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12 Essential Web Site Design Tips

1. What's the purpose?

The most fundamental thing to do before designing your web site is to define its purpose. Do you want to sell products directly to your customer through your web site, or collect contact details to develop future relationships? A lot of this will depend on the products or services you sell, those with a larger price tag will require more relationship building than those that would count as an "impulse" purchase. People also use web sites to research products as well as purchase them so a company selling fridges for example may not be able to sell them through their web site (people don't often buy fridges online!) but they may well be able to direct them to their nearest store where the item they are interested in is in stock.

Identify the purpose of your web site and make sure all the actions you ask the customer to take leads them to the final outcome you have identified.

2. Define the structure

Once you have decided the final outcome you want to achieve, whether it's a sale, an enquiry, etc. work out a logical progression through the process your customer would need to go through and structure your web site around it. Give the customer the information they will be looking for and help them find it easily and quickly. If you offer a large range of products, use a search facility, if your products carry a detailed specification, add a "click for spec" button which links to further information on an additional page, this way you will not slow those who are ready to buy, but offer the additional info required by those still undecided.

Above all, keep the structure and progression as simple and logical as possible.

3. Decide on an overall design layout.

Most web sites have navigation down the left hand of the page, the company logo graphic across the top and the content of the page below and to the right. Another common layout is to have both the logo and navigation menu along the top of the page and the page content across the page beneath it. As these are the most familiar layouts to users, it would be wise to stick with them as the last thing you want to do is make your web site confusing to your customers.

Avoid too many moving graphics, as they are distracting, avoid large logo-only entrance pages (click here to enter site?) as they only delay the user and avoid anything "cute" that may undermine your professional look.

4. Be careful with colours.

Use contrasting colours for your text, black or blue on a white background is ideal. Don't forget to check the colours of your text links both before and after they've been visited, you don't want them to disappear. Patterned backgrounds look dated and unprofessional and make your text harder to read, try to avoid them. If you have them, use your corporate colours in your logos, buttons, etc. and keep the overall colour scheme inoffensive, clean and simple.

5. Be consistent.

Put your links or buttons in a prominent place and keep them in the same place on every page. Make sure your colours, navigation, typeface and text size are consistent on every page. Make sure the user knows which page they are currently viewing and provide direct links to the contact and home page on every page of your web site.

6. Don't get creative with your typeface.

Make sure that your text is easy to read. It's very tempting to use an unusual typeface but your customers will appreciate text that's easy on the eye. They want to read your information and not be challenged in doing so. Also remember, when it comes to overall design layout, white space is beautiful. Break up your text into short paragraphs, bullet points, etc. For more detailed advice on designing a professional web site that will achieve high search engine listings and increase customer conversion rates, download our ebook "Start at the Beginning". Click here for an excerpt: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_2.html

7. It's all in the content.

Once you've defined your purpose and planned your layout, design and navigation you should begin to create your content. Once you have decided what pages will be on your web site you will have a good idea of the kind of content that will be needed for each page. Write all the text that should go on each page, decide which graphics or photos to use and remember to space the information out on the page.

This is a critical step. Once you have established credibility with a professional looking design and layout, it's the content that will either convince your customers to buy, or have them clicking away to your competition. If you are not a professional copywriter, get some help. Either pay a professional to do it for you or for invaluable advice, read our guide "Writing Text That Sells".

Click here for an excerpt from the book:

http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_3.html

8. Make it brief

It has been proved time and again that Internet users have a short attention span. They find long pages and acres of text off-putting. Give all the information that's required but keep it concise, break it up with graphics and try to make your pages as short in length as possible. Don't make your viewers scroll down more than an extra page height and give your visitors manageable chunks of text that keep them interacting with your site. If your page is longer than this, consider splitting the information over two or more pages.

9. Check your facts, spelling and grammar

Few things are more likely to cost you customers than incorrect information or poorly written or misspelled text on your business website. It will destroy your credibility. Read through all your text carefully and double check all the facts, get someone else to proof read it and run the text through a spell checker after checking your language settings (English ? US or UK for example). Then do it all again, twice!

10. Check your web sites download speed

We've already mentioned that Internet users have a short attention span. Once your web site is ready with text and graphics on all the pages, check that it loads quickly at various connection speeds and remember that not everyone has a fast connection. Where possible reuse buttons and graphics, as they will load quickly when they have been viewed once.

11. Check browser compatibility

Check how the site looks on different browsers and at different screen resolutions. People use different browser settings to alter text sizes and have additional toolbars filling up their browser windows. Nothing is more frustrating than a site that you can't read because it is a fixed size and disappears off your screen. Have a look at your web site using http://www.anybrowser.com.

12. Check customer compatibility!

Finally, do a dummy run. Get a typical customer to road test your web site. If possible, ask them to buy a product and let them go through the whole process from start to finish. Did they manage to find what they wanted in three or fewer clicks? Did they find it easy to complete the purchase? How long did it take? Did they become confused or distracted at any point?

More detailed advice and tips on how to construct a web site, or optimise an existing one, for both customer use and search engine listings, can be found in our ebook "Start at the Beginning". It's the first essential step before undertaking any marketing or advertising campaign. More information and an excerpt can be found here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_2.html

For a complete guide to marketing on the Internet, including:

· The General Principles of Internet Marketing

· Start at the Beginning

· Writing Text that Sells

· Building Online Relationships

· Maximising Your Pay Per Click Campaign

· Measuring Success

Why not purchase the whole series for the discounted price of £64.95. Click here for more information: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/promo_ebook s.html Justine Curtis Enable UK Internet Marketing Information and Resources Make your web site work harder! Web: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk Email: info@enable-uk.co.uk Article from Internet Marketing Tips Newsletter, a monthly publication of Enable-UK Copyright © 2004 Enable-UK.

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