What your website design says about you

It is hard to believe that the first proper website went online as recently as 1991 and now there are billions of pages fighting for attention. Of course the Home Page is by far the most important as it is your company’s shop window. It is so easy for visitors to hit the back button that a website has to grab hard and hold fast to keep its visitors and, hopefully, convert them into customers.

In a recent interview, the great retailer Sir Philip Green stated that the reason why his shops are a success despite the recession is because the shop windows are regularly refreshed and the goods on offer are regularly revised.

A website has to continually evolve if it is going to continue to attract attention. Most organisations are not simply interested in hits to their sites but in converting those hits into paying customers. Although it is always important to attract new customers it is even more important to retain existing ones, so innovation has to be balanced with the tried and tested.

A few years ago, Coca Cola decided that their cola recipe that has been kept secret for generations could be improved and the costly experiment cost Coca Cola a small fortune. Changing the recipe of the cola drink that has worked for generations was marketing madness.

Successful giants like Sir Philip Green know that there are things that must be changed and things that must stay constant. When Coca Cola changed their own recipe they became like any other cola company and the drink was no longer “the real thing”.

Download speed If a search engine has brought your website to the attention of a potential customer, the first thing that the person will notice is how long the website takes to load. Of course, broadband speeds vary considerably but good website design will enable a website to download in just a few seconds.

First Home Page impressions The first question that any web designer should ask of his client is what they want the visitor to do when they arrive at the Home Page. This is always a tough one for big organisations that have lots of products and services to sell. If there are too many images, too many messages, too many things to do, instead of creating wonder in the viewer, it can cause their computer to slow down because of all the visual processes clogging up the works, resulting in a potential customer beating a hasty retreat with the aid of the back button.

Navigating around and from the Home Page Many websites are designed by people with state of the art monitors and what looks good on a giant screen may not look so good on a laptop or notebook screen.

Creating a clear, easily navigable Home Page that is also interesting and can be easily refreshed is a great design skill. Of course, the Home Page’s content is not just for the human eye as it also has to work well for search engines.

The copy on the Home Page has two principal functions: to inform and to lure. The copy must be short and simple to read but also Search Engine Optimised so that people can find the website easily when Keywords and Key Phrases are typed into search boxes.

The secret of good website design is simplicity. Many designers believe that the more bells and whistles there are to deflect attention the more exciting the website. Simplicity does not mean boring; a web page can still be visually stimulating without making the visitors feel that they are the target on a shooting range and every flashing, twirling, ticker-tape style image is gunning for them.

Website design conventions In the last couple of years, most people who use computers for work or pleasure have visited hundreds of websites and so have an idea of where to look for things. For example, it makes sense for all websites to have navigation links across the top of the page or down the side or both.

It is also still surprising how tough some websites make it for their customers to be able to find contact details or to place an order. Sometimes, protective measures against spam are so onerous that only the most ardent customer would bother to fight through all the security.

SEO - the essential website ingredient Every phrase that is written within a website should be Search Engine Optimised. That does not mean that the copy is going to be rubbish to read, but it does mean that there are always two ways of saying something - any old way and the SEO way.

The size of the copy is also another factor to consider. A website designer may have a massive screen whereas someone looking at a notebook has a screen a third the size. Legible, bite-sized chunks of copy that is well-written and regularly renewed, is the key to retaining visitors.

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