|Thousands of companies
joined the exodus to the Web during the past year, drawn by the promise of a new and
growing consumer base. For some, the move was successful, but for most, a disappointment.
The Web is a relatively new medium where success is not
necessarily bestowed on companies that are well organized and efficiently run. Traditional
strengths in the normal business world often prove to be irrelevant in the world of
cyberspace. The main reason for this is that the Web is primarily a visual medium,
similiar in some respects to television but with an audience that has millions of
selection options and a short attention span. Content is important, but presentation is
the key to holding attention. Web site design, layout and navigational ease play a crucial
role in converting the casual surfer to a customer. Companies with unattractive web sites
fail to grasp this simple concept and often try to compensate with expensive promotional
Successful web page design is a mix of common
sense, skill and knowledge. One of the most important factors in basic web design is
ensuring that a web site is optimized for the most commonly used web browsers and for
different screen resolutions. The design and layout of a site should hold true regardless
of the web browser or screen resolution used by visitors to the site.
Page loading time is another important element in
site design but somewhat contingent upon target audience. If your potential clients are
the corporate crowd with T1 connections, then special effects and large graphics are an
option. On the other hand, if you are targeting the average surfer with a 28.8 modem
connection, then page and graphic file sizes should be kept as small as possible. Pages of
40k or less should keep most visitors from succumbing to mouse click syndrome.
Finally, there is the element of uniqueness, that
special look and feel that some web sites have and that most don't. Unique web sites
aren't created by using templates and mass produced graphics. A cookie cutter approach to
web design is one of the reasons that so many corporate web sites look alike. Hire a
designer with the graphical talent to create a special look for your business. Branding is
as important on the Web as it is in the normal business world and "images" are
retained in the public mind far longer than words.
Web page design is important to a site's success
but appearance alone is not enough. Studies have shown that visitors are drawn to sites
that offer them the means to interact or participate. Newsletters, guestbooks and feedback
forms are just some of the many ways that you can communicate with visitors and potential
clients and provide them with a vehicle for contacting you. Supplement interaction with
regular site updates. An "alive" web site keeps people coming back to check on
whats happenned since their last visit. Give your visitors a reason to call your site
"home" and word of mouth (think email, chat & newsgroup postings) can
increase your traffic tenfold.
On a final note, keep in mind that there are
definite advantages to using the services of a professional web designer. Anyone can learn
HTML with a little application, but the combination of graphics, color and layout into a
unique web page design generally requires the talents of a skilled professional and is
worth the investment to ensure long term benefit!
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