It is crucial that you think about your audience before you have your web site designed, and remember THAT is who the site is for, not yourself or as a showcase for your web designer.
There are some important things you should consider, and we have tried to give you 25 tips for consideration below.
Not all of these apply to every single case, but they at least merit some consideration. This list is not in any order of importance, as all are equally important if you want your web site to perform to the best of its abilities.
We encourage our clients to read around, to look at other web sites, and to gauge what they think works or doesn’t work for them from a reader’s perspective. This all helps to ensure that their own web site will appeal to as many readers as possible, and the client does not fall into the age-old trap of having a site designed to suit themselves, rather than their customer base.
1. The 6 second rule
It is generally accepted that, when someone hits your homepage for the first time, you have between 5 and 10 seconds to grab their attention before they will click away (it used to be described as 10 seconds, but things have moved on and a lot of people call it 5 seconds nowadays – we compromise at 6 seconds). If you have not grabbed the reader’s attention within this time, you will likely lose them, so it is important to look at your homepage and see what ‘jumps out at you’ as if you were someone who never visited it before.
2. Site loading time
Ensure that your designer (or yourself if it is a home-build) has not loaded too many large pictures, and that you are using a reputable fast hosting service. Otherwise, your website will take too long to load pages, and the visitor will simply navigate away.
3. Flash and Audio
Whilst we see a definite use for rotating or moving images to highlight services, or showcase products, the use of too much flash (ie. animation, etc.) is generally accepted as being a bad idea in web design nowadays. The playing of audio/music is a real turn off for most web users too, and should definitely be avoided.
4. Call To Action
To get a user to actually purchase something from your site, contact you with their enquiry, or sign up for your newsletter, etc., it is important to give them the information they need quickly and to lead them towards the appropriate ‘action’ you wish them to perform.
This is called the ‘Call To Action’ on a website, and it should grab the reader’s attention almost immediately that they hit your website. If you simply overload them with information, without leading them off in directions mutually beneficial to both of you, you will lose them
5. Entice the reader
Using simple, eye-catching headings and customised navigation buttons, you can grab a reader’s attention and lead him/her to specific messages or products you wish them to see. It is important to give the reader a reason to stay on your web site for as long as possible in order to convince them to purchase, or that you are a company they might want to do business with.
Please ensure your grammar and spelling is correct – it is a major turn off for some people.
6. Show the reader you know your stuff
The use of informational Blog Articles, and Pictorial Galleries, etc can allow you to show the web site reader that you know your business, and can provide them with the quality of service they need. Keep your blog fresh with new content and do not be afraid to blow your own company’s trumpet if you land a prestigious order.
7. Why You?
It is crucial to convey to the web site visitor in as short a time period as possible why they should use you over your competition. This needs to be hammered home in a concise but definite way if you are to catch the business before they click off your site.
Look at your homepage. Does it tell a reader why they should consider you, over your competition? How hard do they have to look to find the information to make an informed choice?
8. Image quality
Ensure your images are of sufficient quality and easily displayed, a picture is worth a thousand words if displayed properly. Avoid the use of poor quality images, and always ensure they are not too large as to slow the page loading time down.
9. Keep it simple
Don’t lose sight of the reader when you are providing information, keep it simple, concise, interesting and don’t blind them with science. Obviously there are technical requirements for some web sites, but summarise the long technical articles in simple-to-understand language, as not everyone is as up-to-speed in your business sector as you may be yourself.
10. Keep it brief
Don’t go off rambling in long, difficult to read paragraphs. Keep the information simple, in more readable sized chunks, with sub-headings where necessary allowing the reader to skim through and navigate to the relevant information for them.
11. Don’t overuse popups
You can, in some circumstances, use pop-up windows, but these tend to be an annoyance to the average user, and should be avoided.
12. Make your site searchable
Add a Search function to your web site, and make it simple for the reader to find what they are looking for quickly.
13. Keep forms simple
Some people are not good at form-filling, some just detest the job, so if you require them to fill in a form, make it as brief and simple as possible, to get the initial contact made, you can easily follow the form submission up with a request for further information if you need it. It’s better to have the lead than to lose them with no contact at all.
