Posts Tagged ‘website design’

Design for Scanning

A great web site should clearly provide information to its visitors. This being the case, it’s important to remember that people don’t read web pages (at least at first) they scan them for the information they want. Since you know that visitors scan your pages, it’s critical that they see what you want them to see in the most meaningful order.

When designing your web pages for scanning, you should consider your page layout as a series of steps. The first step should be your logo placement, which should always be placed at the top left of the page since this is where people naturally look first. Some designers try being creative by placing the logo on the top right, which isn’t recommend, since it doesn’t make your brand name immediately visible when a visitor lands on your site.

After visitors see your logo/brand name, you need to direct their eyes to the most important content of your page such as a primary positioning statement or heading, followed by related images and main body text. What is most important for your visitor to be looking at is up to you, just make sure that they can look at your page and quickly digest your message with as little thought as possible.

To improve the scanability of your web site design, you have many tools available in doing so such a position and color. The position of where you place something on your web page clearly influences the order that your visitor sees. Therefore, you want your most important content immediately visible.

Colors you choose also have a large effect on how effective the scanability of your web pages are. Using bold and subtle colors is an easy way of telling your visitors where to look.

Contrast is another element that can increase the scanability of your web site design. You’ve probably seen sites before where everything is the same color tone to the point of everything blending together. Don’t do this. Use contrast to make important parts of your message different to stand out.

Size also has an immediate effect on scanability. A large image or line of text that’s front and center on a web page is going to attract more attention than a smaller message that’s off to the right. Again, if something is of major importance to your message, put it right up front for your visitors to see without them having to hunt for it.

Design elements such as graphics can also work at making your web pages easier to scan. If there’s a large red arrow pointing to something on your web page, or a line of text that’s highlighted, your visitors are sure to see it.

Contrary to what some believe, effective web site design is more like writing for direct mail or catalog content. If your message is all over the board, the number of people that will take the time to read through for the important pieces will be small. This doesn’t mean that you have to skimp on content; it just means that you have to put your most important content first. After addressing the scanability of your most important information, you can then follow it with all of the secondary content you want.

Guidelines for Good Web Site Design – Part 2 of 9

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Often when reading about SEO online, it’s common to come across suggestions that you shouldn’t spend much time on your page title tags or keyword and description Meta tags. Many SEO articles even say that you shouldn’t even bother with keyword and description Meta tags. So what is a good webmaster or site manager to believe?

Well here’s the truth. The page title tag is among the most important parts of any web page since it is what people see as the link to your site in the search engine results, which can play a major role in whether or not they choose to click on the link and visit your site. Also, the page title tag is the most important place to put your primary keywords (in addition to your page content), since the search engines use the title tag to help in determining what a page is about.

Now this is where things get controversial. A lot of people still think keyword and description Meta tags are either silver bullets or completely useless. Actually they’re neither. As for keyword tags, Google largely ignores them. However, Yahoo! and MSN/Live still refer to them and often use them to some degree in their rankings. Description Meta tags are still used by many search engines to provide a description of your web site in their search results, which again may influence click-through rates from search results. Also, Google does analyze description Meta tags as part of their algorithm, even though they do not display them in their search results.

So here’s what we suggest:

1. Write a good strong title tag that uses your most important keywords and keep the tag down to about 60 characters.

2. Use the keyword tag for your most important keywords and keep the tag down to about 5 or 10 keywords.

3. Write a description tag for your site that’s reasonably informative and includes your most important keywords and keep this tag down to about 150 characters.

If you already have good title tags and keyword and description tags for all of your web pages you’re on the right track. If not, you’ve got some work to do. Sometimes it’s the smallest detail that separates a page that shows up in the search results for a particular query. Therefore, put your best foot forward and put your web page titles and SEO Meta tags to work for your site.

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We’ve all heard that the homepage is the most important page of our web site. Even though this has been ingrained into our brains over the years, many of us are still guilty of wasting this precious piece of online real estate. So now it’s time to look at your homepage with an objective eye and ask yourself, “Is your homepage truly compelling?”

Here are five proven tips to generate more interest in your homepage, and ultimately your site.

