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8:33am EDT November 26, 2002
You may think your company's Web site is providing your customers with everything they need, but how can you know for sure?

Doug Frazier, a partner with Clary Communications in Columbus, says the first step is to review site statistics on a regular basis.

"Most Web hosting companies include a statistical analysis as part of the hosting package," says Frazier. "The software allows you to view visitor trends -- what they are looking at and what path they are following."

You can also see what pages are the most frequent exit pages, and whether customers are exiting before getting to your most important pages, such as online ordering or other e-commerce applications. If that's the case, it could indicate a navigation problem.

"You can also talk with your customers and get some informal feedback," Frazier says.

How often should you view your site's statistics? That depends on the type of site you have.

"On a basic brochure site that doesn't change frequently, you may only need to look at the statistics a few times a year," says Frazier.

But for database sites that change daily, it is critical to view statistics almost daily.

Are customers e-mailing you saying they have difficulty finding important information on your site? That's a surefire sign that your navigation system isn't working, says King Hill, president of DigiKnow, Inc. in Cleveland.

"Top-level navigation shouldn't change throughout the site," says Hill. "Visitors shouldn't have to learn a whole new way to move around in each section."

Hill also advises companies to be aware of who uses the site and what connection speeds are common for them, information that is available through Web hosting statistics.

"If most of your users are using a dial-up connection, you may want to substitute text for graphics in your navigation system," he says. How to reach: Clary Communications, (614) 481-7534 or www.clarycommunications.com, DigiKnow Inc., Columbus office, (614) 280-0577 or www.digiknow.com