It seems to me that many of you who are new to building websites are having trouble figuring out exactly what makes the difference between a website that's effective and one that doesn't produce results. For example, I recently received this from Sybren Design Chronicles reader Marvin Baerg:
This is a suggestion for an inclusion of an article on site design tips. It would be great if you could give some URL's of "excellently" designed sites with the reasons WHY they are superior, in order to give a model to those of us who are still amateurs at web design . Maybe also a not-so-good-one, but then again, that may be construed as slander.
I told Marvin that was a great idea, and that I'd love to do an article like thatand that's what this article is. However, instead of focusing on the sites themselves, I'm going to focus on the aspects of the sites that make them so great. So, let's begin.
First, there are always five core elements to a successful website: global navigation, clean and attractive design, effective sales copy, appropriate text formatting, and value to the vistor. Let's explore each of these in more detail:
(Please note that with each element I explain, I may give an example of a good site and possibly a bad site. In no way are these examples meant to be an insult to the site owners or reflect upon the quality of their products. I'm simply pointing out what is, in my opinion, good design and bad design.)
Global Navigation - It's absolutely vital that your visitors be able to quickly and easily navigate your site and find what they need. In order to provide for this, a site must have a navigation system that will allow them to reach the main sections of the site immediately, and it must always be available and recognizable to the visitor.
Good Example: www.sybren.net. I'm probably a little biased here as this is my site, but really, note that no matter what selection you make or what part of the site you're in, you can always get to the "main" parts of the site with one click.
Bad Example: www.magic-city.net. Note that as you move through this site, you have to constantly return to the home page in order to navigate to other pages.
Clean and Attractive Design - A site that reflects a professional appearance is essential. While it's not absolutely vital that your site be designed by a professional, keeping it organized and free of clutter is imperative.
To do so, make a logical outline of how you think your site's pages should be organized and then build (or rebuild) the site around that outline. Also, remove anything from your site that isn't generating results for you. It's just making your site cluttered.
Further, spend some time in your graphics program to learn how to create attractive graphics for your website.
Good Example: imc.sybren.net. I don't have to say much here -- just look at the site: It's just very appealing and nice looking!
Effective Sales Copy - The sales copy you write is extremely important to the success of your site. It should be written with your target market in mind. (Note that if you have a content-based site, this should be replaced with good content instead.)
To make your sales copy work, focus on benifits to the customer, not on features. Also, incorporate testimonials. Additionally, unless you're extremely good at writing sales copy, short copy is usually better than long.
Good Example: www.roibot.com. Note the effective use of testimonials and how the focus is placed on benefits, not features: "1 Submission Expert to Keep Your Pages Fresh in the Search Engines"
Appropriate Text Formatting - If you format your text incorrectly your site will, quite frankly, look silly. Throughout your site, try to keep your use of font styles, sizes, and colors consistent as well as avoid too much bolding. This is best illustrated with examples:
Good Example: www.howstuffworks.com. Click on several of the articles on this site and notice how they are consistently formatted the same. Your content should be formatted consistentely as well.
Bad Example: www.business-opportunity.net/fort5000.htm. Notice all the different sizes, colors, and overuse of bolding throughout the text. (By the way, this example is taken from an article written by Ralph Hilliard of WordNet.net)
Value to the Visitor - In order for your site to be valuable to its visitors, it must provide something that they need (be that a product, service, or information). Because not everyone will be interested in what you're offering, the most effective way to make your site valuable to your visitors is to target your marketing efforts to the right group of peopleinstead of trying to create a site that has a little bit of something for everyone.
There are some other things you can do, like giving away freebies such as newsletters, eBooks, or articles, but that's a whole different subject. :)
Hopefully the brief overview above of these vital elements of a strong website will get you started in the right direction. However, in all honestly, this wasn't truly comprehensive. There's much, much more to it (as I'm sure you've probably discovered at this point), but you'll have to figure that out on your own, because I'm done here. :) Best of luck to you!
Copyright © 2000 Micah D. Cranman