  1. Make sure your homepage has a powerful primary message. Your homepage should be clearly targeted to your audience and provide a benefit statement of what you offer your potential customers. Keep in mind that they don’t want to hear that you’re the best; they want to hear why your product or service is different. What they really want to know is, “What’s in it for me?” Make sure you have an enticing answer that’s easy to understand.
  2. Focus on a clear message. You’ve seen homepages (hopefully not yours) that are loaded with tons of images, thousands of words of text, blinking lights, etc. that seem to be going in a hundred different directions at once. Don’t do this. Even if you’re tame in comparison, look for anything that’s unnecessary on your homepage and get rid of it. You want your visitors to look at your home page, and with little to no effort, get your message. Be clear and be specific. No one buys what they can’t clearly understand.
  3. Apply secondary messaging to your primary message. Think of the primary message as the headline of an article and your secondary messaging as the article content. This being the case, you want your secondary messaging to further clarify and reinforce your primary message. Your secondary message should contain clear and specific calls to action such as “click here to order”, “contact us”, “call us toll free for more information”, etc. Make sure you’re directly asking your visitors to take the next step you want them to take. Remember the “power of suggestion”, it works.
  4. Use some imagery to emphasize your primary message. Enticing photos and, or, flash animation can help illustrate what you’re offering your visitors and why it’s of value to them. Keep in mind most people are visually oriented, so make sure your imagery is clear and on target to reinforce your message.
  5. Make sure your homepage is easy to navigate. Your homepage should have a clear navigation structure that can take your visitors where they want to go quickly. It doesn’t matter how well you do everything else, if your visitors can’t figure out how to get where they want to go. Make it easy and you’ll be rewarded with more page views, more customer contacts, and more sales.

Bonus tip: Take the above suggestions for your homepage and apply them to every page of your web site. Yes, every page… If you’re serious about converting your visitors into customers at a higher rate, it just makes sense.

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Five questions are hardly enough to cover everything you need to address to make your web site as successful as it could possibly be. However, you need to make sure these basics are addressed. Often people believe they’ve covered the following five questions until they’re really put to the test.

  1. Is your site navigation “really” easy to understand? In other words, if a visitor has never been to your site and knows nothing about your industry, is your site navigation totally self explanatory?
  2. Does every page of your site have a clear and targeted message? Are you maximizing the conversion potential of every page by keeping your visitors focused on what the page is suppose to be selling?
  3. Is the text of your site easily scanable? If the most important things you want your visitors to know are buried within the text of several paragraphs, forget it. Make sure the most important information is easily spotted with bolding, bullets, etc. Remember, people scan web pages quickly to see if the content is of interest. Only after you’ve got their attention will they maybe read it.
  4. Does your web page content answer your visitors questions? If an item is available in other colors do you show swatches? Do you provide key product details that a potential buyer may want to know such as weight and measurements? Are you providing different image views? As the old saying goes, the more you tell the more you sell.
  5. Are your product images as good as they can be? Look at the photos on your site and answer this honestly. Are your product photos of a high resolution and do they “clearly” show the details of your products? Would you buy the product based on the images used on your site?

It’s a good idea to tour your site on occasion and to look for any weaknesses that your site may have. Even the smallest of details can have a significant impact on your conversion rates. Therefore, you want to always be thriving to continuously improve your web site in the eyes of your visitors. Make some time today to apply these five questions while touring your site. Some of your answers may surprise you!

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In the good old days, it was enough to simply have a website. After all, Kevin Costner told us that, “If you build it they will come”. Today, any online retailer will tell you that Kevin’s old saying is just that; an old saying.

An online business consultant will tell you that great website design will make a big difference in your online success, and that is 100% true. But regardless of how well your site is designed and built, online success begins with driving traffic to your site.

With this said, here are three key factors to get the wheels rolling in your quest to become an online all-star.

  1. Use sound on-site search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.
    89% of internet users begin their experience with a search engine. Turning up high on those search results is a key part of driving quality traffic. Sound SEO strategies will get you there and keep you there. Sound strategies include basics such as keyword rich headlines and copy, in addition to carefully researched keywords in your Meta tags. Without a solid footing in your on-site SEO, it will be virtually impossible to gain any level of significant level of success online.
  2. Create compelling web page content.
    Look at your web pages. Is your layout attractive or jarring? Are you using strong calls to action, or assuming the visitor will ‘just know’ what to do? The right mix of words, graphics and informational content is all it takes to raise your rate of conversion as high as 10%. Don’t be mistaken; writing compelling content isn’t easy. It’s generally not intuitive, and doesn’t follow the conventions that your English professor taught you. However, the more you study what other sites are doing right (and wrong), put great methods into practice, and practice applying them throughout your site, the more your conversion rates will increase.
  3. Leverage off-site search engine optimization strategies.
    Remember the fairy tale about Rapunzel imprisoned in her lonely tower? I’m sure Rapunzel was a beautiful, sweet, and intelligent girl, but it was a long time before Prince Charming stumbled over her in the forest.Much like Rapunzel in her tower, your website will be a very lonely place unless people can find it. This means developing quality inbound links.

    Great inbound links not only help search engines find you, it also puts you in the path of more human visitors. When looking for links, look for directory sites where you can add your URL such as dmoz.org, Jayde.com, and ThomasNet.com. Look for blogs about your industry, or a related industry, and develop a relationship with them. Also, submit relevant content from your own website or blog to social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, and Delicious. And don’t forget – regular online press releases can generate quality inbound links by the thousands, all in one go.

