Some Concepts about Web-Design

Algunas Consideraciones sobre Diseño WEB

The net is the most competitive place on earth. You need a great site, a compelling offer, and sufficient promotion money - just to stand a chance. The easiest of these is the great site. So start there. Your site was probably created in some haste a while ago. And if it is like most sites, it is just OK. Not good - visitors expect stellar. Your site must compare to the best on the net or you will not be trusted. It may be time for an overhaul, and because you already own a site, it is not overly difficult or expensive to do so. So take a good critical look at your site and redo it if there is any doubt - your success depends on it. My company does free web critiques - so we see thousands of sites. We see the same mistakes over and over again. Thus we created a list - the 12 rules for a great website. Use the rules as your guidelines when you overhaul your site. 

Overall Look
Your visitor makes her assessment of your website within seconds of entering it for the first time. Schlock doesn't cut it - your site must have a highly professional appearance. Use a graphics designer. Go for clean, simple, and attractive. Underwhelm. 

Home Page Your home page must convey your complete message. Think billboard. Tell me exactly what you want me to know right up front - tell me simply, clearly, and immediately. 

It is tough getting visitors. Give them a reason to stay. What is your offer? Exactly to whom is it directed? What makes your site better than others like it? What is in it for me if I stick around? 

Speed It is mandatory that your site be quick. Use graphics judiciously. Get rid of the gimmicks. Cut out the fancy scripts. Try to keep each page and all its components under 20K bytes. 

Graphics Size Good graphics adds pop to your site. But graphics are your biggest bandwidth hog. So be careful. Set your graphics to the proper resolution (72 dpi), crop them carefully, reduce their dimensions, and use compression software to squeeze out extra bytes. Check out gifwizard to see how well you are doing. 

Text Legibility Don't get fancy with fonts. A simple font on a light background is usually best. Separate wide blocks of text into columns. Use plenty of white space. 

Page Skimability
Use many short headings. Highlight key words within the body of your copy to elaborate on the headings. 

Copy Quality
Your web story is told with words - but your visitor is very impatient. He does not like to read. So make your copy simple, sharp and direct. Use half as many words as you think you should. Keep your paragraphs and sentences short. Use the word "you" a lot.  Navigation Make it easy for your visitor to navigate your site - no matter where he finds himself. Include a link back to your home page on every page of your site. 

Contact Form
Your visitor does not like filling out your forms. If you must collect information from your visitors, collect as little as is necessary. If you plan on collecting your visitor's email address, tell her how you plan to use it. 

Many of your visitors are suspicious of cheats and incompetent business people. Prominently list testimonials from your best customers to help assuage their doubts. 

Mistakes You will lose visitors if your site has broken links, missing graphics, or scripts that don't run correctly. Check your site often with the popular browsers (IE, Netscape, and AOL) and fix the mistakes.  That is it, twelve rules - all common sense, most easy to follow. But I am startled at the number of sites that ignore them. Whether you do the work yourself or use a pro, overhaul your site now - it is a necessary first step to winning on the web.




Designing the site

You know your business but haven't a clue about html design, so you hire a designer. If you get the best web designer in the world they can't make your site work well without good content. Make sure the copy you give them is worth viewing to your customers. If your site offers products, make sure those products are outlined very well with articulate descriptions and high quality photographs. If you offer a service, make sure the information you provide about the service is top rate.

Target to your audience If you are a gift shop, make sure your site looks like a giftshop. Mainly women shop giftshops so cater to them. If you are a flowershop on the other hand, men may be your biggest customer, so streamline your site because men don't like to shop. If you sell industrial supplies or machinery the site doesn't need a ton of "fluff". Those clients aren't coming to your site for fun, they want to see the products, place their order, and get on with their busy day.

Benefits of search engines on your website Provide a site search engine if you have many products. Make sure your potential customers can easily search and find exactly what they want. Use keywords that make sense. You may even offer a price range in your search.

Support information If you sell products that require instructions after purchase, offer your customers a way to obtain that information. Recently friends had a second baby. They decided to use the crib from their first child and the husband went crazy trying to remember how to put it together and had lost the original instructions. He spent two weeks waiting on the instructions to be mailed to him. Thank goodness the baby wasn't due for a month. So this is something that can be very important for your business if you sell items that are "do it yourself" projects that customers have to put together. If anything, offer an email address to write to for that particular product information.

To wrap it up Use common sense in your web design. Talk to your designer, talk about ideas you would like to incorporate into the site. View competitors sites and see what you like or dislike about their site and create yours accordingly!




