Here’s a shortcut to membership website success: find online businesses that are working for other people and model them. Study what they are doing correctly and do likewise. To help build and maintain your own successful site, make a habit of analyzing other sites for form, function and design.Questions to Ask and Components to Critique
Note your immediate reaction to the site design. Is it positive?
Most frequent Internet users dislike animations, banner ads and other distractions. Some sites even tuck links away in directories you have to click on to access. That way only those who are specifically interested see the information, while the disinterested are not confronted by it.Can you easily find the site’s description, mission or reason for being?
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This vital information should be identified by About Us or some similar title. Yet many publishers overlook this very basic detail.
Who are they? Why are they here? What do they want from you?
Is a Subscribe or Membership Information button (or department) in a prominent location on the main page?
If you want people to subscribe, make it easy for them. Don’t bury the price or payment details. Place the pricing page in several locations.
Some sites place a Subscribe button on every content page available to the public. What a concept!
When you subscribe, do you enter information on a secure page?
It’s amazing the number of sites that ask you to enter your credit card number on an unsecured form.
How can you tell if a site is secure? If the site has an SSL certificate, a small gold lock appears at the bottom right hand corner of the browser (Internet Explorer) or a solid key in a small blue block appears (Netscape Navigator).
When a secure SSL connection is established with a site the “http” in the URL changes to “https.” You can view the details by clicking on the lock or key.
Double-check all the links to your subscription or membership forms to make sure the URL is “https” instead of the normal “http” address.
Is access immediate upon subscription, or do you have to wait for an email with your username and password?
The better content management programs and outsource services grant immediate access. Subscribers don’t want to wait—even for 10 minutes. Don’t make them.
The manner in which these details are handled tells volumes about the business sophistication of the site’s publisher. Recognize that your potential subscribers are sophisticated.
Most of them are experienced Internet consumers who will quickly spot any weakness in your online publication’s form, function and design. If they do, your site’s credibility will be severely diminished.
The Internet is often called the Information Superhighway. Think of each of these website components as exit ramps for a potential subscriber. As the publisher, it’s your job to design the highway so travelers can easily speed toward and through the toll booth, and into the great content beyond.
Don’t undermine your credibility by ignoring these rules of the road.