Don’t be distracted by every new marketing tip that’s screaming for your attention. By focusing on these Three Keys, attaining a higher level of success online will be much easier. All you have to do is improve your on-site SEO, improve your on-page content, and constantly develop your stable of quality inbound links.

It’s that simple – and it works.

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Last week we talked about building inbound links to augment your SEO. This week, we’ll talk more about the details of link creation, including keywords and content.

As with anything related to SEO, it is imperative to use the right keywords in when building links. Using the same wedding photographer example that we used last week, your first step would be to find out the keywords that fit your business. Then aim build those into the text of, and around, your link. Good text links for our photographer might be ‘wedding pictures’, ‘wedding photography’, ‘wedding photographer’, etc.

Whatever you do, don’t guess. Refer to a keyword research tool like WordTracker or Google’s Keyword Tool. Find out which words are the most popular among search engine visitors and use those.

Once you’ve carefully built your keyworded link, it is also important that the page you’re linking to contains the same keywords. If you focus on building links with terms that aren’t found on your web page, it is unlikely your site will ever show up in the search results. Remember, relevance is key, and content is king.

And this leads us to the next step. Quality one way inbound links should lead visitors to valuable content. Always optimize your content for your human visitors first, and then tune it up with keywords for the search engines. This should be done before you begin building inbound text links. After all, what good is a path if it leads to nowhere?

Consider the relationship between the content of a site you’re trying to acquire a link on, and the content of your website. Google looks at this relationship for signs of relevance, and assigns your votes accordingly. For our wedding photographer, links from sites about weddings or photography will hold more weight with Google than links from sites about, say, pet food.

Link building mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t waste your time getting links from sites with no PageRank. One or two links from relevant PageRank 5+ sites can be worth more than 100 links from sites with no PR. (To determine a page’s rank you will need to go to download the Google Tool Bar and chose to view PageRank.)
  • Be careful about buying links. This can lead to a blacklisting by Google. If your website only has a few back links one day and the next day you have hundreds, Google may penalize you. It can take as much as a year for your site to recover.
  • Don’t spend too much time building URL links. Look for anchor text links that use your keywords in the text of the link.
  • Make sure the links you get are worth something. Look for value in terms of benefiting your SEO, or putting you in smack dab in front of your target audience.

Remember, links count as votes, and the more quality votes your site receives, the higher it will rank in search engines.

Now that you know how to build quality links with effective keywords, you’re ready to get started. Get out there and get some positive link juice flowing your way.

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Yes, we are starting to sound like we only know two words, “increase sales”. However, you have to admit these are pretty important words for any business. Especially for an ecommerce website where your next competitor is just a click away waiting to take your customer if your game isn’t better than theirs.

Now there’s another word: Game. How well are you playing the ecommerce game? Are you playing to win?

If you’re not sure, here are some thoughts to ponder. Put these thoughts into action and fire up your sales.

  • Are you thinking like your customer?
    Think like you just landed on the site for the first time. Can you find what you’re looking for? Place products in more than one category when applicable, or wherever relevant. Place links to information wherever it’s needed. The easier it is for your customers to find what they want, when they want it, the more likely they’ll buy.
  • Are your prices, offers, and terms easy to understand?
    Keep it simple. Make sure your toll free phone number, pricing, shipping, add to cart button, etc. are all clear and easy for anyone to find with as little thought as possible. It’s a fact that the more you make people think, the more likely they’re moving on to another site. A confused customer is a lost customer.
  • Are your pictures your best salespeople, or are they duds?
    A picture is really worth a thousand words. Therefore, add additional product pictures to close the sale wherever applicable. Keep in mind that most people don’t actually read ecommerce sites, they scan. Make sure you’re getting their attention with the right information to convert them into buyers.
  • Have you marketed your website today?
    Market your website once it’s live and continue doing “something” to market it every day thereafter. A website that isn’t actively working to market itself on a continuous basis, isn’t going to grow and thrive. As with any endeavor there’s no free lunch.
  • Is your site easy to navigate? Is it easy to buy your products online?
    Make your products easy to buy. It seems obvious, but it’s a mistake often made by online retailers. Make sure your website functions well across all areas such as navigation and shopping cart checkout. A site that’s hard to navigate or complete a purchase on will quickly be abandoned by your visitors.

Now it’s time to ask yourself the big question. Is your site meeting these guidelines?  If you can’t answer a resounding yes to each of these questions, you’ve got some work to do. In fact, it would be wise to bookmark this page and refer back to these points periodically to ensure that your site is getting the results you deserve.

Now get back in the game and increase your sales!

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