09 Sep 2010

Tips for an Effective Web Site

Web Design Comments Off on Tips for an Effective Web Site

As a graphic designer, I am constantly looking and evaluating anything design related that I come in contact with. From menus at the restaurant, other business’ business cards, web sites to even billboards as I drive, I can’t help but look at something and appreciate what is working, and critique what is not.

One that really gets me the most is web sites.

They are so easy to make and get setup, that so many people who are not trained designers are doing them to save money. Which is great, (I completely understand needing to save some cash!), but at the same time, people need to take the time to research to make sure that their web site is going to work for them, and be effective at its goal.

In the spirit of education, I have scoured and found some tips to help people create an effective site (of course, BJPDS can help you with your web site too!)

Keep your site clean and clutter-free!

This is a big one for me, and its one that took me a while to understand and except.

Just like when talking to a prospect, people have a tendency to do what I like to call, “Spew and Pray”. A salesperson Spews all the information they know about the product or service at the prospect their talking to, and then pray the prospect buys the product.

The same thing can happen on a web page.

A person can have so much information they want to convey on the website, that they put it all out there and its just too overwhelming to a potential prospect. They don’t know where to start and its just too much to take in.

Alternatively, a person can have lots of graphics, buttons, or widgets they want to use, that it can also make the web site seem cluttered and crowded and can break up the flow of your content or distract the potential client…which comes to my next point…

Direct your viewer’s eyes on the site and make them DO something.

Traditionally with print materials, like books or brochures, our society has been bred to read from top to bottom, left to right. The same holds true to websites, except that since a website can be fluid and have links to other pages, eyes will drift and wander. Having other widgets or items on a page can make them move from the important information to non-important information.

Each page on your site should have a starting point. This point should be very noticeable and eye catching to get their attention. The content should flow underneath that. Take a look at this site. Notice the large words FRESH. It directs your eyes to it first.

The content should then link to all important areas you want them to view. Look at this site (click on any location). Notice how the graphic grabs your attention, then the navigation is underneath it. They direct your eyes where they want you to go.

And finally, each page should have an action. Something you want the prospect to DO. Do you want them to contact you? Do you want them to fill out a form? Do you want them to click a link or take a survey or click the next page? Make sure that you have them doing something to get the results you want, whether it is reading more, or gathering their information.

Navigation that is clear and easy.

It’s important to have a navigation bar that is prominent and easy, with not too many links, but enough to hold all your content pages. If you look above at my site navigation, you can see that it only has a few main options, that drop down to specific areas. Its clean and not cluttered.

Making sure that your navigation is sectioned by Main categories and then subcategories, helps viewers find information quicker.

Alternatively, making sure your site’s content and design is in an organized fashion that follows your navigation is important too. Using the grid system in your design helps to keep things organized and un-cluttered.

“Above the fold”.

Above the fold is a print term that has been adapted for the web industry. This term refers the portions of a webpage that can be visible without scrolling. Keeping important information or action items, “above the fold” help the prospect get to the nitty gritty first, and then have the option to read the supplemental information if they want.

Follow your brand.

If you’ve invested a lot of time in your brand, make sure that it stays consistent across not only your website, but your entire media collateral. Its what makes you instantly recognizable with your clients before they even read the content. Look at popular brand names like Nike, or stores like Best Buy. You can tell a brochure or product or service is from them, before you even really see their name, simply from the colors they use and/or their logo.

If you don’t have a brand, invest in one! It can be an important aspect of your marketing plan and a way to help keep your web site from growing out of control. (BJPDS can help you come up with a comprehensive brand identity package).

Proof your content.

Make sure that you proof your content. Spelling errors can seem unprofessional and make a prospect question your authority over a particular product or service.

Proofing your content can also help you to “trim the fat”. Take a step back and read it as if you’re a prospect and have never seen the content before. What works? What strikes a chord? What seems excesive or too much information, or perhaps complicated to understand?

Giving your content a once- or even a twice-over can really help you make your content shine!

These are just a few suggestions that can help you get your web site off the ground and working FOR you and not you working FOR it. For more tips & tricks, contact us above!
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