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May 30, 2007

Basic Web Site Design Psychology

To really create an effective Internet marketing campaign there are fours areas that need a lot of focus and a lot of carefully-thought-out detail:

  • The Color Design and Presentation of A Web Site
  • The Navigation of a Web Site
  • The Copy/Web Content
  • The Optimization Strategy(ies)

Creating a web environment the customer can trust is crucial and necessary if you are hoping they will invest in your product(s) or services. If you consider how to create trust, how to visually appeal to your potential customers and how to make their web navigating easier you create an easy and appealing web site

The Color Design and Presentation of A Web Site

We all see many web sites daily. Some of us see more than others, but we all see enough web sites to decide which ones are appealing and which ones are not. Some people are attracted to Flash, some are attracted to a lot of color and some do not like a lot of color. You cannot please everyone, but if you work hard to complete what I call “The Package” you can basically please everyone.

The term “The Package” consists of the four bulleted items above. People may not be fans of your Fusha and Chartreuse website, but if you handle the coloring right and combine the presentation with easy navigation, and copy that sells, you can win your visitors over.

You can really choose any color combination you want, even if they are the most ridiculous colors ever combined, as long as you combine the colors effectively. Colors should not make the copy difficult to read and they should not be so overshadowing that the viewer does not want to even bother reading the copy. I am presently creating a new web site for myself and above all choosing the right colors has been the most difficult thing, because the colors cannot take away from the copy. The eye should not have to strain to read the text.

If a web viewer feels eye discomfort they will not be able to process the copy effectively and most of the time they will just leave. The colors can be eye-catching and maybe a little crazy as long as the copy is clearly readable and the navigation is obvious.

Colors are used to attract. There are several attractive, basic white websites, but with so many websites around today web masters/designers are trying to use color to stand out. I, for one, like the colors I see. It sets one business apart from another and as a visual learner I tend to remember the colorful, eye-catching sites more. However, if the navigation is difficult I, like most Internet users, will exit quickly and not look back.

The Navigation of a Web Site

Creative navigation is fine and dandy and can sometimes be fun, BUT if a web site’s navigation is difficult to figure out or too hard to find it is really not worth the user’s time to try and figure it out. Why should they? There are hundreds or thousands of other sites offering the same services and/or products. Why not go to the site that is easy to navigate?

I had a interesting conversation with a colleague over navigation and that conversation actually inspired this article. Our discussion was over why a current web site’s navigation was completely ineffective. I am going to make up an example of what we discussed.

Let’s say you are going to a website looking for a puppy and when you land on the site you see four elaborate buttons to the left for the following:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Boston Terrier
  • Rat Terrier
  • Akita

Most people would assume that these were the four breeds this business sells. If they were looking for a Miniature Poodle and saw the four buttons I listed above they may quickly assume they had come to the wrong website and leave. Unfortunately, this website had a link at the top of the page that said “Other Breeds”, but it was small and in a 10 font and the color was not much different than the background. The link is basically invisible and not all (or even many) Internet users are going to work hard to look at a site to find a link that may meet their need UNLESS the product/service they are looking for is rare. You can optimize a site correctly and gain the placements you wanted, but if a web user cannot find the item they will leave.

It is the web owner’s and web designer’s responsibility to create navigation that easily and effectively displays everything an Internet user could need or hope to find. You cannot expect a person to work for it, because they won’t. They will just back out of your site and look at the next one. One simple thing would have made the above example’s navigation extremely effective; they could have just added “Other Breeds” under Akita. Then there would be no mistake. Everything needs to be RIGHT in the face of the viewer!

One more thing I feel I have to say is that whether we are dealing with links or copy, the font needs to be large enough to read. You may have 20/20 vision, but not everyone does so increase the size and adapt your web design accordingly. Make it clean and large enough for the average Internet user to see.

The Copy/Web Content

Thanks to terrible copy/web content I am now make more money working as an SEO Copywriter than I did as a Mental Health Counselor. Terrible copy can consist of one, many or all of the following:

  • Bad Grammar
  • Misspelled Words
  • Choppy Writing
  • Writing That Does Not Sell
  • Writing That Makes You Want to Sleep
  • Writing That Includes Phrases Like, “Get’er done/Git’r Done” (not sure which is correct. I have seen them both more times than I would like to say).

