What is Web Design?
How can a Website benefit my business?
Having a well designed web site will not only be beneficial to your business in today's electronic world but will also help you save money. One of the reasons that small businesses go online is that a well-designed website for even a one-man business can have just the same presence on the web as a multi-national corporation.
Communication, marketing and printing costs are lower too, as is the cost of using full colour. Larger businesses see it as a way to reinforce not only their brand (which is becoming increasingly important), but also as a way to reinforce an image of leadership and potential. All businesses see it as the key to keeping ahead of the competition.
Don't think the web is not for you, it is the future.It will change society; it will change our entertainment, and the way we do business. It will also reshape our town centres as financial organisations, brokers, agencies and other businesses first merge, then abandon their overhead-laden town centre shops, and opt for access to a bigger market with lower overheads direct and live on-line.
As someone said of the web, "There's no point in ignoring it, it's as inevitable as the telephone". Some of the other savings include:
- Saves money on advertising.
- Can carry much more information about your products/services than a printed brochure
- If you do not find it cost effective to have a printed brochure or your prices or specifications change frequently then you may find it more economical to have a website with all your latest prices.
- You can send out less printed matter.
- Low priority enquiries can safely be directed to the web which will cost you nothing.
- You can have a detailed street map showing your customers exactly where you are
- Your customers can download product specifications/manuals in PDF format
What is a Website anyway?
A Website is space on a computer where anyone who subscribes can say, "This is me, this is what I do, or what I am interested in, what I know, or what I can sell you". It is a virtual electronic brochure and source of information about you or your business available to the whole world 24 hours a day. Within the website, each screenful of information is called a page. Pages may contain text, or graphic images, or even photographs, sound and video.
A main feature is the "links" embedded within a page that can be clicked with a computer mouse and which transports viewers to other pages. To continue with the brochure analogy, you would normally open a brochure at the front or the back and browse forwards or backwards a page at a time. With a website, the user decides the order they want to see the pages in by clicking the links that interest them. This interactivity generates a sense of ownership and participation in the user, binding them to the information much more tightly than a traditional brochure.
What are the pitfalls with Websites?
What are the most common pitfalls of a website? Here are the top ten to look out for.
- Lack of focus on the user's perspective
The website is designed based on what the company wants, rather than what the user actually wants to see when visiting the site. These pages do not get their message across quickly enough. Most people come to a site and if they can't see what they want to see immediately and there is no link visible that will take them there, they will simply leave and look at the next similar website.
- Flash only websites
Overkill on flashy introduction pages that can't be skipped and take an age to download, and no alternative html only version of the site. This is not only a turnoff for the user, but also a turnoff for search engines, as they cannot index the "flash" part of the site.
- Generally long loading times
This can be due to a poor hosting company (slow data transfer speeds), but is often due to poorly optimised web pages containing far more images than is necessary to get the message across to the customer. Although broadband is becoming more commonplace nowadays, you still need to consider that a large percentage of NZ surfers are still using modems and can only download about 5KB a second. If a web page takes more than 30 seconds to download, most people won't bother waiting and will look elsewhere.
- Non standard layouts and bad linking system
Too few links to deeper pages in the website can lead to a user having to go through 4 to 5 pages before they find what they want, so more links are needed in appropriate places. However, too many links to other pages in the site from the front / navigation pages can lead to the user having difficulty locating what they are seeking. The positioning of these links is also important as most people expect a standard menu layout, with menus clearly separated from the text of the page and laid out such that they can clearly be seen to be a menu.
- Poor use of colours
Although you may like having lilac text displayed on an aqua background with cherry coloured links, this may not suit everybody's taste and can generally make the page hard to read. Also, having images as backgrounds can often be a mistake as they also make text difficult to read unless you brighten them and fade them out in a good paint package. However doing this often makes the image hard to make out and defeats the point of putting it there in the first place. Generally, human beings are used to reading black writing on white sheets of paper, so making websites that follow this convention often leads to an easy to read website.
- Out of date web pages - made once and then ignored forevermore
If you're going to make a large website, it must be kept up to date otherwise there is very little point in having it. Nothing annoys people more than going on a website, finding the product you want to buy... and then finding the contact details of the company are out of date or you stopped selling the product 2 years ago.
- Lack of traffic
An awful lot of people assume that once you have a website, you put in on the web and traffic will just start to flow in, this is not true. To get initial traffic to your site, you need to inform the search engines of its presence. Without doing this, you won't even be able to search for your own site by putting the address in the search engine. Then, you need to find ways of getting other relevant sites to link to your site - this often involves setting up a "link exchange" whereby they link to you and you link to them.
Lets assume you have Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP with a nice big 19 inch monitor (1280x1024 pixels), what happens if someone with a Windows 98 computer running Internet explorer 5.5 with an 15 inch screen (800x600 pixels) tries to look at your website, does it look the same? Your aim is to make your website viewable by as many computers as possible, often this means checking the site at a number of different screen resolutions (800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 1024) and with a number of different web browsers. You will always find differences between browsers and often it's a case of finding the best possible layout that suits all browsers and resolutions rather than the exact layout you want.
- Who's been looking at your site?
This is not a problem with the site itself, but it is an important question you should know the answer to. If you can get a copy of the log file your web hosting company produces for your website, it is possible to tell exactly how many visitors your site receives per day, which pages they looked at, what pages they were looking at previously, what operating system they are running, how many colours their computer is capable of displaying etc. It is even possible to see what search terms they typed into a search engine to find your site and often which country they are surfing from.