Effective Websites

A few words about effective web design

In all this discussion about websites, a few words need to be said about what constitutes effective web design.

First, most people have certain goals in mind for their websites. Period.

If these goals are not met, they may not know why.

Let's address creating a website. Without knowledge of what it takes to create an effective website, it's easy to get engrossed in how it looks or some tiny feature that doesn't take into consideration the overall picture.

It's about marketing
The truth is that effective websites are not about putting up a few pages of text and pictures and hoping. Effective web design is really about marketing.

There are quite a few elements to this, but the basics are that a website has to look professional, be designed to sell -- and, furthermore, it must be built from the ground up to be search engine friendly so that it attracts visitors. Otherwise, one may end up with a (hopefully) good-looking website that doesn't sell and or get many visitors.

Whether you are selling online or simply appealing to people to contact you, your website needs to:

  • look professional
  • represent your company well
  • be targeted to your customers
  • contain the information it needs to contain
  • be set up logically so that information is findable
  • be unconfusing and easy to get around
  • with images and text created not just to present or fill space, but to sell
  • with forms, shopping carts, databases -- whatever's needed
  • download fast
  • built to be search-engine friendly
  • with a promotion package for visibility and exposure

That's: website design, marketing, search engines.

Do I need all that?

That would be up to you. However, commerce is commerce. You need to get attention and convince prospective customers that yours is the company to buy from, hire, whatever. You may as well ask which elements you are willing to forego: good ad copy? an unconfusing website? good design? search engine traffic?

Price isn't everything — or is it?

Not really. I would say that it's more important to find a web designer who can produce what is needed to make your website effective. Or learn to do it yourself.

Websites -- even websites that merely present information — are a combination of advertising, full-scale sales presentation and branding (getting people to know and recognize your name or "brand"), and possibly online store.

In offline marketing, you can get a Yellow Pages ad (2" x 2") for a few hundred dollars. But that's just a small ad, possibly with a phrase or two included. It can't say much, is printed in few colors (red/yellow/black?), and certainly can't take credit card transactions for you, much less while your store is closed.

But a website gives you plenty of room to talk to your customers. It can contain loads of gloriously full-color pages of product information, tutorials, support pages, a history of your company — and even a shopping cart which allows people to order online.

There's no denying that cost will follow suit. However, even in the case of a brochure-type website for your offline store or home business, you'll also find people doing their research on the Web -- and they likely want a little more than a few phrases ... another good reason to have a website.

In the short or long run, your website will likely pay back its costs by getting the word out there for you -- or outright sales -- to more potential customers that you could easily contact for the same amount of money, on a 24/7 basis, and without tying up valuable sales staff.

Okay, so maybe you've run across someone selling "websites" for $200. I'm not sure what that entails but, well, there's got to be a limit to what you get for $200.

Truthfully, it takes a good deal of time, effort, knowledge and experience to build an effective website. But what do you get for your money? Round-the-clock promotion, lead generation and possibly sales. What else can give you that?

A word about search engines

Again, websites must be built to attract search engine traffic. However, another caveat -- some folks think this means endlessly repeating words, or having extremely tiny text or text in the same color as the background. Well, these "tricks" worked several years ago. Today, they may get the entire website banned. (Be careful too of "guaranteed" top search engine listings.)

And about those "metatags"
Metatags are text built into web pages from which the search engines take the text for their listings; when you see listings for "Joe's Barber Shop" at a search engine, likely this data was taken from the metatags.

Years ago, metatags had very much to do with how high a page ranked in search engines. Today, simply throwing metatags into badly designed pages (from a search engine standpoint) will not magically raise their rankings.

Solution? Get it right the first time.

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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