Jan 052013
 

And for very little money

“The right web site is the like a good spouse; the wrong one will be expensive and tough to live with.”

(Joe Harkins – www.buildinghosting.com)

When I started building web sites in January 1994, there was no Google, no Internet Explorer and no Yahoo.

In the years since then I have watched the net grow from a curiosity, understood by few people, to the huge thing it is today and . . . still understood by few people.

Some call that progress.

More new web sites came on line yesterday, before you finished your dinner, than were built during the entire first year I was acquiring experience. Thanks to free “site building” tools and blogs made from templates anyone, even someone with zero technical and artistic skills, can publish one in a few minutes.

That ease of building also leads to speed of abandonment.

Digital cameras make it easy to take a photograph. Microwaves make it easy to cook dinner. Word Processors make it possible to type out a novel or a poem.

But to do those things well . . . a book that people will actually enjoy reading and share with others . . . a dinner that people will pay for and come back for more . . . a photo that a magazine will put on its cover . . . . a web site that connects people to your enterprise and keeps them involved with your product or service . . . those things require deep understand of the technologies, respect for how people interact with the results and serious experience in the execution.

Most web sites created with “site builders” or “build your site tonight” tools, are abandoned within a year.

There are 3 basic principles and 5 basic rules to help you avoid that fate.

If you apply them you have a shot at success. If you ignore them, you will join those whose web sites didn’t work the way their owners thought they would. They become failed web sites. The time and effort andexpense (even if it is small) are wasted. 

A successful web site for a small business must have three qualities:      

  1. Affordable 
  2. Attractive 
  3. Effective

Affordable – It’s easy to spend $5,000 on a new web site. There are situations where you simply must be ready to pay for that. But it’s also possible, with advice from knowledgeable sources, to spend a lot less than that. We will look at some of those ideas in this report.

Attractive – this can be tricky. Some people think we are talking about animation, bold colors and lots of graphics. Usually those are distractions.  Worse, they are a waste of time and money.

A clean, simple layout where the purpose and message of your site are obvious in the first 3 to 5 seconds is best. Scientific studies consistently show that the decision to stay or leave a web page is made that quickly.

Danger Signs –

  • A Flash opening that begins with “page loading %” is like having a pit bull in your doorway.
  • If the first page takes 20 seconds to show itself, more than ½ the visitors have already left. Every 5 seconds after that, another 50% of those remaining will leave.
  • When you think about how much effort and expense went into getting a visitor to come to that web site, it is mind-numbing that someone would do something that drives them away.
  • Mis-Understanding The Web – just because it is on a bright screen does not mean a web site should be entertaining. A web site is not a movie or a game. Most of the time, a business or organization web site is for delivering information, capturing orders and engaging the visitor in the activities of your business or mission. Anything that delays or distracts from connecting visitors to those goals will hurt your business, no matter how much fun it is . . .  or how much money you waste on creating that bouncing, whirling, flipping image.
  • Big Logo – that is a big no-no. Take a lesson from the small logo in the upper left corner of the web sites of communication specialists like a major newspaper or television station or online shopping venue (ebay, amazon, overstock, ford, etc). 
  • Navigation – Attractive also means straight-forward, intuitive navigation that finds everything on your web site, no matter how deep or complex, in three mouse-clicks or fewer.  That often means putting the same horizontal navigation menu (with drop-down links) near the top of every page PLUS the same menu along the left side of every page and even repeats it along the bottom of every page in the the “footer.”
  • Legability and Readability – How easy is the information to see? How easy is it to read?These are two completely different but equally important things.
    • Is it Legible? Light colored text on a dark background is really cool – and a big headache because the eye is strained by more than a few inches of that.
    • Is it Readable? – fully-justified text (even margins on both sides) looks well-organized and professional. But when you have blocks of fully justified text that run more than 5 lines, you are taking away the subtle clues that help a reader’s eye find the start of the next line, making your information harder to read than if it were “left justified, right ragged” like the text on the rest of this page.  The combination of wide lines of text, grouped in big clumps of paragraphs that run 6, 8 or even 10 lines, fully justified like this one, are a big turnoff for most people. It is very likely you did not actually read this paragraph, so I will repeat it in its more readable and legible format.
    • Yes, it’s readable. This is a repeat of the previous paragraph in readable format. Is it Readable? – fully-justified text (even margins on both sides) looks well-organized and professional.But when you have blocks of fully justified text that run more than 5 lines, you are taking away the subtle clues that help a reader’s eye find the start of the next line, making your information harder to read than if it were “left justified, right ragged” like the text on the rest of this page.The combination of wide lines of text, grouped in big clumps of paragraphs that run 6, 8 or even 10 lines, fully justified like this one, are a big turnoff for most people. It is very likely you did not actually read this paragraph, so I will repeat it in its more readable and legible format. 

Summing up  – These issues are really important. They are only a start. But beware of web site projects that ignore them.

Also see “How We Work”

 

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