SMART DESIGN, an explanation  

As many of you already know designing your own website can seemeasy with all the programs & tools available to us today. A quicksurf of the web will show you many examples of what is produced when the inexperienced experiment with the complicated task of designing a website. Sometimes I shake my head & think what were they thinking? Can they really think that looks good?   While everyone's tastes are different and although I may not pick big purple buttons to go with my lime green background & yellow text a good design goes far beyond mere color picking. If the design is hard to read (as yellow text on lime green would be) a visitor is forced to leave or withstand a migraine for the next 8 hours! Smart design incorporates the proper placement of information, good use of white space, & well coordinated graphics but it is much more than that.  Smart designing is the key to keeping visitors at your site. If a visitor stays long enough your message should get across & that increases your chances of turning that visitor into a customer. If a site is poorly designed the visitor will become frustrated, confused, & finally fed-up enough to leave. A Web Site Should Ideally Have:
  • NO broken links or dead ends
  • The navigational bar or Web Site directory should be easy to understand and attractive
  • Design should be attractive in 640X480 & 800X600 resolutions
  • Text only versions of any forms should be made available to visitors who are using browsers that do not support forms This also extends to the use of frames in a web site which we highly recommend not using unless there is a text only alternative
  • Custom colors should all be loaded onto your Web Site so that visitors without high-end computers can still view your Site as you intended
  • You should always use Alt Image tags on all graphics for those visitors who are "surfing text-only" Graphic file sizes should be reduced to decrease load time. There are many impatient "surfers" out there who won't wait for your oversized logo or collection of unimportant clip art to load. Experts say a page must load within 15-20 seconds or you may lose visitors.
These are the basics to designing a smart website. If you think you can keep all of these aspects in mind as you develop your website then you have a running chance at it being an acceptable design to your visitors. While this doesn't necessarily insure it's success (proper promotion will decide that) you wont lose visitors within the first 30 seconds. The longer they stay the better chance you have of getting the sale. For the inexperienced web designer trying to develop a website that "follows all the rules" can take a long time and a lot of trial & error. If you don't have the time to devote to doing the website right then I suggest not trying to do it yourself. Don't convince yourself it doesn't matter what you put up because your product is so great (that's what everyone else thinks about their product!). The days of the public accepting shabby websites is over. There are far too many choices out there today. They will just do a simple search & find your competition. You must factor in the costs of your time, energy, & even lost sales of designing the site yourself. If you are starting your business part-time that may mean you have a "real day job".  
  • Are you turning down overtime so you can rush home to work on your site?
  • Are you staying up until the wee hours (as most of us webmasters do)?
  • If your website could be designed properly in a week through a webdesigner would it be worth the month or two you would spend trying to piece it all together?
  One of my clients said to me recently, "I'll let you do what you do best & I'll stick to what I do best". A very wise idea! If you decide that you don't want to embark on the task of designing your own website or you have & it was a disaster, we can help. We offer Free, No Obligation website consultations. Come fill out a request for your free consultation.    







Recently we ran across a company who had an advertisement in a local newspaper. It was a nice full page ad and at the bottom was a web address. Just the day before I was frantically searching the net in every search engine I could think of with no luck for this type of business. I was more than intrigued to pay this site a visit.  

Upon visiting the site I found a page in which I was supposed to be able to submit a request for an estimate. I spent quite some time explaining & detailing what I wanted & got to the bottom of the form where it said "press submit button to send". I looked & looked & looked again. No submit button! I spent a good 10 - 15 minutes carefully thinking out what I wanted to say and now I can't even get it in their hands because of a careless error? I was fuming!
Luckily one link on the site did work, the "email us" link. I took a minute to conduct myself & composed another message to the webmaster about how it isn't polite to treat visitors in that manner. I inquired "how many people have responded to your website? If you would like it fixed we can help!" The answer I received back was timely, cordial and apologetic. Nothing like the impression the website gave of this company. A long talk with the owner revealed why. . . . .  

It seems this business owner had contracted with a "webmaster school" down in Florida. Now one thing we wont do unless absolutely necessary here at LRS Marketing is name names so they shall remain nameless for now. If they show us any further problems as we try to get the domain transferred we may have to! What this school had done to this poor business owner is sad. They promised him things they couldn't deliver such as a merchant account & secure order processing. This lead to them taking the submit button off of the estimate form leaving no way to send the information at all. Only part of the estimate form had anything to do with submitting payments but they removed it all anyways.  

The website according to the owner was working properly the day he approved & paid for it. However the school let the students keep working on it and now they have it entirely screwed up. There are broken picture links, the form to download a referral list gives a file not found error, and they loaded about 30 photos on one page because the only allowed him a 3 page site. No wonder they had never received any requests for estimates or email requests for contact.

The impression this site left was a bad one. It was harming them not helping. If I hadn't been a webmaster wanting to fix this website I never would have gave this company the time of day. I cringe to think about the business they have lost.  
To make matters worse the business owner has spent hundreds of dollars in long distance phone calls to try & get anything on his website fixed. He gets the run around or they go in again & mess up something else & leave the original problem still unfixed. They were supposed to insert meta tags onto his pages & submit him to the search engines for the outrageous price of $225. They never even completed that either. Which at this point is good. LRS Marketing has adopted this site and is dedicated to getting it up & running so we can announce it to the world correctly.  

Well give you future updates of the progress of this site & their success under our wing! We don't want to name them now because they are embarrassed by the site & don't want to attract anymore visitors until it's fixed. We are planning on featuring them on our website makeover page showing the before & after sites. It should be interesting. . . stay tuned for details!  

The moral of this story is that you get what you pay for. This business owner never imagined the low price he paid upfront would turn into such a nightmare. He didn't realize the students would have access to his website & be able to change it at will without his knowledge (I can't even believe they do business that way).
What business owner would allow unqualified students to tinker with something as important as your company image? The business owner who doesn't know! And they aren't going to tell you either!  

My strong advice is to go with a reputable company who knows what they are doing & can fix problems on the fly! Preferably while you on the phone with them! There are good webmasters out there who are reasonably priced you just have to look. Know what you are getting into by reading everything on their site, their contracts, etc. If everything seems in order check out a site or two that they have done and if all is okay feel relatively safe in going with them. If you decide to go with a "school type" design team research them thoroughly. Make sure you will have sole control of the site after it is complete or at least that nobody can tinker with it without your approval. Read the contract thoroughly for hidden charges & disclaimers. Then all you can do is hope for the best!    




• Copyright © weissdesign 1998 • All rights reserved • Webdesign+HTML: Michael Weiss • Last revision: 27-apr-99

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