|The primary goal of your company Web site
should not be focused on showing off the great talents of your designer.
Your site should be an integral part of your overall marketing campaign
and should be consistent with the theme of other marketing materials. If
any of your product brochures were as confusing as your Web site, they
would be of little use.
You've all heard that you have less than
eight seconds to grab your visitors' attention before they move on. If
your wonderfully artful graphics take more than those eight seconds, no
one will get to see them. If you think your graphics are necessary and
your visitors have the patience to wait, at least provide them with some
interesting content and easy navigation (get them to where they want to
Here are some basic Do's and Don'ts:
Don't overwhelm your visitors with
content on your opening page.
Many sites ridiculously cram excessive
content on their opening pages. If you were designing an eight-panel
brochure about your company would you cram every single fact on the
first page in a font so small no one could read it? You need to apply
the same basic design rules to your site.
Do stay simple.
There's not a lot of effort spent on
"clicking." So, start with a simple start page — maybe break
it down to your company logo and a simple catch phrase to encourage
visitors to continue. Where you are developing a large site then offer
clear navigation to the major parts of your site so visitors don't have
to guess where to go.
Style your start page after Microsoft's
"Where do you want to go today?"
Also, what about thanking visitors for
coming? This makes your site more interactive. It also gives your
visitors a sense of control and encourages them to check out other areas
of your site.
Do provide easy navigation.
"table of contents" type menu.
Sites offer both reference and sales
content. Things like press releases, "about the company,"
locations and contact information are considered reference items. These
categories should be shown first.
Keep in mind that a visit to the Web site
could well be a follow-up to the visitor seeing your name somewhere
Do be subtle.
Be subtle in pitching products. Don't
have banner ads or links on your start page. Wait for the visitor to
give you permission to do this. If they have elected to go to product or
service sections, this is the time to gently advertise.
Do use fancy design appropriately.
Design your product areas with
interesting content — it's okay to use the flashy stuff on these
pages. Your visitor has already approved of your site and has now
"come in" to take a look around. This is also the time where
you must provide visitors with good product information in order to help
them make an educated buying decision that they won't later regret.
Don't make purchasing difficult.
The sites that truly get to me are the
ones where you finally get to a buying area and can't actually buy.
Imagine a visit to a store where you look
around, find what you like, try it on and decide to buy it. You search
for the cash register, but instead find a giant sign over the exit door:
"Please call 1-800-GOTHERE to make your purchase at a later
Make it easy to buy from you by either
providing online shopping or enquiry forms, email links and of course
Don't make it impossible for
visitors to contact you.
Don't make your Web site an island. Make
follow-up contact as easy as possible. List phone numbers, email
addresses and physical locations clearly. If you include personal email
and phone listings, include photos of the staff listed on your site.
It's a simple process and with .GIF optimization software it's easy to
minimize the size of pictures. Make you site appear as if the visitor is
dealing with real people.
Do keep open lines of
Provide lots of feedback and follow-up,
and always ask visitors for permission before you email.
Let visitors complete a survey commenting
on your Web site, and pay attention to the feedback. Thank them for
taking the time to fill out a survey. You can even offer some small
reward, if possible.
Ask visitors if they'd like to join your
mailing list, and give them a good reason to do so. And when you include
a permission checkbox to stay in touch, don't pre-check it. Let them
make the decision.
Keep all of your fancy Web design awards
in the closet where they belong. Who cares? Your visitor will tell you
if you have a great site. Who is the award for anyway? Web site awards
are only important to designers, not the company they are representing.
The only exception to this rule comes
when your company wins industry-recognized awards. These should
definitely be included on your site.
But above all else, KEEP IT SIMPLE!