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Winning With Your Website: Graphics Or Content First?

Feb 28, 2008
For something as new as the World Wide Web (which merely dates back to 1991, and whose commercial exploitation dates back to 1994 or so), there's a lot of confusion about what is best in web site design, and lots of competing schools of thought, ranging from Jakob Nielsen of Sun, who has argued for web sites to remain low graphic and content rich to accommodate people on 14.4k modem connections (and hasn't changed much in his standards since 1994) all the way to web sites like Nike and others designed by top ad agencies which use dynamic content, Flash animations and Shock wave interactive games to lure people in.

Add to this the current trend in trying to "game the system" with regards to search engines and page rankings, and it's very easy to make a web site that's minimalistically ugly (a'la Nielsen), Flash intensive so it takes eons to load (like Nike's) and is made up of 50% keyword density to attract web spiders.

So, rather than try to pick what web site technique is best, let's actually take a step back from the technical gibberish.

Who is going to use your web site?

What do they expect your web site to do for them?

What part of your web site will make them come back every week or every day for fresh content?

How do you convert those visits into sales?

No web spider ever bought anything off of a web site. Not once, not ever. Making your web site optimized for web spiders at the expense of the people who click the link to get there is counterproductive. Your readers can tell when something has keywords stuffed to the point where they exclude actual useful information, and you'll be able to tell by watching your traffic logs.

Graphics are useful on a web site; you can convey something with a picture much more rapidly than you can with a block of text; with over 60% of US customers having broadband access (and that number is rising), trying to minimize your graphics load to save on bandwidth and loading time is probably counterproductive - and it'll make your web site look ancient by comparison. It IS worth it to keep a reasonable cap on image sizes - if your total web page has more than 100k of images, you may be getting into the realm where people hit the back button rather than wait for it to finish loading.

Most important, though, is answering "Who's coming to visit, and what do they want to do here?" Successful web sites, regardless of design, build a sense of community with the visitors. They become places to hang out, get information, talk to other people with similar interests on forums, and, yes, buy things. You're opening up a salon, not a grocery store. Think about what kinds of people you want your web based business to serve...and then follow the usual marketing practices to get people to convert visits into sales.
About the Author
Srini Saripalli is a technologist, marketer & Success Coach. Referred by many as "Success Engineer", Srini specializes in Marketing & Sales Success. Download his FREE E-Book titled Offline Marketing For Online Marketers .
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