Thoughts and ideas – Web Design

The likelihood of a website becoming successful is far greater if the site is easily found, simple to navigate, and provides ample information in a clear, direct way whilst driving a potential customer to make contact or buy!

Overview

One has to remember the whole aim of your project, which is (so often) to attract enquiries or to increase sales revenue – simple desires, but desires that need careful planning to attain.

For the purpose of structuring thought, one could divide the project into 3 main elements; presenting the right image, attracting the right people [via search engine promotion] and encouraging those prospects to make contact or make a purchase with the help of “calls to action” or CTA.

Any site developed to attract enquiries would need to take into consideration a number of key points in its design to maximize it’s potential:

Website layout

Of course your developer will create the design and layout for you, but it will pay dividends for you to have thought about it carefully yourself. Furthermore, it will be frustrating for both if you find yourself complaining that your designers’ creation is not what you had wanted if you didn’t give them any guidance in the first place.

The sections on navigation and colours, text and font will be very informative for you in this regard and the PDF layout example may help also.

The importance of speed

When looking at the performance of any website there are a number of statistics worth considering – and although statistics may be misinterpreted or manipulated, the logic behind these particular statistics is (we believe) sound:

It has been written several times, but about 28% of users won’t bother opening a website or waiting for it to open if it takes more than 12 seconds to do so. Importantly (and as if we needed to emphasise the point) over 50% won’t bother if it takes over 20 seconds – think about it, would you?

Now of course a high proportion of people with Internet access have broadband access and one can be a little more tolerant of file size and download speeds, but once the site has opened those same people will spend no more than 7 seconds determining whether or not a website (and therefore the company it represents) can fulfil their needs. Large images, poor structure and what developers refer to as poor “optimisation” will all impact on speed.

What this means in simple terms is that one must be fastidious in the way one “prepares” the images and style adopted to design the site.

Sales Message

Bearing in mind that the average potential customer will not visit the site as many times as you will, the placing of the words on the site is critical.

Furthermore, with a well constructed site that is promoted on the major search engines a visitor can enter from any page, in fact probably as many as 40% will do so, which makes the placing of your sales message critical. For this its really important to ensure there is a very clear sales message on the home page as well as other pages.

And in regard to that sales message, I suggest you consider it this way: Imagine your run an engineering company called John Smith Engineering and sell (and I apologise for the rather trite analogy) widgets. And if you had the God given right to give your customers exactly what they wanted, would your sales message be:

“Welcome to the John Smith engineering website. Established in 1847 we have a team of experts etc…”

OR

“We sell widgets of all sizes and colours. With prompt delivery across the UK, click here to buy widgets”

Site Structure

Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989/90 with the development of a special programming language called Hypertext mark-up language or HTML, with which he developed the first web page and browser. Now, with the whole Internet being structured around HTML there can be (in the author’s view) no better choice for the development of websites than to develop them in HTML. Or importantly that they be presented as HTML, as it is possible now to develop a website in other ways or use other programming languages and change the way each page is presented to a browser. This is call URL re-write, but lets leave it there or this will become more complex than intended.

Even within “HTML” though, one can make big mistakes. Whilst becoming less common, development within what is called “frame sets” for example can speed development and can help with certain kinds of navigation, although websites that are “framed” are notoriously difficult to get listed on some search engines and may not be listed at all by the remaining others. Whilst few developers still use the process, developing in frames (as its commonly known) is very much a no, no.

There are some other programming languages that can cause challenges also, depending upon the intended purpose of your website. One example is Java Script. Java Script is often used to create effects for navigation buttons (called mouse-over), yet search engines can’t browse through navigation programmed in this way and there is a risk that if Java Script is used without careful consideration you could end up with only one page ever being indexed (or in simple terms listed) by Google.

For these reasons (and more), the structure of the site is a critical factor. If you are commissioning the development of a small “brochure style” website it would be best developed in HTML. If you require e-commerce, content management or other functionality though, your developer will essentially have to adopt another programming language in which to develop it. Now that’s not a problem, but if the site is to be promoted to search engines you would be well advised to consider how each website page name (URL) is presented as search engines don’t like long strings of characters in a domain, which are often created by the adoption of other programming languages.

Choosing the right navigation

Simple and effective navigation of a website is critical – we must allow users to concentrate on the content of your site rather than on how it should be used. English is the language of the Web and let’s face it, the English-speaking world read from left to right, thus navigation placed on the left of the site can be nothing if not intuitive.

Navigation across the top will effectively push down the text of the site giving less options and perhaps less prominence to your sales message. Having said that I think it’s fair to say that top navigation is becoming more common and not quite the issue it was back in 1999, indeed it may be that a combination of both is the way to go.

Don’t forget the home page though. Having clear navigation to the home page is without a doubt accepted convention as it works rather like a “safety net” for those who get a bit confused, so ensure you have prominent navigation to it on every page.

And never let your designer get carried away with “designery things” that detract from the core – never, never put core navigation at the bottom of the page.

Colours, text, font and layout

Once opened, the average user (or prospective client) will spend no more than 7 seconds determining if they like your site (ergo, you!) and want to use your services. Clearly you have to make it very easy for them to decide.

You may wish to download this article on font’s and text layout but we would strongly recommend using black text on a white background, which will give the greatest possible contrast for the vast bulk of your prospects, thus making reading your sales message easy.

In terms of the use of colour we would recommend selecting a strong colour or at the least the clearest colour from your logo and using that for your designer to create a strong top and left border for your website. Ideally that colour is bold or dark, which with a white background to the central area will lend itself to good aesthetic balance.

Equally the adoption of an “Arial” or “Verdana” typeface (which are optimised for viewing on the computer screen) of probably a 10pt size (although referred to in web development as pixels, which don’t quite correlate) will, when coupled with these other pragmatic principles, set the foundations of success.

Presenting the Right Image

The right image will be achieved through embracing good principles of design and creating a “look and feel” that does 3 things;

  1. Presents an aesthetic image that gives the feeling of professionalism.
  2. Includes a succinct and prominent sales message.
  3. Encourages users to progress.

Encouraging users to make contact – calls to action

It has been shown that users are much more likely to take an action if they have an intuitive concept of what the result of that action will be. Thus once you have attracted people to your website, don’t leave them wondering what to do next – lead them by the hand (ok eye) to do so. In this regard, words such as “click here to read more” or “click here to buy” will have a powerful and positive effect on the performance of your website and a powerful place to put those words is on the right about 1/3rd of the way down the screen. You may find this pdf download helpful in understanding – website wireframe.

Search engine promotion

Whilst it may seem trite, the vast majority (in fact over 90%) of people looking for a product or service on the World Wide Web do so using the major search engines and search engine promotion, often abbreviated to “SEO”, search engine optimisation has become a vast and complex area. Indeed, unless you are prepared to spend hours, days and weeks of your own time promoting your own website you would be well advised to retain a specialist such as KSL Consulting, Web on High Ltd or Refreshed Media, but there are things you can do during development which will make life easier for whoever undertakes the work and certainly increases the odds of your success.

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  • sameerr allii

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