Businesses strive to create user-friendly websites

Jeannine Van Liere, co-owner of Coach’s Bar & Grill in Stevensville, shows off the restaurant’s new website. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Jeannine Van Liere, co-owner of Coach’s Bar & Grill in Stevensville, shows off the restaurant’s new website. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — It has become a necessity for a business – whether small or large – to have a website.

Some have reached out to professionals to design their sites, while other establishments have chosen to develop one themselves.

The website for Coach’s Bar and Grill was made by an outside company.

As co-owner of the Stevensville restaurant, Jeannine Van Liere said they first launched their site three years ago. However, they did a complete makeover three months ago.

“I felt like the one we had was a little outdated,” she said. “We hired this company called Restaurant Logic to work on our site. They were able to accommodate a better fit for Coach’s.”

Van Liere said it was a long process updating Coach’s site. She spoke to the Jackson company extensively over the phone on what she wanted the site to look like.

The end result was a more user-friendly site that had photos of food, connectability through the business’s social media accounts and a list of ever-changing quotes from legendary coaches.

“I came up with that,” Van Liere said. “It’s really a part of who we are. It’s important we incorporate that to show who we are.”

Turn the page

At Forever Books in downtown St. Joseph, owner Robin Allen said their website is based on what is provided by the American Booksellers Association.

She says by using the national search engine as a website, it expands her store’s inventory to more than what her bookstore has to offer.

With an added cost every month for Allen, her customers can shop 24/7. The site also allows her to make announcements about events or sales they’re holding.

“They have one of the largest databases in the country,” she said. “The flexibility of that website is you can customize it. For businesses like mine, people go to your website to find your phone number, the hours you keep and your address. It’s a way to stay current and up to date.”

What a business needs

Van Liere said a business owner should take time to consider what goes on their website because that can be the first impression for a prospective customer.

“You really want to make sure that you look at it from a guest’s perspective,” Van Liere said. “It has to be easily accessible and you need to make sure it represents who you are.”

Kathleen Wolf, senior manager of Corporate Reputation and Interactive Media for Whirlpool Corp., knows what makes a website successful.

WhirlpoolCorp.com was launched Sept. 15, 2014, replacing a site that Wolf deemed “boring and bland.”

The website was created internally on a WordPress platform that uses flexible templates for page layouts.

Its traffic ranges anywhere from 60,000 to 90,000 site visits per month. Visitors are primarily in the U.S., but also come from Canada, India and Brazil, among other areas.

Wolf said she learned sites succeed when they meet a user’s goals.

“As other businesses are creating their websites, my advice would be to understand their target audience and what they are trying to accomplish when they go to the company’s website,” she said. “Don’t get caught up in making the site about your business. Make it easy for users to complete their tasks and they will want to know more about what you have to offer.”

Wolf said many businesses get excited about creating the initial website but fail to plan for updates.

In other words, if a business wants consumers to return to its website, the content has to change regularly.

“Websites are not online brochures that never change,” Wolf said. “When you think about making content changes you will also need to determine if you need technical assistance in making those changes. A site that requires technical assistance to add basic content becomes more of a financial burden that needs to be considered.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 7, 2015)

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