Self Employed Web

Web Design Basics

Posted on Saturday, May 12th, 2012 by

Initial Website Design – Combine Search Engine Optimization, Credibility and Image

Do some simple homework and your business website will prove to be an asset instead of a useless expense.

Don’t build a “canned” website. Don’t be tempted by those offers from a hosting company or other source to build a website in a few minutes.  These “canned” websites allow little flexibility and most only allow you to enter text into a field. Likewise, don’t be tempted to use the templates included with Microsoft FrontPage. Either one of these websites will adversely impact your credibility. They look like just what they are — a minimal effort! Would you send a flyer out to a business prospect written in crayon by a six year old? Why build a website that is the equivalent of a crayon flyer? A tacky website will lose you prospects!  

Don’t have a one page website that looks like a flyer.  You have seen those type pages with flashing banners, scrolling marquees, mission statements, flashy resumes, animated “click here” buttons and repeated exclamation points.  What better way to tell the prospect you are offering nothing but hype? Your opportunity to make a great first impression is limitless on the internet, why destroy that opportunity with one tacky page? Is this the image you really want to project?

Don’t use information from a previous brochure or flyer. Sure you spent hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars developing this printed material but we are dealing with a different medium on the internet. Start from the ground up and build your website with solid information your visitors find useful and valuable. A flyer or brochure copied to your new website still looks like just what it is – a flyer or brochure. Content is King on the internet! Make your website a place visitors want to return to!

Don’t bloat your home page or default page with big graphics files (pictures), movies, flash animations or sound files.  This will be the most visited page in your entire web and you don’t want visitors to click away in frustration because it takes forever to load. You have to capture a new visitor’s attention in 10 seconds or less. We are an impatient bunch these days and will not tolerate anything less than immediate gratification!

Do make sure that you and your website developer understand the litigious nature of our society today. Many professionals such as insurance agents, realtors and doctors are subject to advertising regulations mandated by state or local governments. In some states, these regulatory agencies spell out in very specific terms what you can advertise and the manner in which it may be delivered.  You may need disclaimers on each and every page of your website and it is your ultimate responsibility as the website owner to make sure the legal criteria is satisfied.

Do make your pages simple to navigate with links to your important informational pages prominently marked and positioned so they are readily apparent. Your index page is a good place to display these informational links. If you can establish yourself as an authority or expert in your field with a wealth of informational articles available, the world will beat a path to your website.

Do use pictures and graphics to further your message and to create warmth and emotion. By the same token, don’t overdo a good thing. A page with too many pictures will be bloated and slow to load.

Don’t have sound on any of your pages for two reasons. One, it is a sure sign of an amateur designer. Two, my website usage logs show the same trend week after week. My heaviest traffic is weekdays from 8am till 6pm. People are surfing the internet at work – pure and simple. Granted, some of this surfing may be ‘officially sanctioned’ by the boss but I would bet a large part of it isn’t.

Do develop a unique look for your website that will make a favorable impression on your visitors. Visit websites you like and make some notes about what appeals to you. Most great websites have common factors. They are clean and crisp with easy website navigation.  By all means, keep it simple!

Don’t drive traffic to the competition. Most websites these days have a Links page but it amazes me when direct competitors are listed as a link. Sure, links are important but giving hard earned traffic directly to a competitor isn’t good business .

Don’t use animated anything. Most animated text displays or graphics or flash intros do not enhance the visitor’s experience; they only serve to lessen your credibility.

Do check your grammar and spelling…. And then check it again. And then have at least one and preferably two people with a good command of the English language check it the third and fourth time.  This is one of my pet peeves and part of the “look and feel” I get from a visit are these little details. How about a chuckle? Go to Google and search for ‘insurnace’.  You would think someone selling insurance could get it right, right?  Google says there are 9,600 pages with this term misspelled….you will recognize some of the big insurance names in the Google results.

Don’t use wild color schemes or background wallpaper unless you are a design professional.  All browsers and computers do not ‘see’ these combinations the same. Something that looks absolutely breathtaking on your screen may be just downright bizarre on a visitor’s computer.

Don’t use very small text…. or very large text for that matter. This is 10pt text and I do not think your text should be smaller than 10 pt. My logs show 49% of my visitors using a screen resolution of 1024×768 and 35% at 800×600. You need to look at your pages using both of these resolutions.

Don’t make the rookie website designers mistake of using unusual fonts to create a cool impact. What looks great to you may be just plain ordinary on your visitor’s screen.  To see the font as you do, they have to have that font installed on their computer too, otherwise it defaults to a common font.

Don’t make your website into a personal list of how great you are; put the vanity aside. Use your ‘About’ page to list any accreditations, degrees or experience which may have direct bearing on the services you offer. Don’t make it read like a resume and for goodness sake, don’t put it on your home page! Put it on an interior page where a user can find it if they wish.

Don’t do the old ‘cut and paste’ routine with information you find on someone else’s website. The minute the author uploads a webpage to their website, the information is protected by copyright laws. Some will allow information to be copied with restrictions much as I do.

Do check to see how long it takes for your pages to download. Remember, there are plenty of users who still connect to the internet at 28.8.

Do research the process of just how a visitor arrives at your site. You need to understand the concepts of keyword phrases and search engine optimization. A great looking website is of little use if the major search engines like Google can’t find it. You can learn more here.

And in summary, Don’t put a website on the internet unless you intend to do your homework and do it well. A website which is anything less than professional and polished will detract from your image and credibility. Remember the example of the crayon flyer?

 

Feel free to copy this material, use it in your newsletters, send it to friends or post it on your website as long as you do NOT cut anything from the article and the links back to my website remain intact.

Andy Jones

724 Design Group – Internet Marketing and Design, PPC Management

 

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