Posts Tagged ‘web site design’

Is Your Brand New Site Already Old?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I love marketing. It’s a constantly changing landscape powered by masses of real people, buying real products that change how they do business and run their lives.  When it comes to the net, predicting what will be “big” and what won’t is not usually very easy. I mean be honest here – did you actually think that little blue bird or Farmville would be the stuff fortunes are made of?

But other technology use can be a strong indication of things you should or should not do to capture the hearts and eyeballs of your visitors. I was in a large shopping mall the other day and began grumbling to myself about the Christmas promotions that were already in full swing. But then I started watching the people. Barnes and Noble had a throng of shoppers around their eReader while the rest of the store counters had few, if any, shoppers.

In the concourse, groups of people were gathered around the various cell phone kiosks. No trip to the mall is complete for me without a visit to the shrine of the fruit – The Apple Store. Here, the iPad displays had knots of people 5 deep waiting for their turn to play with that sleek addition to the Apple line.

Many other stores boasted staff members but no shoppers. I have a feeling smart phones, iPad devices and Kindle type readers are going to be under quite a few Christmas trees this year.

To date, 85 million iPhone and iPod touch devices have been sold to which you can add a predicted 7 million for iPads in its first year alone, according to iSuppli and Apple Insider. Simple math means that there are close to 100 million people using these devices. That number is sure to climb in the coming months.

But is your website ready for these visitors who may be giving up their laptop to browse the web via handhelds?

A recent study by Nielsen showed that by 2014, nearly 60 percent of the 142.1 million U.S. mobile population will access the Internet using mobile browsers. So, how does your site look to the 85.5 million mobile users who will see it from their mobile device?

Have you checked it across multiple platforms? Does it load quickly enough for a mobile user to see your content quickly? Does it pass the “business card” test? Hold a normal business card up to the screen – how much of your content will fit into that area?

Do you have a mobile friendly version of your site? Is it configured correctly so it “sniffs” out mobile visitors and serves that version of your site to them?

Apple iPad and iPhone users don’t see Flash. For about a year I’ve been preaching that Flash is on the way out. Videos and web site elements should not be done in venerable Flash. It has security flaws almost as bad as Microsoft, it isn’t seen by over 100 million users and there are better alternatives like HTML 5.0 and CSS 3.

Was your website written in HTML 5.0? Are your videos available in mobile surfing size?

Are your pages heavily laden with hundreds of lines of text? Mobile surfers browse – and they aren’t going to stick around for long if that page scrolls on forever in small, hard to read lines of text. Get to the point of the page and send them to another page if you have more info. Break your pages up into easily digested chunks of info – this is better for your SEO efforts and better for your mobile visitor.

Keep your copy short. It is true – nobody reads anymore, at least not a web site. Tests have shown that only 30% of the words on your page are actually read. Make sure that 30% are the most important words for your product or service.

CHECK YOUR ANALYTICS. Please check your stats. See where your visitors are coming from, what operating system they are using, what screen resolution they are surfing in. Mobile device use on your site stats will jump out at you, believe me.

Smart phones and tablet devices aren’t going to go away. But if your site isn’t ready for their use, your business just might.

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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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How To Avoid the Three Biggest Mistakes in Website Design

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Ever since the long ago days when I taught budding webmasters the rudiments of web design I have been fascinated by the number of ways a website could be presented to the public. Your online presence can be a showcase for your products, inducing a visitor to purchase your goods and services, or it could become an instant turnoff.

Here are some of the most common mistakes I see in web design in the online marketing world.

1. Forgetting there are more browsers than just Internet Explorer. Microsoft in it’s infinite wisdom has always believed that their products are superior to anyone else’s in computerdom. And to reinforce that belief, they try to be sure those products do not follow the same standards every one does.

IE does not handle web sites the same way as other browsers do. As a web designer I’ve gotten used to dropping pieces of code into pages that basically say “Figure out what browser the visitor is using and if it’s IE – do this, this and this so that visitor can actually see and use my page”.

While it has gotten better, IE will still occasionally be the ONLY browser that will work with some sites. How bad is this? Look at your server stats or Google Analytics. There will be stats and graphs detailing who is using what when viewing your site. Notice how many of your visitors are using something OTHER than IE as a browser? Do you want to lose all those visitors because your site can’t be seen correctly (or sometimes at all!) if they are using Safari, or Firefox or Google Chrome?

Solutions: TEST your site – every single page, every single form including checkout pages in IE, Safari and FireFox at the very least. Add Google Chrome, Opera, and Netscape if you want to be certain 99.9% of your visitors can see and use your website.

2. Forgetting why people are coming to your site. I can’t begin to count all the websites I’ve looked at that forgot this vital point. Your visitors don’t care about you. Honest. They are at your site for one or more of these 4 reasons:

  1. They want/need information
  2. They want/need to make a purchase / donation.
  3. They want/need to be entertained.
  4. They want/need to be part of a community.

Your web site needs to solve their problems. It doesn’t exist  just as an additionalSolve visitor problems instead of talking about youmarketing channel. It’s not there just to promote brand awareness or increase sales. It has one primary purpose and everything else is secondary. Your web site needs to exist to solve one of the four problems above.

Solution: Make a list of the pages on your site – leaving out product pages if you have more than a handful of products. Next to each page, enter the number from the above list if that page solves that problem. If you can’t put one of those numbers next to a page – rethink why that page exists and correct it.

Also count how many times the word “I” or your name appears on a page. Then compare that number to the number of times your product or service name appears. Here’s a tool that will quickly handle that chore. Keyword Density Tool

Your website isn’t about you. At least it shouldn’t be unless you’re a Hollywood star or a major sports figure. It should be all about your potential customer and how you have exactly what they need to solve their problem and ease their pain. If your name or “I” appears far more often than your solution to a visitor’s problem, you need to rewrite that page copy.

3. Forgetting that your visitor doesn’t know what your site and company are all about. We have a four second rule in site design. We have four seconds to clearly let a visitor know what the site is all about. That’s half the time of the average “bounce” – how long it takes a visitor to leave your page and move on to the next site. In short – you have 8 seconds to grab that visitor and bring them deeper into your site.

Your tagline under your logo and the first sentence or two of the home page copy needs to give a visitor a CLEAR idea of what you are all about. Your page title also comes into this mix. Many browsers show that title on the address bar.

Have someone who is unfamiliar with your site take a quick look at the first page. If you can – time them and see how long it takes before they can  answer the question “What do we sell/do/service/answer?”

Solution: Make sure you have a GOOD, unique title for each of your pages. Use a tagline under your logo that actually describes what you do. “Big Hands of Hope – It’s all about compassion” tells me NOTHING about you other than you are probably a charity of some sort. “Big Hands of Hope – Saving Africa’s Children” may not be great copy, but it at least gives me a fairly good idea of what I will be reading on this site.

Tomorrow we’ll be back with a few more design tips that will help you make the most of your internet doorway.

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