the road map your visitors will use to find their way around your site. The navigation should be easy to follow so visitors can quickly locate information. Use key words that accurately convey each section of the site. These can be used along the top or as a sidebar. Make it easy for visitors to travel within the site and return to the homepage as necessary.
  • USE GRAPHICS WISELY. Attractive graphics can make the site more appealing and interesting. All visuals should draw attention to key sections or messages on the site. However, be careful that the graphics do not interfere with download time. You don't want complex images taking too long to download, causing visitors to get frustrated and leave the site.
  • DON'T OVERLOOK CONTACT INFORMATION. It's important that you also include contact information such as addresses, e-mails and phone numbers of key contacts within the organization. Often sites neglect to provide such critical information.
  • ADDRESS PRIVACY AND SECURITY ISSUES. Develop Web site privacy and security policies and be sure to post these on the site. Visitors to Web sites are especially concerned that information provided through a Web site will be misused or distributed without their permission. Privacy policies should describe the information you collect through the Web site, how you use that information, and whether it is provided to third parties. Your security statement should outline the steps your firm has taken to protect against the accidental disclosure or misuse of personal information.
If you would like additional assurance of the security and privacy of your site, you also can engage a CPA. Some CPA firms offer WebTrust and SysTrust services, which involve independent verifications of a company's business practices, Web site security and privacy standards, among others. SysTrust focuses on evaluating the security of certain information technology systems. 

GIVE VISITORS A REASON TO COME BACK TO THE SITE. If you want visitors to return to your site, you must give them a reason to do so. Provide a list of useful and timely links, post new employment opportunities, include current news, or offer a question-and-answer section. You also can create a communications board that fosters networking among your customers.

Finally, CPAs point out that in order to draw traffic to your site, you should market the site to customers, clients, vendors and others who could benefit from the information. You can accomplish this by including the Web address on brochures, newsletters, business cards, press releases and useful tools such as financial calculators and templates.

A Web site can help business owners promote their companies and build customer confidence and loyalty. CPAs recommend that you review your Web site often to ensure that the information is accurate and the site is easy to use.