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Is Your Website Design Suffocating Your Business ?

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by Richard Simmons


Here are 7 often overlooked factors that can often be the difference between poor website and a great one.

1. Lack of Clarity

This is the silent sales killer.

Have you ever visited a website and wondered "what on earth is this all about ?". If you've done it then rest assured that your visitors have done it too.

It's pretty staggering that many business do not tell you what they do. I have found myself visiting all the pages of a website so that someplace, somewhere there would be a nice simple piece of text describing the exact nature of the business.

Rarely do it see it. Rather than using simple, clear and concise sentences. We are bombarded with long boring complicated paragraphs that leave you more confused.

If you want to test the clarity of your site just get someone who is not familiar with your business to browse your website. Listen and watch and you'll soon see how most new visitors react to your website. You can then make corrections based on your observations.

Make everything clear and simple. Your customers will thank you for it.

2. Graphic Bloat (or Graphic Designer Disease)

Imagine this. You type in the website address and wait for the page to load. And you wait. And wait. Nothing happens. You then click the stop or back button and go somewhere else. If this was your first visit to that site then you'll probably never go back there again. First impressions last. If your website is like this then your customers will do exactly what I just described.

Before I carry on, other reasons may delay the loading of a site. These are that the network connection has been lost or the remote server is very busy. But mainly it's due to too many image files on a page.

This is a classic example of graphic overload. Graphic designers love to create complicated graphics. They then spend time calculating the trade-off between image size and quality. In the long run the site may run fast on their super machines but, for the average Internet user, it can run very very slowly.

Remember most people surfing the net do not have high speed T3 lines installed. Sometimes it's just a 56k modem or a 512k "broadband" connection at best.

The good news is that browsers will cache graphics that have been downloaded once, reducing the need to contact the web server. All the same, it still takes time to download them initially.

The same applies to sites designed entirely in Flash.

3. Poor Navigation

The main reason people log onto the Internet is to look for information.

Your website must make that information easy to find. Ask yourself "What does my customer need to know when they come to my site ?" Always look at it from the customers point of view. Provide a local search facility if you can.

A lot of companies structure their sites similar to the way their organisation is structured. This may work for you and your employees but it means nothing to your visitor.

The easier you make it to find information, the more business you will do.

4. Information Overload

This is closely related to point No..3

Many sites try to fit as much as they can in the first page in the mistaken belief that their visitors will want to see it all. Not so. Place your most important information first and provide links to the others.

Psychologists tell us that our brains can only remember 7 +/- 2 items at any one time. How many times have you visited a website and been overwhelmed by the amount of links? It can be quite disturbing and will usually result in you losing your visitor.

Yes. Too much information at once can put people off as too little.

5. Information Underload

Opposite of point No.4

Some companies barely put any written information on their site choosing to use images. They believe in the "less is more approach". This approach can work but your images must "paint a thousand words" otherwise your visitor is going to get confused and guessing.

Users are inherently lazy and all they do is click somewhere else. Probably to your competitor's site!

6. Excessive Use Of Frames

Frames provide a logical way of dividing your web pages into many pages or panes. Each pane will then load separate document. Frames were introduced in Netscape 2.0 and soon everybody was using them. Or should I say abusing them. Here's a few problems with frames :-

  • Frame content is often skipped by search engine "spiders" (but using NOFRAMES tags can help occasionally).
  • They can make pages at lower resolutions (800*600) look unsightly. Pages get cut up and excessive scrolling is required to read any text.
  • Printing Frames can be difficult.
  • If designed poorly (and most are) the appearance of scroll bars can look unattractive and unprofessional.
  • You can frame other sites i.e. encapsulate other website inside your frames if so desired. This is normally resented by the other site owner. However you can prevent your site from being framed using simple javascript.

7. Forgetting To Set The Colours Properly

Not everybody has their web browser colours set to the same as yours. Some people have accessibility options set, others prefer to default their pages and links to whatever colours they chose.

Make sure you explicitly define the colours of your web pages and text. Otherwise your site will load with some else's preferences and it will look horrible. Or at least not they way you intended it to look.

And remember that one in five men is colour blind! The most common form is the inability to distinguish red from green. So, if you rely on lots of red and green highlighting, you could cause problems.

As simple as this advice is you'll be surprised how many people overlook it.

There you have it. Keep these points in mind when talking to your webmaster/graphics designer and you'll be way ahead of your competition.


Richard Simmons is a respected IT and Marketing Consultant and has been involved in Internet technology since 1996. He works with major blue-chip companies and investment banks and advises countless small and home based businesses. Richard is uniquely gifted in that he has a deep understanding of both Technology and Marketing industries combined. Contact him personally at richard@crimsondirect.com. You'll also discover some of his uniquely creative business building articles and resources at http://www.crimsondirect.com.