Archive for March, 2012

It is Time Your Website Stands Out

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

FIRST THINGS FIRST you must have a strong design. Clean and simple is all you need. Bells and whistles can be effective, but when it comes to websites and especially your homepage — less is more. You do not want your design to be congested. You want to differentiate your website from your competitors, so you make a good first impression to prospective clients.  This initial introduction can be one of the keys to your success. An attractive design alone will not keep visitors on your website, however it will capture their attention long enough to take a look around.

Contemplate your user interface — the user interface is the foundation of a high-quality, fully-functional website. Remember you must take into consideration those who will visit. Who is your principle customer? Are they technological? It is imperative to create an image of your ideal visitor and have them in mind when preparing your design. Be sure you offer everything on your site they want to discover. Make sure your navigation is easy to find and consistent throughout your entire website. Make it obvious where the user should click in terms of your primary navigation, as well as for links within your content areas.

Keep it above the fold — on an easy to navigate website the crucial menu options, (in other words the links to the important areas of your site), must be placed above the fold. You must consider today’s larger computer monitors and increased screen resolutions when determining where the fold will be. Features to include above the fold are your logo (which you should link back to your homepage), as well as links to the main sections of your site. Here is a simple example – put Home | About Us| Products | Contact in an easy to find location at the top of your website.

Consistency is essential — be sure to place your primary and sub-navigational links in the same spot throughout the various pages of your website.

Include navigation in the footer — if you use/include images for your main navigation, it is vital to offer a duplicate set of navigation links in your footer. Even if you use text links at the top, the duplication is still helpful. The footer should link to additional information, things that should be easy to find but not necessarily something you want taking up space in the primary navigation area of your website.

Content — when writing the copy for your website, it is critical to provide helpful, knowledgeable information about your company, products, and services. It is important to sell your company, but do not oversell.  Your customers want to know how you can help them.

Make your about page relevant — people are curious. They want to know who is behind your company. Include information about how your background pertains to your own business and expertise. The about page can help establish a more personal connection. You want to create a connection and have your clients relate to you on another level, rather than just becoming a faceless organization.

Contact information — if you want to frustrate a prospective consumer then make it hard for them to find your contact information. If someone is interested in your services but cannot find a simple contact page with a quick way to get in touch and employ you, they will go to the competition. You want to provide more than one method of contact. You must include and email and contact form, as well as a phone number and (if possible) a mailing address. People will see a phone number and physical address as an added sign of stability.

Search feature — if you have a large website providing a search field is very helpful. If a potential customer cannot find something easily on your site, they are going to go find a site where the content is easily searchable.

Sign-up and subscribe — if it applies, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up for updates. If you want to offer subscriptions to an email newsletter, for example, you need to setup and manage a mailing list. You want to be able to collect email addresses of potential prospects.

Sitemap — there are two kinds of sitemaps, one for humans and one for the search engines. A PHP sitemap meant for visitors to your website can be an invaluable tool for finding just what they are looking for. Creating a structured list of all the pages on your website — (which is what a site map is) — is practical. A good sitemap will list out every page on your site in an arranged format which will clearly show the relationship of pages in terms of primary pages with sub-pages, etc.

Separate design from content — with the separation of content from design, the search engines no longer have to wade through all of the excess code to find out if your content is relevant. With separate files the content can load quicker, which is always a positive for visitors.

There are numerous websites available that appear to be amazing and feature the most recent styles in design; however they frequently fall short of the true goal, which is perfectly combining design with functionality. In the end, any website project involving qualified designers and developers will pay for itself a million times in return.

*Did you know? Even though there is not a definite answer, according to researchers as of March 2012, there are 644 million active websites on the Internet.