Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Aesthetics - Beauty and the Beast of Website Design

It does not matter how much time and money was spent on the creation of a website, if the first impression is not eye-catching, your chances to attract an interested and returning audience are extremely slim. Like most people, in the first five seconds of his stopover, a visitor will decide if he will stay or move on.

Elements of good design

The majority of websites are written documents that rely on good prose to make a dramatic impact. Add some bells and whistles, e.g. pictures, charts, funky buttons and dividers, and the occasional video clip and you think you have hit the jackpot.
Unfortunately, there is more than "good looks" involved in creating a superb website. Just ask yourself, what do flash animations bring when people click off, even before your animations have downloaded? Instead of bringing a chuckle to your audience, you will get a sneer! People dislike waiting and they want to feel welcome and well treated. If you want their attention and sell your goods or services, give them just that.

The art of blending colors and fonts

Developing a web design strategy is an excellent idea and can be used for the home page, as well as all additional pages. Start by defining your target demographics. Believe it or not, but what message you are trying to convey with your website, or what services or goods you are trying to sell will largely determine what kind of colors and fonts should be used for your titles and text. Just picture a party supply site in all shades of gray, or a Harley motorcycle supplier all in pink. Would you shop there? I didn't think so!

Scale matters, and not just for your text content. Buttons, pictures and everything else displayed on a page should be in proportion and in balance. Items that are too small may be overlooked, while massive, unbalanced productions may scare visitors off.

Be informed

A demographic analysis will make you understand your audience. Knowing what your visitors are looking for will help you in your product selection and marketing strategy. Visit the sites of competitors and see what makes their site so popular. Inform yourself about the products you are selling and find out which selections are selling like hotcakes. What you find stylish, may actually not be a top seller!

Keep your expectations real

The best way to extract customer profile information is by chatting with potential clients and thoroughly researching the market you want to infiltrate. As much as we want to believe our gut feeling, when it comes to e-commerce, it is better to rely on hard facts and real statistics.

Let me ask you a question. Do you believe that when you are building a website for an assisted living, or retirement home, your target audience should be seniors? If your answer was yes... you were wrong! Although some seniors may be having a peek at the site, it is more likely that baby boomers, or those just past the 40+ mark will be checking out options for their parents and grandparents. Knowing this, you will have to adjust your writing style, content and illustrations to fit a younger crowd.

However you, the novice web designer, decide to build your website, always treat your audience with respect. Even though you may be living on the other side of the country, customers will still expect the same courtesy as if they were going to their neighborhood corner store. They may even want to communicate with you, and if you are really interested in what these customers have to say, you could always add a forum or feedback page to the site. A direct customer service email address would not hurt either.
As much as it may hurt your wallet, if you do not have all the skills to optimize your website, please, hire professional assistance. You might be a great technical writer, or perhaps even a poet, but that tone of writing may not be appropriate to market your products. Also, getting your website noticed by the search engines requires skill and understanding. Do not think that key search engines will shoot your site right to the top of their pages just because you used your product's name a hundred times on a single page... It really does not work that way.

The conclusion is simple. There is a big difference between selling boots, sandals and pumps at the mall, and presenting your selection on the Internet. They both have their advantages and they both can be quite successful. Just follow the rules and do your research... good luck!


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