Techniques to Improve Your Web Site
By Dr. Jacob Mathew, President, ICBS, Inc.
For many small and big businesses, developing and hosting a
web site is very expensive. Not only that you have spent time and money developing it, it
is also the face of your business to the outside world. So, it is important that you keep
your website sharp.
Here are some ideas on how to make your Web site work
harder for you according to Deborah Whitman.
1. Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness
Your website should have a clean image. Avoid speckled
backgrounds, unreadable type fonts and a bewildering gaggle of buttons and animated
gewgaws running across your Web site. Go for a simple, clean design. To get some ideas of
which designs work, take a look at successful websites such as that of Yahoo, Amazon.com
etc. You don't see them using pink marble or shadowy logos for their site backdrop. There
is a reason for that. The background can quickly get in the way of the site itself. If
your visitors cannot read your site it does not do any good for you. So keep it simple.
2. Catch Them In The First 10
Initial impressions are very important in face to face
meetings as well as in website exposure. Many experts suggest that you have less tan 10
seconds to make a favorable impression on your visitor. Otherwise they may just click off.
Your front page needs to be both a stop sign and a fast, effective messenger.
In two to three seconds your visitor should know exactly
what your site is all about or what your business does. Determine what image and message
you want the customer to "get" in those first few seconds, and design your front
page toward that objective. A short mission statement, or a summary of what your business
does can be very helpful.
There are exceptions to the rule of course. If your site is
information rich and the visitor came specifically in search of the information, thy will
already know why they are there and will have a less chance of clicking away. For example,
in our holisticonline.com website, 95% of visitors come through an inside page
specifically directed by a search engine. Of course, they are looking for specific
information and if they don't find it they will search somewhere else. However, most of
our visitors end up in staying and visiting other parts of the web site. This shows that
your navigation structure has to be carefully designed such that the visitor can go from
one part of your website to other part relatively easily.
3. The First Page Should Load Fast
It is only logical that if you only have less than 10
seconds to capture the attention of your visitor, your front page cannot take 60 seconds
to load! Avoid unnecessary graphics and other items that delays loading your front page.
If you have graphics, try to make them as small as possible by means of clever graphic
designs. Also provide alternative tags for graphics so that the visitor will know what
they are all about before they load.
Photographs are usually the culprits when pages load too
slowly. Many small business websites contain scanned photos. Just scanning a photo and
throwing it up on your site is one of the main reasons for a slow website. You should
process your pictures before putting it on the website. You can reduce the resolution of
the photographs, compress it as well as reduce the quality slightly by reducing number of
color information. A good graphic designed using professional software can make a photo
take up much smaller size without compromising too much on the quality. In some cases, the
quality of the photograph is important. In such case, use a smaller picture (called thumb
nail) on your main web page with a link to your larger photo. This way, only those who are
really interested in seeing the photo will go there and they won't mind the wait. This
again shows the importance of having a competent web designer work with you in developing
your website. A good designer often gets better results than a novice.
4. An Easy Navigation System
Make it extremely easy for people to find their way around
your site. On the Web, the system that helps you find your way around a site is known as
its navigational elements. Navigation is easiest to find if it's on the left side of the
screen. If you are using graphical elements such as buttons for navigation, make sure that
you provide alternative text links for those who prefer to navigate with their graphics
for example, we provide a main navigation menu on the left. This does not change so that
visitors can know where to go always. Then there are context sensitive text links on the
bottom that takes people to the home page of the section or to the next page in a series
of pages etc. We were highly praised for the easy navigation scheme employed in a complex
site as holisticonline.com that has more than 2500 pages. Careful attention has to be paid
in designing your site so that you will keep your visitor to your site.
5. Update Your Site Regularly With
We cannot stress the importance of this often enough.
People use Internet to locate information. Provide it in your website and provide the
latest information. This means that you have to update your web site often.
Bring people back to your site by providing important or difficult-to-find information.
You can sometimes get news by subscribing to a number of sources. You can also use your
website to give information about your latest sales. Connectingtouch.com, a web site ICBS
developed and maintains, provides their latest specials for Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Christmas, etc.
There is one caveat though. If you decide to give time sensitive information on your
website, make sure that you update it often. There is nothing more irritating than to find
details of New Years Party - 2002 in December, 2002. If you don't have time to keep your
website current, avoid time-sensitive information altogether. Make sure that your web
designer/hosting firm will update your site.
6. Hire Professionals To Design
We recommend that you use a professional web designer to
develop your site. It is not worth your time and effort to design your site. You are
better off using your time to work on the aspects of your business you are good at. A
competent firm will have access to the latest software tools and information about
internet that they can use in making your site. Invariably you will save time and money
and you will have a professional product.
When you work with a designer, provide them with a project