July 13, 2009
How important is Website Design? Your Website needs to look professional and trustworthy in order to create buyer confidence. A poorly designed Website will cost you sales.
So where do you need to start ?
1. Choose a Domain Name.
A domain name is the web address of your website (i.e. www.bizhelp24.com). All websites must have a domain name before they can go live on the Internet.
If you have an advertising budget to promote your business, then it is beneficial to choose a domain name that is the same as your business or gives people an idea of what you sell. Alternatively, if you do not have a large budget, it may be more beneficial to use a domain name that includes a ‘keyword’ so that when people search for something specific your site has a better chance of being found.
For example if your site is about relieving back pain, a domain such as ‘www.backpainrelief.xxx’ will be more likely to show up in searches.
Either way, you need to use a name that benefits your long-term business aims, and not something that is restrictive. E.g. ‘wellheeled123.com’, might be a clever name for a business that sells exclusive shoes. But if that business then diversifies into other products, the website name is no use anymore.
2. Design Your Home Page.
The Home Page is probably the most important page. It’s the first page your visitors will see, so you need to make a good impression. On this page, you should communicate who you are and why you have a website. You want to make sure that your message is clear and not lost in many long paragraphs. Try to divide your text into sections that you can mark with headers in a larger font or using bold text. Don’t underline text as this can make it look like a link.
One of the most important aspects of the text on your home page is the “Call to Action”.
“Call to Action” is the text that tells your visitors what you want them to do next. Do you want them to call and schedule a consultation, visit your shop, or just browse the other pages in your website? Make this command prominent by changing its color or increasing the font size.
Also consider uploading an image or two onto your Home Page. A colorful image will help to captivate your visitors and they will be more likely to continue browsing your site.
You need a simple Home Page that clearly communicates your website’s purpose and goals.
3. Design Your About Us Page.
The About Us page of your website should be used to reveal a little more about yourself or your business. Consider any additional details that might be important to your customers.
You should also consider having a Map of where you are located. Having a Map on your About Us page creates a very professional feel for your website and makes your small business look big.
If you do not operate out of a physical location, think about other things that your customers would find interesting about your business. Perhaps you have an exciting company background that you could share or more details regarding the services you offer.
Whatever you decide to write, remember to keep the text in short paragraphs.
4. Design Your Contact Us Page.
You are now getting very close to having designed a good 3-page site. The last element that all websites should have is a Contact Us page.
Include the best way to contact you directly on this page. Make your phone number or email address prominent on the page, perhaps with different font styles.
Make sure to keep this page simple though, as you don’t want your customers to get distracted by other content. Ensure each page in your site has something valuable to offer. Don’t design ‘Pretty, But Useless’. Let’s step back and realise that a web page exists to provide something that’s useful or interesting to visitors. If your page doesn’t have that, then you must fix that problem before you worry about how to present it.
What are you offering to your visitors? Why is it worth their time to visit your site? Focus on that before you move on to how it should look.
5.Keep Advertising Ratio 25% or Less
Amazingly, I see some sites that are almost nothing but ads. We know that no one would turn on the telly if it were just adverts, or buy a magazine if it were just ads and no articles. By the same token, a website also has to have more than ads if it’s to be successful. If you are running ads on your website, then you should ensure that the ratio to editorial is no more than 25% to 75%. Your visitors came to your site to see what YOU had to offer.
If you have affiliations and partnerships that are relevant to your site, then by all means include them. Don’t do what I saw recently on a website for a large fabric retailer where the web designer had put her friend’s Aromatherapy Massage practice in as a link. It’s not professional.
6. Don’t Distract With Blinking/Scrolling Text Or Auto Play Video/Audio.
Animation and sounds are distracting. How can anyone concentrate on reading what’s on your site when there are things flying around the page? It’s like trying to read a newspaper when someone’s poking you in the shoulder repeatedly.
Scrolling text does nothing to serve the visitor. If it’s on a site it’s because the site owner thought, “Let me show how cool I am.” Don’t design the site for yourself, design it for the people who will actually use it.
If you have relevant audio or video on your site, make it so the visitor can play it when THEY want, not at start up.
7. Don’t Use Image Backgrounds.
Full Image backgrounds mean “amateur”. A site like this can also have extremely slow page-loading times. This is NOT a professional image, and will turn visitors away.
8. Put Thought Into Organization.
Think about what content you have and how it should be organized. This is just as important as what your site looks like, so spend time on it. You are not doing your visitors a favour if everything is thrown up higgledy-piggedly, and they have to leap about the site looking for what they want instead of being informed.
9. Minimize Clicking!
This is so important. Put as few clicks between the visitor and the information as possible. Clicking around will make the visitor abandon the site and go elsewhere
10. Limit Page Length To 2 Screens.
This is where it gets a bit difficult. While you should put a lot into the design to limit clicking, you should also avoid going too far in the opposite direction by putting too much on one page.
You should normally limit a page to 2 screens. Articles by their nature, like this, are exceptions to that rule.
11. Include a Navigation Menu on Every Page.
Always include a menu on the page. This allows the visitor to start all over again at ‘Home’, or to click on another page that interests them.
Don’t put navigation links only at the bottom of pages, because then users will have to scroll down to the bottom to get to them (unless your pages are very short).
12. Website Readability.
A line of text should be no more than about 600 pixels wide. What does THAT mean ? Well it means that your website page should be no wider than say the middle two thirds of your monitor screen. The reason that newspapers and magazines are printed in columns is to make the lines short, so after you read one line, it’s easy to find the start of next one when your eyes flick left.
The problem with wide layout is that the content will be too wide to read easily for those visitors with really large screens as the content expands to fit the screen (or window).
13. Use Contrasting Colours with Text. It is hard to read light text if it is on a light background, or dark text on a dark background.
There are also some combinations that just don’t work. For example I came across a website just yesterday that insisted I try to read a bright green font on a bright red background. I persisted only because the company owner was seeking my advice and help.
14. Seek Advice.
If all this seems too much to take in, remember you can always call in the professionals. A good designer will take all of the above into account, and much more if he or she is considering the area of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for your website. He wants it to work for you. There are many companies around who will do all the above and much more; for just a few hundred pounds.
Neil Holley-Williams is a Specialist Designer of Small Business Websites and Business Identity Products. Neil is also studying advanced SEO techniques for use with his clients. For more information visit http://www.hwmarketing.co.uk