How should your website look?

The answer *might* depend on ... who's designing it.

Cutting-edge technology. Stunning graphics. E-commerce. All the latest "bells and whistles." These are the buzzwords of web design.

According to the media, you need a whiz-bang website for effective e-commerce — business on the Web. You might even have fallen in love with them yourself. So let's address the visuals.

Who's looking?

Depending upon whom you talk to, opinions will vary widely as to what is necessary for an effective website.

  • Graphics designers
    may design gorgeous pages heavily laden with graphics ... which slow your pages to a crawl. Don't forget that most of the planet is still on dial-up Internet connections. Or that search engines don't read pictures ... even pictures with words in them.
  • Website designers
    may wow you with cutting-edge bells and whistles, flashing this and that. But all browsers are not the same, and you may find yourself paying for separate "fixes" for each type of browser on the planet. Meanwhile, your website visitors wonder what all this whiz-bang stuff is doing on your woolen yarn website that they're trying to view through their WebTV program.
  • Web developers
    Web developers are generally programmers who can build websites via databases and the like. While these can be more expensive than regular websites, let's not forget that programmers often are more concerned with functionality than appearance. That's what they do.
  • Search engine specialists
    These guys may (or may not) have the latest techniques for ranking in each search engine, but now your pages read strangely and are visually ... unappealing.
  • Your neighbor's son
    unless you want a "cool" website, let's just say that you may be in for quite a shock ... and you'll have to determine if he knows anything about marketing.

A Matter of Logic ... and Marketing

Determining a proper "look" for a website is about marketing and sales.

Let's say your website designer is pressuring you into a neon color scheme — but your company is a financial institution. Our your Flash designer championed an intro page that takes three minutes to download and displays your logo spinning off into Never-Neverland, followed by marketing babble fading in and out s-l-o-w-l-y that he guaranteed was going to wow everyone in sight. Meanwhile, people are leaving your website in droves, and you wonder what's wrong, or decide that the Web doesn't work.


The above simply illustrate incomplete approaches to web design; while it's fine to represent yourself well, what's left out is the marketing angle. In effect, what's left out is your target audience. People. You're selling to people.

How should your website look?

Simply put, unless we're talking about a personal website or something of that nature, your website should be designed so that your potential customers can identify with it. This is a basic sales point, and means a look consistent with what your customers — and potential customers — expect, a look that seems "right" to them.

This doesn't mean it must be dull or look like everyone else's website. It just means it must be within the reality of your potential customers.

Know your audience! But, of course, that's a subject for another newsletter ...

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.

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