Posts Tagged ‘site design’

Site Design DOES Matter

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

There is one area of internet marketing that is often overlooked. Site Design. While good navigation and a pleasing, easy to read page is conducive to converting lookers to buyers, recent changes at Google have made site design an even more important element of search engine optimization.

Google has always cared about the proper use of HTML and CSS code, page load times and other “backend” design elements, but with a recent test by Google, site design is about to become even more important to search results.

In the past couple of weeks Google has been experimenting with “page preview”. Enter a search term and click the magnifying glass next to a result to turn this feature on. Now scroll over the results and you’ll see something like the image below.

The keyword you entered will be highlighted on the page preview.

What effect will this new feature have on your online marketing efforts? Let’s look at two examples of a page preview.

Notice the broken Flash video image? The rest of this page isn’t bad, and it still could attract visitors. BUT the keyterms I entered to find this page are not highlighted within this preview. It won’t take long for visitors to start bypassing pages and sites that don’t have their key term prominently displayed and highlighted in the Google Page Preview.

Let’s look at another preview page.

I went to this page to find out why it was displaying so much white space. Java popups, old style html code and lack of CSS contributed to hide content from the page preview. This site – according to a quick look at it’s source code – is using site design style from the 1990’s. Do you think this page preview will result in visitors? Ummm probably not.

Most sites I review from an SEO perspective need some help. Titles, descriptions, code rewrites and other elements frequently need to be updated and redone. Most sites I see online are not “mobile friendly”. Many are confusing to visitors with poor navigation and overall site layout. But now the stakes have been raised. Now poor site design will be evident to everyone before they ever click your link in Google search results.

Make a New Years resolution to check your site and update as needed.

  • Check it in Google’s Site Preview
  • Use the index card or business card ¬†test – how much of your site can be seen in a 3″ x 5″ or smaller area? That’s what a mobile device sees.
  • Dump Flash. Even if Apple were supporting it, it’s old, it’s tired, it’s a security risk and there are better, quicker, well supported alternatives to a Flash video.
  • Think “cross browser” and “cross platform” compatible. Be SURE your site can be seen on IE, FireFox, Safari and Chrome. Be SURE it’s Smart Phone and iPad ready.

And be SURE it looks inviting to the Page Preview browser! (HINT – Bing is also going the Page Preview route.) Spending the time to get a good ranking in Google and then losing the visitor to bad site design will mean your Christmas stocking will be full of coal next year.

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Web Design – Navigation Mistakes

Friday, November 5th, 2010

We’ve talked about several web design problems, but the one area that will affect your visitors and impact your sales the most is how they get around your site. Navigation – clear, easy-to-follow navigation needs to be built into every design. The rule is simple – tell your visitor exactly where they are going to go and then take them there.

1. Forgetting that your visitor doesn’t know your website as well as you do. What might be easy for you to find could be very difficult for someone coming to your site for the first time. If you force them to do things like mouse over a navigation link to see where it might take them, you’ll find them taking themselves to another site.

Don’t hide your links. Don’t make them look so much a part of the page that they stop looking like what they are – a map to the rest of your site.

2. Forgetting to check your navigation links. Once your visitor has found your links, they will expect that you are true to your word and when they click that link it will take them where you said they were going to go. If they wind up on a page for cat supplies when they think they are going to a page for dog supplies, you’ll lose the sale.

If they wind up on an ugly error page telling them the cat supply page doesn’t exist, they’ll probably leave and not come back.

No one will trust a site that can’t send them where they expect to go with hard earned dollars.

3. Forgetting the visitors need come first. Organizing your navigational links in the order that fits your needs and not theirs is a sure way to lose business. Think like a visitor – what would they likely want to see first? Then where would they want to go next?

Use a menu tree to group your navigation links into logical categories. But don’t make each branch too laden with twigs. In other words, don’t have a menu structure on the first page that is so full of links it becomes confusing. It’s ok to just have category links on the first page and then more links on that category page.

If you’re finding that your menu tree is running to three or more sub categories, your menu is too overwhelming.

Always remember to give the visitor a way home. While ruby slippers may not be appropriate, a “home” link on every page is a must.

4. Forgetting that not everyone is flash or java enabled. There are millions of cute little java or flash menu and navigation scriptlets out there. And it’s really tempting to grab some of them and use them on your site.

Before you do, be sure they are simple and leave a small footprint on your page.

Be sure they can be “externalized” so every page can call them in from the same place as needed.

