Kathy Jacobs Design and Marketing

Designing Your Site

There are a number of important factors to consider when designing your business web site including

  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Is the design too busy?  Is there too much information or photos?
  • Is the important information easy to find?
  • Will it download quickly on a dial-up modem?
  • Will it work and look good on several different web browsers?
  • Can people easily find a way to contact me directly?
  • What do I want people to do on my website?
  • Are all of the components of the website important to its use?

Website checklist

  • Try to keep your navigation shallow.  That means users shouldn’t have to click more two or three times to get to a page they are interested in.  If you an organize your website into broad categories, this should be easy to do.  Having breadcrumbs or some other navigation cue that helps users know where they are on your site will also simplify navigation.
  • Keep a consistent “style” across pages.  You want visitors to know they are on the same website when they click in different sections.  Keep colors and styles similar across the whole website, with a logo and/or tagline in the main header.
  • Personalize your website.  Your content should be written as if you are speaking to your customer on a one-on-one basis. 
  • Establish trust by providing customer testimonials, disclose your privacy policy, have secure ordering, etc.

Website home page

Your home page is the most important real estate of your website.  Most visitors will see this page and many will only look at this one page.  The content and the design are extremely important.  A well-designed website sends the message that your business is professional, that you are serious about your product or business and want to make the customer experience a good one.

The home page should have content featuring the most important parts of your website and encouraging visitors to take an action (make a reservation, visit your store, sign up for a newsletter).  We can feature certain sections by including a brief blurb on the home page that links to that page. For many website visitors, this may be the only page they visit, so you need to do your selling here. 

Usability

Be sure your website is designed to give customers a good experience, making it easy to find the information they are looking for, in terms they are familiar with.  Customers won’t spend a lot of time looking for a product or information on your website – there are other businesses out there competing for their business.  If they can’t find what they are looking for on your website, it’s easy to go somewhere else.  There are multiple things you can do to make your site easy to use and improve visitor’s experience. 

There are still many individuals who use dial-up modems out there.  You must remember this when designing your web site.  Never use photographs that take longer than 5 seconds to download.  This usually means the photo must be around 300 kilobytes or smaller.  Photos that take a long time to download will usually discourage your customer from spending much time at your web site.

Additionally, special effects such as moving images or rotating logos may actually distract customers from your message.  Just because there are special effects out there to be used, does not mean that you should incorporate them into your website.  Look carefully at an effect and ask what benefit does it provide your web site.  If there is an added benefit, include it!

Use colors that complement one another, not ones that clash.   For example, don’t choose to use red text on a blue background. As always, a web site that is difficult to look at may not be one a customer spends much time visiting.

Take a look at some of these references for more information about designing a website with usability in mind.

  • "Homepage Usability: 50 websites deconstructed" by Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir
  • "Don’t make me think: A common sense approach to web usability" by Steve Krug

Download Time/Functionality

Some web visitors are still viewing pages and sites with a dial-up modem.  If a website is graphic intensive and takes too much time to download, they won’t wait!  There are many things that you can do to reduce the download time of your pages, but making sure you don’t post images that are high resolution or size is one of the most important.  Target your photos or images for 72 dpi resolution.  Some photo editing software programs offer special “save for web” features that can help you determine an appropriate size for an image. 

Home page content

While it is important that your home page be visually appealing, the content is extremely important. 

This is probably the most important page of your web site.  If this page is interesting, explains who you are and what you do, and piques the interest of the visitor, he/she will further investigate your web site and the services you offer.

In light of this fact, you should attempt to have a home page that is simple, clean, and yet attractive.  Three things should be on this first page:

  • A short description of what the business does or offers
  • The name of your business or organization
  • How to contact you

Other items that may improve the attractiveness of this home page can be included as well.  For example, a photo or two of customers enjoying their experience may appeal to customers.  A slogan for your enterprise that states what separates you from other enterprises.  For example, “we pride ourselves in our excellent customer service."