If you're serious about making your business succeed, you need a website. A website enables you to showcase your products and services in a way that a newspaper ad or a phone book listing never can. But if you have no idea where to start, here are a few pointers that will ensure you get the basics right.
How to Design an Effective Website
Before you spend any money look at other websites for an idea of how you want yours to look and function. Why do you like some websites? Why do you dislike others? This will give you a starting point for designing your own.
In order for a website to be effective, it has to be simple to use as well as attractive. Visitors must be able to get around your website easily. For example, there's little point in a customer being unable to shop for all the items they need if the website's system is set up so that after placing only one item in the shopping cart the customer is immediately directed to the checkout and is unable to continue shopping. Similarly, if a customer must complete a three-stage procedure to achieve what it is they have come for, then your website must give the customer the ability to do so in the easiest and most logical way possible. Frustrating your customers will send them elsewhere. It's important that your website's navigation makes accessing your site quick, easy and logical.
Make it as Simple as Possible
To create a website that helps meet this criteria, your website categories need to make sense and items need to be categorized correctly (you wouldn’t expect to find a hammer in the bathroom accessories section of your local hardware store!). Again, if your customers have to spend time searching for products that have been incorrectly categorized there's every chance they will go elsewhere. Always bear this in mind when designing your website: make it as simple as possible for your customers to use.
A good place to start designing your website is on paper. Start with the home page (the introduction page that states what your business is about), and build from there. Decide how many pages you want your website to have and what each page will contain. Statistics show that people spend less than 10 seconds looking for specific information before they go elsewhere. Make sure your website contains clear and concise information. A general rule of thumb is one idea per page. Make your pages clearly identifiable so that people know what to expect to find: when accessing a website for products and services, visitors generally don't like to be surprised!
Once you’ve decided how many pages your website needs and what each page will contain, you can then think about how they should look.
Don't Let the Design Distract from the Message
It's easy to get a little carried away when designing the look of a website, but it's best to limit the number of colors and fonts (typefaces). Too many different design elements compete for attention and results in the key message of your website being lost. Stick to one heading style, one font and a couple of colors. Create a brand that people will associate with your business wherever they see it.
Use links wherever possible in your website to enable customers to get around quickly and easily. Links can be used in the navigation bar (the bar that appears at the top or side of every page of your website), the page content, or the footer at the bottom of the page (again, this appears on every page of your website). When creating links in the page content, you can use words or graphics. Make it self-explanatory for your customers, so that they know to which area of your website they're going to be taken by clicking on a certain word or picture.
When creating the navigation bar, try to keep the number of categories and sub-categories to no more than about six. Creating too many categories can confuse visitors.
Make Text Easy to Read
When creating the content of the pages of your website, break the text up into manageable pieces. Large chunks of text are difficult to read and you will lose your visitors if you don't make it easy for them to digest the information on your website. Use short paragraphs with no more than one or two sentences. Bulleted lists are a good way to display information that customers can read and take in quickly and easily.
Graphics can be a useful communication tool. Use these to get your message across and as links to other areas on your website.
Don't use jargon when communicating with your customers. Use plain simple language that your customers will understand.
Make sure you list all the ways in which your customers can contact you including directions to your store if applicable.
Don't look at designing a website as a daunting task. Spending some time thinking about how your customers will want to access your website will help you create your very own space on the Web that will showcase your business and increase its chances of success.