Does your Website Sell or Smell?
by: Mark Bellinger

Your website does not stand much chance of selling anything if it pays scant regard to the user.

In other words your Site Visitor’s experience, in terms of the following, is what will make your site sell or smell!

The following 7 guidelines are all equally important and will determine the success of your website.

1. Functionality

a) Functionality is a double-edged sword in that the site must fulfill the users' requirements only if they are your targetted users.

You cannot be everything to everybody so just make your site easy for the people you want to please – your target market

b) Your site’s design is the interpretation of its functional requirements so unless it's functional it won't win many customers and will probably go out of fashion tomorrow.

Therefore your site must function in the way the site visitor expects whilst maintaining a professional look etc.

Functionality also includes automating routine tasks eg producing online docs, taking orders, triggering e-mails etc using forms & scripts

2. Content

Content is King and must be meaningful, interesting & viewable in an acceptable font & color.

Your site’s content must also be kept fresh and updated frequently to maintain interest in the site and repeat visitors.

The use of RSS can help deliver fresh content to your site on a daily basis.

3. Navigation

Site Navigation must give your site visitors an indication of where they can go on your website and how they can get there.

The navigation must be;

clear (must look like navigation),

consistent (the same on each page),

predictable (style & location on the page eg lh side bar or top bar)

and must lead to obvious content (navigation bar descriptions must be accurate)

4. Load Time

If your site does not load in less than 12 seconds, the chances are that your site visitor will have given up waiting and closed the page.

A lot of viewers access the net with dial up connections so you need to ensure that your pages load within the time frame for a 56.6kbs modem.

Therefore a web page has to be designed in the ‘slimmest’ way possible so as to minimize load time.

Clean code also better for search engine spidering & bandwidth saving, ie the cleaner the html & css the less the load on your server.

5. Usability

Your site may look great but if it’s difficult for your visitors to figure out how to buy what they are looking for it’s usability is not up to scratch.

Usability refers to the ease with which your site’s user interface can be used by its intended market to achieve its objectives.

Usability incorporates many factors: design, functionality, structure, information architecture, and is a combination of good planning, good content and good design, putting yourself in your visitors’ shoes, anticipating their needs and requirements.

6. Graphic Design

In order to create an aesthetically pleasing look for your website you will need to use graphics, pictures, images & logos as a text heavy page is certainly not easy on the eye.

Web safe colors should also be used to add to the overall effect.

Remember to bear in mind that graphics (jpeg or gif) need to be of an appropriate size and compressed so as not to compromise the page loading speed.

7. Compatibility

It is vitally important to design your site so that it is compatible for all browser and screen resolutions as you don’t know what browser and resolution your site visitor will be using.

This is important because pages that look fine in IE often look totally different in Firefox and pages look great at 1024x768 can be squashed up and overlapped at 800x600

Therefore to maximize your website’s potential ensure that the above guidelines have all been employed.
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