Copy is one of the web site’s most important advertising tools. Even if the color is boring or unattractive visitors will glance at the copy. If they are pleased they will continues to read; if they are not they will leave. We have all been on a site and read the first paragraph and then been like, “What???”. I shouldn’t complain about it because I am making money because of it, but I have read many articles giving fantastic free advice and tips and I want to contribute. Perhaps the most important thing I can say is, Obtain Great Web Content! You will benefit from professionally written copy.

If you look at this from a Psychological or Sociological perspective you will understand (especially if you look back on your web viewing experiences) that copy will either make a potential client trust you or not trust you. You have about 5-10 second of reading time to make a web visitor believe that you are trustworthy. If they do not trust you and believe you have a professional business they will not invest in your products or services.

Copy Should:

  • Be Easy to Read
  • Sound Professional
  • Have NO Misspelled Words
  • Have No Grammar Mistakes
  • Should Not Be Written In a Casual Manner ( like this article)
  • Sell, Sell, Sell and Blow Sunshine Where Ever It May Go

Optimization Strategy(ies)

It appears as thought everyone knows about the importance of optimization, but the truth is many businesses do not even know what the word means. People look at my business card and slowly read “Search Engine Optimization” like they are sounding out the ingredients of Moo Goo Gai Pan in Chinese. I have to explain it over and over again.

I would be writing all day long if I wanted to explain what optimization is and how to begin creating a strategy. There are millions of articles out there already, so I will focus on a what a business needs to know to design an effective web site.

Code– find a designer that knows how to properly code a website. Ask them if they know what W3C web standards are and ask them to explain it to you. A properly coded website is crucial if you want the search engines to give you the placements you are hoping for. Your site needs to please your visitors and meet the standards and guidelines of the search engines.

Web Design– Believe it or not optimization strategies need to be thought out before the design of the web site. There are several areas of a website that need to be “optimized” during the creation of the web site. You can always change a web site later, but it could end up costing you a lot of time and/or money.

Copy/Web Content– the copy should support the optimization put in place during the web design. An SEO Copywriter can help you with this and please understand that an SEO Copywriter is much different than a copywriter. To understand and create effective SEO copy a copywriter needs to understand code, the design of the website and not only know how to optimize, but also consistently keep up on the changing trends of SEO.

Please the Search Engines– As I stated above, you have to please your web visitors and meet the standards and guidelines of the search engines. Search engines want your website coded correctly, they want proper and ethical optimization strategies and they like copy. I know everyone is running around screaming “Page Rank!, You must have a great Page Rank!”.

Well, I am going to say something that will probably upset many; my Page Rank has dropped tremendously and I am still doing well in the search engines. I have all of the #1 placements on Google that I wanted and I have the page one placements I wanted (please don‘t jinx me). I have a ton of link farms linking to me and I have a lot of outbound informational links for visitors and clients. My Page Rank may have dropped, but I still have an average of 2,000 hits a month. I have clients in nearly all 50 states and I am making good money. My dropped Page Rank has not hurt me at all.

What has hurt me is my web site and that is why a new, properly coded website is being created. This website will appeal to visitors visually, mentally and it will please the search engines. I plan on having “The Package”. It is taking a lot of time and money, but it will pay off in the end.

In Conclusion

It is important to research and prepare when designing a web site that will effectively advertise your product(s) or services. Colors that match your logo is not the only thing to consider. Another unfortunate thing I am seeing, as is the colleague I discussed above, is that some web design companies are promising everything, but building quick web sites and the promises are never met.

I suggest you interview multiple web design companies. Ask for a portfolio. View the sites online. If all the sites look like a basic template you cannot expect anything different for your site. Also, if they promise optimization look at their clients’ presence on the search engines. Are they doing well? Call a few and ask what they think about the service they received. You may find that the web design company didn’t even handle the optimization. With the money you will be spending you deserve a quality web site. Do your research and you will save money in the end.

Author:  Melissa Fach has always been an Internet Junkie. A successful copywriter and SEO, Melissa works with a wide array of clients. Melissa runs Panaca Writing, SRQ Web Design and the Sarasota Print Shop.