Design Tips
What to Consider
When Creating Your Website...


Creating a web page is easy.

A friend once joked with me, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to build a web page." And he was right. In this day of $50 "Website Construction Kits" practically anyone with a little time and money can put together a web page. These packages work well enough for simple, personal web pages, but often lack the depth and attention to detail that is necessary for a business website. If these packages truly made it that simple the web would be filled with nothing but beautiful, professional sites, and I'd be out of business.

The truth is that creating an effective professional website is more complicated than simply putting some pictures and text on a page. Like creating a "bricks and mortar" business you need to consider an array of variables that affect the size, scope and style of the "site" your are creating. Who is your potential web market? What does your website add to your existing business? What is the most effective way of capturing their interest, and their loyalty? These are only a few of the questions you should ask yourself as you go about the business of creating your online presence. Below you will find tips that should help to improve your online image. After all, you're a professional so why would you let your website say otherwise?

What's your ROI? (Or... "Why am I here?")

Believe it or not, many people fail to ask the simple question "Why am I here?" before embarking on the process of building a business website. With the ".COM" frenzy that's taken the business world by storm, the conventional wisdom has been that ALL businesses need a website. I don't necessarily agree that ALL businesses need websites... at least not at this point. But I do believe that MOST businesses could benefit from an online presence, if approached strategically. Businesses that blindly follow the conventional wisdom without thinking much about why they are building a website, can end up with ineffective and sometimes even counter-productive sites.

The key to success is understanding how a website will benefit your business, and then designing the site with that in mind. In the business world this would be considered your "Return On Investment (ROI)" model, and determines how your website will ultimately pay for itself. Will you be selling products or services online? Will your site act as a customer support information source? Will it be a significant way for new customers to reach you? More than anything else, refining the answer to "Why am I here?" will help focus your efforts, and as a result will improve the effectiveness of your website.

Look sharp. Look professional.

The old adage, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression" has never been more true than on the Web. With literally millions of websites competing for a visitor's interest, those that stand out as providers of quality content and useful services, will be the ones they return to. The rest will never get a second click.

To make matters worse, and despite what our parents told us about "not judging a book by its cover," we as a culture still place a lot of value on how something looks. We dress up for interviews, try to keep our lawns neatly trimmed, and spend billions on personal hygiene and home beauty products. The reality is that we know what looks good, and we tend to gravitate towards those things that, because they look good, we perceive to be of high quality.

The same principle holds true on the Web. If your website looks like someone else's personal "hobby" page, your visitors will equate the visual impact of your page with "amateur", "hobby", and "unprofessional". You may have valuable services or information on your website that never get seen because potential visitors have "surfed on" in search of more legitimate sources of information or products.

I don't advocate style over substance. I believe that the average person surfing the web is smart enough to know when something is all glitz and no guts. If the content or services aren't there, then it won't make a difference how nice it looks... they won't be back. But by the same token, if the content IS there but it lacks a professional presentation, they may never make it past your home page.

In general I advise people to have graphics on their pages professionally treated. The single most amateur thing I see on the web is the mixing of differing styles of clip art. Clip art is relatively cheap and easy to work with. But often what is available isn't exactly what is needed. As a result many people "make do" with what they have. Sometimes it works. Usually it doesn't. You wouldn't buy a suit that was too small for you just because the price was good. Don't do the same thing to your website.

Whether your site incorporates text-only, or a full spectrum of animated and multimedia content, be sure your message and presentation are consistent. Our goal at Web Parlour Design is to provide you with a clean professional website. We assist you in making decisions on the most effective colors, fonts and artwork with which to build your site. Web Parlour Design is fully equipped with the tools and skills needed to put it all together.

Don't make them wait.

There's little more frustrating on the web than being forced to endure a lengthy wait while a page full of graphics or animations loads in your browser. This is especially annoying when there is no text to read, or links to follow while the bulk of the graphics load. As an example I offer the Apple Computer website. I am a big fan of Apple Computer, and their Macintosh computers, but was horrified to discover how graphic intensive their new website is. The page sometimes takes over a minute to load, and only a few of the links are duplicated in a text format. A major disappointment from an otherwise talented company.

When designing your site, try to keep in mind the type of person who will be viewing it, and what they will be looking for. If you are selling products, make sure your visitors can get to the products as quickly as possible. Don't make them wade through screens of graphics to find them. Amazon.com does an excellent job of keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum, and getting their customers to the books. As a result, they have become one of the most successful websites on the internet.

Depending on the purpose of your website, there may be appropriate places for larger graphics, javascript effects, java applets or animations that require lengthy downloads. But in general, keep these off the home page, and let your visitors know what to expect before they follow a link to a page containing such bandwidth intensive content. Let your visitors make the decision for themselves about whether something is worth waiting for. If you force the decision on them, you risk testing their patience, and losing them to other more streamlined sites.

You might gather from the above paragraphs that I am philosophically opposed to the use of graphics. To the contrary, I believe that the appropriate use of graphics can be a powerful tool to convey information, interest and even excitement about your product or services. Graphics are an essential part of many, if not most websites. They can help characterize the spirit and attitude of a particular business, and if properly used can put a more personal face on an otherwise impersonal medium.

Here are two guidelines to follow when adding graphics to your site:

  1. Use graphics only where they add something necessary to the site.
  2. Optimize your graphics for the web to minimize download time.

The second point above is as important as the first. A typical graphic, properly optimized, can result in a load time reduced by 75% - 90%. Most low-cost web page design packages do not include the necessary tools to properly optimize graphics. At Web Parlour Design we are equipped and experienced with the tools necessary to minimize the file size of your graphics, while maintaining their high visual quality.

Unless your website is in the business of serving high bandwidth content such as video or audio files, your visitors won't want to wait for lengthy downloads on your pages. Web Parlour Design is experienced in creating lean, quick loading, and graphically engaging websites. We professionally prepare and optimize your graphics, as well as suggest ways to keep your visitors happy by giving them quick and easy access to your site's information.


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