Testimonials from existing customers are a great way of showing the world you are a company worth dealing with. Any customer who is satisfied with the service you give them is usually happy to provide a short statement, so do not be afraid to ask for this. A few wellplaced testimonials, with a link to a full page of these is a sure way of inspiring confidence in your readers and potential customers.
15. Keep it up to date
If you are going to add content to your web site, it is important that you keep this up to date. For example, a blog with its last posting in 2008 will not inspire much confidence in any readers. If you are not intending to provide too many up-to-date articles on your blog, ask your web designer to switch off the date header on your posts. Keep your content fresh, revisit this on a regular basis. This not only keeps the reader interested, but the Search
Engines love fresh content.
16. Don’t have broken links
If you have buttons, menu options or web links on your web site, then ensure these actually work as they are a real turn off for readers when they see error messages and it looks unprofessional. A little time spent browsing your own site and testing links from a readers perspective goes a long way.
17. Cross browser support
Ensure your web site works properly in all the major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari, Google Chrome, etc.) as some of the incompatibilities between these can cause faults on your web site which will put the reader off. A simple process of testing should already have been done by your web designer, but spend a little time here yourself.
18. Content is king
The Search Engines love content, so ensure you have as much information relating to your profession as possible contained on your site. Blogs and informational articles are great for providing keyword-rich content and they will increase your visitor numbers dramatically.
19. Give the reader options
If someone reaches your site looking to purchase a big Red bus, and you can only supply small Blue buses, then make sure you give them that option and explain to them why two small Blue buses are a better alternative for them. Give the reader options, feed him/her the relevant information, and let them choose what is correct for them.
20. Make your site visually appealing
A fresh, crisp look to a web site, quality images and a clear colour scheme are a must for any web site. If it is difficult to read the text or find your way around, it will put any readers off very quickly. Remember that information is freely available on the internet, from a multitude of sources, so you need to make the reader want to stay on your web site instead of looking
for alternatives. Tacky, badly designed sites look unprofessional and portray a bad image of your organisation.
21. Contact Details
Ensure it is simple for the reader to contact you, provide full contact details (a landline telephone number is a serious requirement in the majority of cases) and make these details prominent on your site. If you provide a reader with a wealth of information, but no clear way to get in touch with you, they will look elsewhere.
22. Don’t forget about getting back to the start
Make it very simple for the reader to navigate back to your home page from wherever they may be. Most browsers will have a ‘Back’ button, but make a link highly visible on all pages too, or you are in danger of the reader hitting the ‘Home’ button on their browser and looking elsewhere.
23. Think about your target audience
If you are aiming to sell to an elderly audience, then make your site simple and ensure the main navigation buttons are large and prominently displayed. Not everyone has the same level of PC experience, so remember this when you are testing your site yourself. Think of your customer base when you are browsing your site for the first time, and see it from their
perspective. too many sites have put too much emphasis on visual design that they lose sight of the customer who the site is actually for in the first place.
24. About Us
It is generally accepted that an ‘About Us’ page is a necessity on any web site. It gives a little more information about you or your company, details what your approach is to business, your experience and gives the reader a little insight into your approach. This is crucial to set yourself apart from your competitors, as if the reader likes you, then they are more likely to
deal with you.
25. Social Bookmarking
Make it simple for the reader to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. if you have a presence on these sites. Simple buttons that are widely recognisable should be clearly visible on your home page and elsewhere. Social Networking is very important and, if you are not making use of this, you should be.
This is not a complete, definitive list, and many designers would have more to add, but for the average site owner this is enough information to ensure they are creating an online presence which will suit their purposes. We have purposely left out a number of key issues which specifically relate to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but which are also things that
should be considered in any basic design, but these will be covered in other articles. we would encourage anyone who is thinking about a new web site to spend a little time reading around the internet, looking at other sites, and evaluating other people’s opinions prior to getting their web site designed – every little helps!