Wednesday, April 6, 2011

4 Features of an Effective Business Website

4 Focuses
Business owners and web designers
alike undergo common pitfalls when designing a website, by ignoring one or more of the features that makes a website effective. Overall, there are 4 key qualities that will make or break your site. They must be used in congruence - focusing too much on one while slightly ignoring another can sabotage your website. These 4 focuses for an effective website are:

1. Business Objectives - Does it solve your business goals?
2. Usability - How easy is it for your customers to use? (Google and Craigslist are great examples of this)
3. Functionality of code - Does the code do what it is supposed to?
4. Design aesthetics - How does it look?
Let's take a further look into each of these elements.

1. Business Objectives

This is your priority above all others. A great-looking site that doesn't fit your business objectives is like creating a pretty magnet that doesn't attract metal.

You first must decide "what is the goal of my website?" Is it just to give your company a professional image on the web? Is it to provide a potential customer with enough information to want to contact you? Or is it to directly sell your products with a shopping cart? What is your marketing plan to get customers to your site? If it's SEO (like attracting customers from Google), then your site should be content-heavy. If it's referring them to your site from flyers and business cards, they already have interest and this is your opportunity to close the deal. Who is your target customer? What will they like about your business that they won't like about your competitor's? How will your site convey this? In your industry, what will they make their final decision to buy or contact you from - credibility? Product information? Ease of website use? Everything else will revolve around these business objectives.

2. Usability
Is your website easy for your target customer to use. Let me highlight this again - not easy for you to use, but easy for your target customer to use. If your customer is typically in a low-income level, they may use an outdated browser, a slower connection speed, and an older, smaller computer monitor, so large, flashy web pages with high-resolution images is a bad idea, no matter how nice it looks to you.

Make sure your website follows these general rules for usability:
Navigation bar is consolidated, easy to find, and easy to use
The most important content is visible without scrolling
Contact page link is easily visible from every page
Quick load time, meaning limited image file size and limited flash
Footer with contact information and navigation links
Important information stands out from the rest, either by size, color, placement, or other ways of emphasis
Text is scannable - Highlighted keywords, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, images in between text

3. Functionality of Code
Whether you're having the site coded from scratch or using code-generating software like Dreamweaver, it is critical to make sure the code correctly achieves what it's created for. This does not mean that it just shows the way you intend on your computer browser, but that it displays correctly across all internet browsers, the most popular being Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. If you're hiring web designers, ensure that each aspect of the site displays and functions properly in each of these browsers, including the site's navigation, table rows and columns, flash, images, and forms. If you have executed everything else correctly, you may sacrifice it all and lose sales simply because an Order link or contact form function works incorrectly in one browser.

4. Design Aesthetics
Because of the amount of detail involved, we've dedicated another article to design aesthetics. Following these specific details will help you create a beautiful website. See the bottom of the article, in the signature box, for more details.

"Don't Judge a Book by its Cover" - A Message Ignored by Website Visitors
Your website visitors have no choice but to judge your business immediately by the look, usability and functionality of your website. Let's be honest - the average customer has little patience, energy and trust when purchasing a product or service from an unknown company, especially when they're comparing it to 5 other companies. What does this mean for your business and its website? You have little time and opportunity to impress them. Gain their trust with a professional, well-designed website, save them time with effective navigation and layout, and save them energy by providing them the exact content they need to make a decision to buy your product or service. Do this and meet all 4 focuses - design aesthetics, usability, functionality, and business objectives.


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