All the latest bells and whistles

Does your website need them?

As a website design studio, we often discuss particular aspects of website design with our clients, or are asked to review their existing websites.

One thing we tell them is that there is more to building a website than just putting pictures and text on their pages. Don't get me wrong — our clients are usually very knowledgeable or even expert in their specialized fields.

But web design and marketing are also specialized fields, and the building of an effective website is usually something of a collaboration — aesthetic and enjoyable — between client and web designer.

Bells and whistles and Internet marketing

For most companies, a website serves the purpose of presenting their services or products — either for offline sales or to conduct business transactions online at the website (e-commerce).

Either way, the website is an advertisement.

There are a lot of neat effects out there on the Web. Flashing or animated pictures, text that scrolls along the status bar, "drop-down" boxes containing links to other pages, and other effects can contribute to your website's effect upon your visitors.

Web site design and history

There is also the matter of what is current in web design. Websites can become dated. Back in the "old days," the only background available was a default grey and the only visual effects available were different type sizes and an outline format.

The ability to use pictures ("graphics") opened up a whole new world. Websites suddenly sported vivid, luminous backgrounds and graphics with beveled-edges and shadows. These effects can be beautifully and tastefully done, and can be put to good use in graphics design and other art-related websites.

But purple, undulating satin-sheet background might not create the effect you wish for your accountancy firm's website.

Blinking Text
(Netscape only) LARGE TEXT

Similarly, blinking or animated pictures and text may be a little too eye-catching, making it difficult for your viewers to concentrate on your text.

Truthfully, tastes also change on the 'Net, and fast, and what was a great effect a year ago may look hopelessly dated today. It all depends!

The browser problem

The existence of different brands of browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer as well as text-only(!) browsers and older versions of these browsers — creates another problem. Not all effects can be seen in every browser.

This cross-browser compatibility problem — the problem of making a website look the same in all current or fairly-current browsers — can usually be handled, but at the cost of download time and your promotional dollar. And not everyone has a cable modem. So judgments must be made in this regard.

If you are certain that your customers are all using Internet Explorer 5 on a very fast Internet connection, then your choices are wider than if, for instance, you are marketing to the world at large.

What does your website need?

Determining what your website needs is where marketing comes into play. The real questions are:

  • what are you offering?
  • what do your customers need?
  • what do you want them to do at your website?

What are you offering? Your potential customers will want to know about your services and products — and, if you are not a nationally or internationally known company, about you. Pictures help tremendously to balance out the text and lend an aesthetic quality to the overall website design. Do you have a hotel? Let's see it and the surrounding area!

What do your customers need?
What do you want them to do at your website?
The question "what do your customers need" is tempered only by what you are trying to achieve with your website.

Of course, you want to give your customers what they need ... pictures and prices of your products? Directions to your store? Online ordering? Make it simple and easy for them.

However, this is where sales comes into the picture. If you are using the website to gain sales leads, you want potential customers to call you. This is a different proposition than offering goods for sale online.

Certainly a website should look professional, with quality graphics to both decorate the pages and illustrate your point. Attention should be paid to download time, depending on who your customers are.

But never forget one thing. The "neat" effects of a website — how your message is delivered — must contribute to rather than distract from your marketing message and what your customers need. What bells and whistles might be needed should be dependent on this alone.

Diane Vigil founded DianeV Web Design Studio, has served as a consultant to numerous companies, as a moderator and administrator of the JimWorld SearchEngineForums and Cre8asiteforums, on the Site-Report Experts Panel — and has designed and built numerous websites since 1997.

DianeV Web Design Studio

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