National Mortgage Broker

Tune Up Your Mortgage Web Site

Your web site can always use a "tune-up." Web sites are more fickle than cars and require more attention to keep them running in top shape. In this article we are going to discuss online resources that can help you improve your traffic, many of which are free.

According to CyberAtlas.com the average Internet user stays less than 50 seconds on a typical web page. Given this short period of opportunity, everything has to be correct to entice your potential customer to stay longer. A simple web site error, if not easily corrected, can cost you thousands of dollars in lost loans. Let's examine how to 'get your motor running' with your mortgage web site.

Are You Compatible With Your Customers?

You will need to run a browser compatibility test in order to verify that your web site will adequately display in different browsers and versions. While there are only two major browsers, Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), your customers' viewing results can vary widely. According to WebSnapshot.com IE 5.x is the dominant browser.

Browser Family  Percentage

IE 5.x

77.4% 

Netscape 4.5+  

11.9%

IE 4.x 

7.7% 

Netscape 4.0x  

1.3%

IE 2.0 

 0.5%

Netscape 6 

0.4%

Other

 0.8%

One of the major problems (often surprising site owners and webmasters alike) is discovering that your web site looks different with different browsers. You must ensure that your web pages can be viewed in both Netscape, which has 13.6% of the market, and Internet Explorer (IE) with 85.6% market share (and the remaining small percentage are browsers like Opera).

Many a 'stunned owner' has opened their site at a client's location to find the browser used doesn't show the site correctly. To further complicate proper viewing of your site, there are multiple versions of each browser. In example IE 5.x has at 3 major least versions; while Netscape 4.5 has at least nine release versions. Each version has quirks that can result in viewing problems.

There are several "tests" to perform here… the simplest is to upload your site then view it with many different computers, including at least one computer that runs the AOL browser. Of course when you start inserting other variables, such an Apple computer or old versions of browsers, viewing can become even more interesting.

There are online resources such as NetMechanic.com, WebWiteGarage.com and Browser Tester (vnet.webprovider.com/tools/restester.htm) can help you with your browser compatibility. If you really have to know how each HTML tag varies between IE and Netscape visit: blooberry.com/indexdot/html/tagindex/a.htm.

Ready For Your Screen Test?

Screen resolution is another often overlooked issue. We have this "debate" with 90% of our clients. A site may look perfect on your webmasters 19" monitor, but when viewed with a laptop or 14" screen, you may find yourself having to scroll horizontally to see the entire content. This annoys your potential customers; so don't do it. 

According to WebSnapshot.com, about 6.8% of your visitors still have 640x480 resolution. 

Monitor Resolution  

Percentage

640 x 480  

6.8%

800 x 600 

51.5%

1024 x 768 

28.4%

1152 x 864 

2.5%

1280 x 1024 

3.1% 

Not Specified 

7.6%

Other web statistics estimate as high as 11% use the 640x480 screen size. In essence, you are causing approximately one out of ten visitors to your site to have to scroll to view your entire site. It is not worth doing this as many customers will elect to "click away" from your site; rather than scroll.

Mortgage Promote.com suggests you build your web site at 600 pixels, which will accommodate a 14" screen and easily print on an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.

Do You Want Your Customers To Get The Really Big Picture?

Many mortgage web site owners want to provide many features to customers, such as calculators, online applications and interest rate monitoring, and have images for each element. Images are an integral component of almost all web sites. Unfortunately sometime the file size of an image, or the total number of images, can be so large that it takes longer to load the image(s), than your entire web site. Most good graphic artists understand how to optimize image size using a program like Adobe's PhotoShop. 

With your mortgage site, you have to be sensitive to both file size and overall image display size. Very large graphics, or too many graphics, can take excessive time to load. Often, you can improve load time by scaling them down. An online resource to minimize your image size can be found at NetMechanic, GifWizard.com or at GifOptimizer.com. All of these sites allow you to upload your image and then they will automatically reduce the size of the image to allow it load faster.

Are Your Links Solid?

Another common problem with evolving mortgage sites is that as web pages are added, updated and deleted, sometimes not all hyperlinks are updated as well. At JimTools.com you will find a handy link checker to easily identify dead links. GifWizard.com also offers a link check utility. We suggest you run this tool every time you upload new pages.

HTML Validation

There are many online programs that will check the validity of your HTML. Among them are WebSiteGarage.com, JimTools.com, NetMechanic.com, Doctor HTML (drhtml.imagiware.com)

HTML validators find common HTML code errors, suggests appropriate fixes for most errors, and often generates a repaired file for you to upload. One problem with most of the validation programs are the hundreds of lines of errors they will find when encountering proprietary tags used by programs such as Cold Fusion (Allaire.com) or FrontPage 2000 (Microsoft.com). 

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Web Page

There are numerous opinions as to how large a web page should be, with most opinions agreeing that the total file size (images and content) should not be larger than 30k-60k. If your pages are greater than this (especially for those still using 28k modems) may cause visitors to leave because your page just takes too long to load.

If you find you have web pages that take too long to load, consider creating multiple web pages rather than one large page, to minimize the load burden. WebSiteGarage.com offers the following analysis of load times: Excellent <10 seconds; Good 10 - 20 seconds; Fair 20 - 30 seconds; Poor >30 seconds. NetMechanic.com and WebSiteGarage.com both offer a load time checker. 

Chek Yur Speling

There are numerous online sites that will check the spelling on your site, including bCentral (siteowner.bcentral.com) and JimTools.com. Additionally many HTML editors such as NoteTab (NoteTab.com) or FrontPage have spell checking capabilities built into their software.

Vroom! Vroom!

In short, there are many excellent software programs, online utilities and helpful web sites to aid you in tuning your site. Once you have utilized these many online resources; your web site should run perfectly.

A list of all the online resources discussed above can be found at mortgagepromote.com/tuneup.htm.

Rod Aries and Robert Farris are co-founders of MortgagePromote.com, a leading Internet marketing provider to corporate mortgage clients. On request, they conduct nationwide training seminars covering Internet marketing strategies, lead generation, web site development techniques and more. Web site:  www.mortgagepromote.com

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