Is Your Website Damaging Your Image?
Having a poor website can be more damaging than not having a website at all. It makes sense doesn’t it? After all, your website is a shop window to the world for 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, so if it is poorly laid out, difficult to navigate, slow to load, is not informative enough, or the copy is monotonous and contains grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, then this inevitably reflects on you and can give potential customers a poor image of your business.
So what makes a good website?
Design & Layout
Obviously, design is very much a personal factor and whilst an all singin’ all dancin’, colourful site may appeal to some viewers, others may be turned off by a design that is too “in your face”. You have to think about the message or image that you wish to convey, whether that be elegant and professional or fun, lively and approachable. Whatever your angle, it needs to have impact.
There are, however, a few basic graphic design techniques that can be used broadly in the design of most sites.
Most people in the western world read from left to right and view a page in a “Z” pattern i.e. they view the top left hand area of the page first, then across to the top right hand sector, diagonally down across the page to the bottom left hand corner and, finally, horizontally across to the bottom right hand side. Therefore, objects or text that you wish to have optimum viewing should be placed in the top left hand corner of the page. Designs with a “Z” layout are, therefore, most favourable.
Different colours have different effects on our emotions, so it is worth conducting a bit of research on colour and its meaning. Yellow, for example, is the most receptive colour and stimulates the intellect, but too much of it can make you feel tired. Not a good idea if you expect visitors to digest reams of information!
Practicality and Navigation
A visitor to your site needs to be able to see at a glance the area about which he would like further information. The navigation bars and links, therefore, need to be easily visible, with clearly defined titles and not non-specific or ambiguous headings that could lead visitors in the wrong direction.
Loading time is an extremely important factor. Ideally, it should take no more than a couple of clicks to be taken quickly to the appropriate page. Not many of us have time to sit twiddling our thumbs whilst we wait for a particularly sluggish site to load. Many potential customers can be lost purely because they have given up waiting for pages to load. What sort of impression does this convey? Certainly not efficiency and reliability, two main factors most people would choose when seeking to do business with a company.
It goes without saying that grammatical accuracy and correct spelling are paramount when producing copy for your site. Simple advice but, amazingly, not followed by all companies. Some would have the attitude, “Well, as long as everyone knows what we mean, what does it matter?” What matters is that it can convey an impression of sloppiness and lack of attention to detail. Not a very favourable message to be communicating to the world, is it? And when many foreigners speak English better than English-speaking nationals, just think how embarrassing it could be if they pointed out errors in your copy.
You should provide enough information to whet the appetite and to encourage visitors to seek further details by contacting you.
What you write and how you write it very much depends upon your target audience and the type of information that you believe they will be seeking.
Whatever the subject, even if technical, the copy needs to be readable. This means paragraphs should, ideally, be no longer than 8 lines if possible, but preferably no more than 4-6. This makes copy more inviting and easy to read and is more likely to hold the reader’s attention than long, rambling paragraphs. Avoid fancy words or jargon just for the sake of appearing “clever”. Visitors should not have to read a sentence several times before they understand what you are trying to say!
Potential customers want information about your product or service, not proof of your ability to string as many intellectual words together as possible, to form an incomprehensible phrase.
It should be made clear in the first paragraph what your product/service offers without the need to write a lengthy introduction. Prospective clients like to see an immediate tangible benefit to encourage them to keep reading and to feel, “I really need this product.”
Selling always starts at the beginning of the copy, preferably with an attention-grabbing headline that highlights a tangible benefit to prospective clients e.g. “Reduce your working hours and increase your income.”
Alternatively, you could pose an open question (to which there isn’t a simple “yes” or “no”, ultimately giving the customer control) such as, “How can one CD help you achieve your greatest ambitions?”
Appealing Opening Paragraph
This must promise a major benefit to the client, whatever his requirements. Give an example of a specific problem and how your product or service could help to solve this.
These should be exciting and benefit-oriented, since prospective clients often scan through sub-heads first.
Well-Defined List of Features and Benefits
Bullet points are an excellent, easy-to-read way in which to highlight benefits of a product.
Using NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Techniques
If you want to go one step further and stay ahead of the competition with regard to communication, you can employ some NLP techniques within your copy. This means using variations of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic language in order to appeal to a broader audience and to build a rapport with your customers.
There are several good websites that cover this subject and also give details of NLP courses, but a good web design company would already have expertise in this increasingly popular area of communication.
Your site should ideally be as interactive as possible. This can be achieved by incorporating feedback/survey forms, FAQ pages, pictures of your products, guest books and clear instructions as to how visitors can contact your company directly.
What Should You Look For in a Web Design Company?
There are many web design companies out there that promise the earth and use variations on the same words, such as, “customised sites”, “give your company the leading edge”, “increase traffic to your site”, “increase profits”, etc. etc., but fewer who actually deliver what they promise and at a reasonable price.
Some design agencies will boast superb graphic design and technical knowledge, but no marketing, PR or copywriting expertise. An outstanding design will not compensate for a lack of skills in these other areas and visuals alone will not attract custom to your site. Unless of course they are seeking the latest strategic pose that has been dragged up from the archives of a well-known personality. I think you know the type of site to which I’m referring!
Take a look at the web company’s own site as an indication of their aptitude. It’s amazing the number of design agency sites that I have looked at that have been poorly laid out, difficult to navigate and weakly written. If they cannot put together an effective site for themselves, how can they possibly accomplish this for a customer?
Another indicator is obviously to take a look at some of the sites that they have produced for clients and to search out any customer testimonials. There is no better advertisement than word of mouth!
By far, one of the best web design companies I have come across is Global Data, a small, UK based business that offers a totally integrated package of design, technical expertise, Marketing and PR, Business Development knowledge, Copywriting and Communications’ know-how, including NLP and colour psychology. They also offer additional resources on existing projects, such as Programming services for example. Additionally, their unique award-winning solution allows customers to update site content themselves, thereby reducing ongoing maintenance costs.
The staff at Global Data work closely with you to analyse your needs, understand how your business operates, identify and exploit areas of opportunity and implement the most cost-effective system for your business.
Global Data’s complete solution means that you will not have to shop elsewhere for any of the elements involved in implementing a successful site, such as marketing or copywriting, since Global Data employs the skills of professionals in these areas.
For further information, Global Data can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]
Finally, here are some main points to consider:
1. How much do you want to spend on your website?
2. How much do you spend on company brochures?
3. How much do you spend on magazine advertising?
4. How professional does your site need to look?
5. How do you wish your business to be reflected/perceived?
6. What message are you trying to convey?
7. What do you wish to achieve through your site? Would you, for example, like the site to act as a customer care centre, where clients could request service call outs, order and return goods, log complaints etc?
8. Is your business name unique and should you consider purchasing a domain name now?