Be sure they are not cluttering up the code on your page making the poor, overworked search spiders go through 200 lines of menu code to get to the good stuff.

And always remember that not everyone has Flash or JavaScript enabled on their browser. Nothing is worse than having your menu NOT work at all for some visitors.

Navigation must be able to answer these questions:

  • Where am I?
  • Where have I been?
  • Where can I go next?
  • Where’s the Home Page?
  • Where’s the Home Home Page? (This is NOT a typo!)

Navigation must be simple and consistent.

Have a category Home page if needed and have a Home Home page as well.

A good, clear road map of your site will lead to customer satisfaction, increased trust, and more sales.

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More Web Design Faux Pas

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

In the last post we looked at the three most common issues that afflict websites. Today let’s delve into some simple but deadly-if-ignored, design flaws.

1. Forgetting not all of your visitors have Superman laser vision. While the Man of Steel can read tiny, badly contrasting text, most of your visitors can’t. There was a time when orange text in a 6 point serif font on a black background was common. Today, you’re probably only going to find that on gaming enthusiast sites that have been built by¬†use good contrast on your text so it can be read easilytwelve year olds.

However, a new villain in text readability has crept into the mix. Grey text on a white background. You really must be certain that the contrast and the type font and the type size are readable by ALL visitors, not just the ones with super powers. If your visitor can’t read your web content, how do you expect to solve the problem that brought them to your website to begin with?

This goes for graphics, too. I often see graphics that create a bad contrast problem for parts of the text even if some of the page is readable. When you place an image behind the text, be sure that text can still be easily read!

Solution: Have your 90 year old grandmother check out your site. If she can read it – you’re good to go. Seriously – check every page of your site and be sure it passes the contrast test. Use black text on light backgrounds, or white text on dark backgrounds. Use a sans serif font, and unless you’re making a page like a privacy policy that no one ever reads anyway, don’t go lower than 10 points on the font size.

2. Forgetting to get out of the way of a sale. The golden rule of internet marketing is “Don’t do anything that gets in the way of the sale.” And yet I see this rule broken over and over again.

When I”m ready to buy, I want to buy NOW. I don’t want to go through a confusing or convoluted checkout process. I want to see ONE page, with a summary of what I’m purchasing, and all the details I need to enter to complete that purchase. I’ll sit still for two pages – but if you start hitting three or more, I’m outta there! As are most customers.

And boy howdy you better make sure all the links in that checkout process work! Every page, every process, every form field you throw in between the beginning and the end of the checkout process adds to the potential of a lost sale.

Solution: Use a one page checkout system whenever possible. Keep the information you’re asking the customer to fill in to a minimum. Start asking survey questions at checkout and you’ve lost the sale. Use a cart system that saves customer info so they can come back later and complete the process if they need to leave the page. CONFIRM THE SALE. Even if you send an email confirmation – and you should – have a “Thank You For Your Order” page to let them know you have successfully recorded their info and the sale. Showing a review of the order is a nice touch, but do SOMETHING to let them know you have the order.

3. Forgetting that text is text. Are you writing words? Use text. Are you displaying pictures? Use images. With the advent of CSS, designers can do almost ANYTHING with text. Images are pictures. Text is text.

Text is read by search spiders, images that say things with text are not. Image text is harder to correct. Image text adds to the size of the page as it loads. Image text is often hard to read. Use it sparingly – if at all.

Solution: Use CSS to add spiffy effects to text when needed. Save images for pictures.

4. Forgetting that not everyone loves Flash. This is probably my own number one pet peeve on the net. Flash intros are slick – and some of them are jaw dropping in design and function. But if I have already seen it once, do NOT make me watch it every time I come to your site. And don’t force me to watch it before I can get to the content.

The problem with Flash is that it can enhance a site or it can make it painful to visit. Poorly designed Flash elements get in the way of good user experience. Add to that issue the fact that not everyone is surfing on a fiber optic network or some <gasp> may not have Flash installed, or some may be using a Mac or a browser that may not support Flash.

Solution: Have an opt out button on your intro. Let me watch it if I want to or skip it if I don’t. Look at every Flash element on your site very carefully and answer question “Does this add a valuable customer experience?” for each one. If the answer is anything but a resounding YES, find another solution. Have a non Flash version of your site for your visitors to choose if they can’t or don’t want to have the Flash experience.

Tomorrow we’ll go over the last of the web design mistakes on our list, starting with the all important site navigation.

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