Is There Such a Thing as Optimal Web Design? When talking about design across-the-board, it's harder to define what is the best based on a singular standard, as compared to deciding which is more aesthetically pleasing than the other. After all, like most human creations, there may be no exact definition or standard to define or embody perfect design at any cost, especially given the subjective perspective by which each individual may look upon any object. However, there is such a thing coined by many as optimal web design. Optimal, by virtue of its definition alone, already means the most favorable or desired form of any particular subject. This then translates to what is optimal web design -- which is web design that best suits the tastes of the greater majority, while at the same time working within the feasibility constraints of any undertaking. What then makes web design optimal? Web design is optimal when it seeks to provide maximum utility to users while providing business or operational viability. In this way, the designer is able to best provide for the demand of both the end consumers as well as the people who plan and conceptualize for the purpose of deriving profit. Putting the end users in mind is another means in order to emphasize what's in every web designer's mind -- friendlier usability for each and every user. This means taking into consideration the fact that people visit websites in order to find particular content; therefore, it is imperative that the content must always take the precedence over any other accents and extraneous designs or artwork. The more effective web designers are not afraid to make use of white backgrounds, or generally very clean lines in their website. By limiting the use of unrelated pictures that may even cause loading the page to take longer, and adding in very integral elements like the title and an outline of the contents of the page, it brings attention back to the content over anything else. Pictures, unless completely necessary, should be used sparingly. When it would take longer than usual to load due to the size or the volume of pictures, it is recommended to forewarn users so that they may opt out of viewing pictures and instead proceed to seeking content they need. Moreover, advertisements and their placements, when possible, must be planned so that while they will serve their purpose, they will also in no way cause distraction or distaste to the visitors of the website. Moreover, navigation is made consistent and simple in order to make accessing content as simple and as easy as possible. After all, who's to say if everyone who surfs the Internet have the same capacities to grasp and decipher navigational tactics and the like. Integrate into the design a means through which each and every visitor may have access to basic information about the website and its proponents (usually in the 'About' page), as well as a means of access to the privacy statement of the company. After all, the latter has played a big role in building -- or inversely destroying -- many relationships on the Internet. An additional means in order to have an optimal web design is by using rudimentary conventions in web design -- like making clear buttons, describing links accurately, and displaying links in the conventional blue. In this manner, the website will accommodate even the older users without the same sort of grounding with the use of the computer, and will make sure that users have the least amount of trouble in just trying to access a design. However, there are also particular selling points that will assure marketability and will reflect business viability to its necessary degree. First and foremost, aesthetic design and code design are very much limited by the resources made available by the company. It is also important that the website has the capacity to meld in with the strategies undertaken by the company. The first consideration in the optimal business viability of a website are the limitations experienced and set in order to create it. This includes the limitations on space, the domain address, as well as the terms and conditions that a company would have to sign in order to enlist services. Moreover, optimal web design when it comes to business applications when the website is able to integrate itself to all the collective efforts, like marketing strategies and the like, of any company hoping to gain an edge through the Internet. This means that in the end, while aesthetics play an important role, creating an optimal web design is still one that best accommodates without alienation its users, sponsors, and web design planners. Achieving Better Website Usability Websites are intended to be seen and use by Internet surfers. Not many people realize the wideness of the range of the users of the Internet. A website's usability is one of the key determinants of its success in fulfilling its main goal, whether it is made for information dissemination, business or communication. Usability is all about the relationship between a website and its users. Websites should be seen as tools which will allow its users to do their tasks and help them achieve results. The issue of usability is very pertinent and is treated with much attention today. There have been moves (including legal ones) that aim to push web development towards usability. There are many people who are affected with some kind of disability or impairment which hinders them from fully enjoying the different aspects of life including the use of the Internet. The Internet, with it's continuous development towards the better, has been a great instrument in providing people, especially those with impairments to be able to have avenues for accessing information, communicating and transacting. This is why the issue of website usability is a much talked about issue. Usability is important because it can be the difference between accurately performing a task or not, between