Branding and Web Design
When creating a website, there are ten main elements you should strongly consider. Each element contributes to the impact and success of your site.
1. The Overall Look of the Site
Your homepage is "the key" to your site's success. It creates an immediate impression to your visitors about your business. You MUST give the right impression or you lose -- it's that simple.
Your main focus should be in desinging a site which contains:
- Clean Design
- Uncluttered Layout
- Fast Loading and Professionally Designed Graphics
- Overall Attractiveness
Aim to use fewer "bells and whistes" in your site's design. In business, you want to use the latest technology to stay ahead of your competition. But on the web, you want to stay behind. Why? Not everyone has the latest plug-ins, browers and processors. The last thing you want is to cause someone's browser to crash -- just because you have this cool new Java Applet.
Your business must have a clear message -- one that anyone can clearly understand and find quickly. After a twenty second scan of your site -- the visitor must know what your site is offering them, and show them a clear path for either additional information, or how to order. If your site fails the twenty second test -- your site will fail.
Your site should provide:
- Assistance with problems
- Newsletter subscription
- Links to Resources
For your products or services, you should supply information that is:
- easy to follow
- easy to find
- easy to order
Since the web is global, remember that someone who connects to your site isn't just doing so in your same region or country, but often from different contienents.
We have often said, it is vital your site load in under three seconds. You should never lose a visitor due to a slow load time. We liken it to a 100 yard hallway from your opening door to your actual storefront. Who would walk down that besides your mother to shop at your store?
For more information on web site speed, see our On-Line Tutorial on Web Speed.
4. Layout and Design
The layout and design of your home page contributes to that vital first impression. Every image, button, color, etc. should convey the same message.
- Red and Orange excite the senses and increase the heart rate
- Blue and Green are more restful
- Yellow reminds one of sunshine, warmth and is generally regarded as a "happy color"
Since our readership is generally business people, we highly suggest using a color scheme which embodies your mission statement and product line. Match your current success in your brick-and-mortar storefront with your web storefront. After all, you have spend considerable amount of time and money on branding your image off-line -- carry that same branding on-line as well. We have been surprised at the numer of businesses who change their color schemes and image on-line. Don't do it -- unless your current scheme and image are failing.
When viewing web pages, the majority of surfers start in the upper lef-hand corner and the eyes tend to gravitate to the right and slightly downward. Consider this when designing the layout of your site. You want the most important piece of your home page in the upper left-hand corner.
5. Text Readability
What font should you use? The color? The Style?
There is one aspect than many fail to remember when designing web pages -- what looks good on the printed page, often does not work well on the web. Reading on a computer screen is much more difficult that reading a printed page. Fonts with serifs and extenders look fantastic and drive home the point well on a printed page, but that same font on the web strains the eye of the reader.
We have always suggested to our clients to use a white background, black text and a simple Arial or Helvetica font -- which is very easy to read both on-line and on the printed page.
Shorter paragraphs, dividing text in columns, etc. can lend to on-line readability. The use of headlines will also lend to the readability of your site. Many web surfers simply "scan" your page -- what jumps out? Headlines. Use them to your advantage.
There has been a lot of discussion in many design forums on the proper placement of the navigation bar. Simply put...put it on the left, that's where it belongs. Why?
- Readers are accustomed to reading from right-to-left and from top-to-bottom.
- The majority of naviagation bars are found on the left. This is where users expect to find them.
Use the navigation bar on every single page and in the same order -- this will breed familiarity with your site and boost the confiedence level of the visitor with your site.
The bottom line -- if you don't have these listed on your site you will lose sales, and I don't care how effective your site is. You will lose sales -- remember that.
If you sell products on-line, you will collect your customer's name, addresss, phone number and e-mail address. Customers want to know what you will do with this information. If you do not disclose your intentions, they will assume the worse -- that you sell their private information to advertisers (i.e. Spammers). If you fully protect their privacy, state so in a Privacy Statement -- and have a link on every page of your site.
8. Testimonial Page
Have you had customers who have loved your products or services? Received any testimonials? Print them!! Potential customers want to know that real people have used your products and/or services.
Contact your current customers and ask them for testimonials. It will greatly help your closure rate.
9. Ad Copy
Okay, so your site has a slick design, is fast-loading, the graphics are crisp and the text is easy to read, but what about the text itself?
You've heard the statement, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." This is where you sell the sizzle -- your ad copy.
If you have effective ad copy and the rest of your site is up to par, your sales will increase -- it has been proven. To create effective ad copy, you need to have a professional writer create, edit and refine your copy. It is an art.
Symbols in your URL
Avoid symbols in your URL like "?" that is often used in CGI generated pages. Search engines will not read nor index pages generated by CGI. While Lycos has just introduced the ability to do so, they are the only major engine that can -- and they update their index every six months.