Simplicity and consistency are two keys to a successful Web site for professional services firms, according to Tiffany Shlain, founder and creative director of The Webby Awards, which this year offers an award for professional services sites.

She advises that firms opt for a simple interface, offering the straightforward functionality of Google as a good example. "Avoid extraneous bells and whistles that slow users and prevent them from quickly and easily completing what they came to your site to do," she says, adding that navigation bars should also be "consistent and prominent on every page so your customers don't get lost. Use guides to show users both where they are and how they can get back to where they started."

Put a clear link from the home page that leads to your company's contact information, and include as many forms of contact as you can process: telephone and fax numbers, the postal mailing address, and e-mail, Shlain says. Acknowledge all contact with an auto-response e-mail so that customers know you received their message. In the auto-response, let them know how long it will take for you to get back to them, and respond in that time.

"A Web site is a constant work in progress. Keep your customers coming back by highlighting company or industry news on your home page to keep it fresh. Every quarter -- if not more often -- review your site thoroughly to make sure everything is current, and links are still live," she adds.

More information on the award is available at www.webbyawards.com. Deadline for all entries is Dec. 17, and there is an entry fee.

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