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Six Tips for Effective Website Design

Jul 21, 2008
One of the most crucial elements when starting a web-based business is an attractive website design. Your website design is your "storefront." The worldwide web is your mall. An attractive and well-designed storefront draws mall customers inside. Your website design should do the same for Internet surfers.

Once you've drawn your potential customers inside, the key is to keep them there. An effective website design ensures that customers go beyond your home page. Here are a few tips to help you develop a "catch them and keep them" site:

* Avoid website templates. Some e-business owners are tempted to forgo a professional website designer. Instead, they opt to use templates and build a site themselves. The problem with templates is that you're limited to the parameters of the template. You may be unable to add certain elements to your site's pages. The end result is a cookie-cutter website design that may not necessarily reflect the individual nature of your business. E-business owners should consider a professional website design as one of the costs of doing business. An eye-catching site generates more profit in the end. Most owners find it is well-worth the investment.

* Visitors like to "see" as well as "do." A splashy site is just the beginning. Visitors also like websites they can interact with. Include elements that will allow them to feel like they are part of the action. Surveys, comment boards and blogging are a few prime ways to foster customer interaction.

* Use flash player wisely. Flash player can be an effective web-design tool as long as it's employed thoughtfully. Flash player takes precious seconds (or longer) to download. Don't force visitors to wait too long to get past your opening page. They may simply give up and quickly log off. Instead, use flash player in other parts of your site (if at all.) This way, visitors can enjoy the flash player aspect of your site voluntarily by clicking on it. If they choose not to, they should still be able to get an idea of what your site is about.

* Be careful with pictures and images. Like flash player, too many pictures can make your pages slow to load. The same is true for larger pictures. Use thumbnails if your site requires a lot of pictures (like a catalog of items for sale.) Your pages won't take as long to download. Visitors who want to see a larger picture can simply click on the thumbnail. Remember that website visitors are fickle. If a page takes too long to download, they may log off and go elsewhere.

* Keep web pages short. A good rule is to choose more pages over longer pages. Longer pages sometimes get overlooked by search engines. Search engine robots may scan only the first few paragraphs if the pages are very long. No more than 500-1000 words of text on a page is ideal.

* Choose a competent website designer. Your designer should be familiar with search engine optimization as well as website design. Surprisingly, many designers create great-looking sites that end up ranking poorly in the search engines. Search engines don't care what your site looks like. They rank strictly on content. Your designer should be able to help you create effective content. He or she need not be a writer to do this. A designer should be able to use tags, meta tags and other elements to elicit favorable rankings.

* Test your website designer before hiring. Don't hand over any money until you've visited other sites a designer has created. Then, think like a customer. Are the sites easy to navigate? Are there any broken links? Does every page link back to the other pages on the site? Do the pages take too long to download? Is the design attractive? You may even want to Google some keywords from the site. Does the site rank well? If there are problems with sites a designer has developed, he won't do much better with yours.

Your website design is critically important to the success of your business. The difference between a mediocre and an effective site may be the difference between boom and bust. The difference between a good website design and a great one may be the number of years sooner that you can retire.
About the Author
Chris Coleman is a Business Analyst at Capita Technologies. Capita Technologies provides web design services for a wide variety of clients.
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