enjoying the whole process or being very frustrated. Usability is also important for the developers since it can be one of the key factors in determining the success of a system. It is also important for businesses which thrive in the Internet because a low level of usability will definitely drive the customers away. Most importantly, it is important for people who have impairments because they are the most vulnerable group in terms of accessing the different avenues that the Internet provide. Components of Usability A website's usability is one of the key determinants of a website's popularity. A recent survey revealed that the "ease of use" with regards to websites makes 74% of website visitors want to come back. There are different components of usability. These are: - Efficiency This refers to how easily the users can perform their tasks after they have had a general feeling for the website. - Learning curve Can the structure of the website easily be learned by the users? - Over-all perception Is the website pleasant to the eyes and can easily be accessed by people viewing it? A website that is usable will be able to deliver a lot of benefits not only to the viewers but also to the developers. Here are some of the most important benefits that can be achieved by improving the usability of a website. - user satisfaction - productivity and success - avoidance of long-term costs of development - improved competitiveness of the website Now, we go to the ways on how to the basic concepts that should be kept in mind in developing websites to achieve usability. 1) Give information about the website Many website developers forget the importance of putting some information about the website because they assume that people will be able to figure that themselves. Many people will be giving negative feedback if they don't get what they want (or what they think they want) from the website. A portion of the homepage can be used to relay this information or a separate section "about the site" can be added. 2) Provision of a sitemap Many people are not very familiar on navigating through the different layers of a website and therefore they result to the sitemap to be able to find what they are looking for. Sitemaps provide a skeleton image of the whole site and cramp the pertinent sections into one single page. 3) Loading time If people are to be asked to choose between a good-looking site which takes too much time to load and a basic site which loads quickly, most of the time, the second one will win. The use of large flash programs, graphics and the inappropriate placing of too much information should be avoided to improve the usability of a website. 4) Quality content and readability People visit website to be able to gather information and they will leave immediately if the content are either: of poor quality or has poor readability. Make sure that the contents are written well and are structured to be easily read. These are just some of the ways on how a developer can improve the usability of his website. The development of websites is pushing forward to usability and every single website should take this in mind. Website Interface And Usability Usability study normally precedes the interface and technical design of the website construction process, which involves establishment of complete user profiles, creation of the interface model or sample and extensive user testing. The ideal web interface design demands for organized approach in the designing process. However, to guarantee optimal performance, web usability testing is needed. This domain testing allows inexperienced users to supply data regarding what really is working, as have been expected and then what is not working. Only as soon as the subsequent repairs are constructed and done can a website be considered to achieve optimized user interface. This procedure, though in several cases takes a few repetitions, provide the necessary and important information and evidence for the finished web interface functionality and design, resulting in a website interface that conveys clear messages to visitors, regarding where they actually are, easily predict what is about to happen as well as where buttons will take them and what they need to do to accomplish their goals. The ease and simplicity of all these activity is what defines a usable website. The experience of the user is the main factor to acceptance; this is where interface design comes in the designing process. Whereas product engineers give emphasis on technology, specialists in website usability concentrate on user interface. The significance of a great interface user design is the driving force of a product's acceptance or rejection. If visitors have hard time learning and using, a complicated website, even an excellent product can fail. Interface design must make your product simple to use and understand, so that it results to user acceptance. Here are guidelines for creating website usability: * System status. Your system must always update users regarding what is happening, through correct feedback within a reasonable time. * Simple words. Make sure that your website speaks the language of your visitors, having phrases or words familiar to them. Construct information that appears in a most natural tone and in consistent order. * User freedom and control. Note that internet users at times encounter mistakes in system functions and need an "emergency exit" in order to easily leave that undesirable situation. Support in your system "undo and redo". * Consistency. Visitors must not need to question whether different situations, words or actions represent the similar things. Follow platform principles or guidelines. * Retrievable instructions. Making actions, options and objects visible and easily retrievable. Your visitors do not need to remember certain information from a particular part of a dialogue "to another". * Efficiency and flexibility of use. Use accelerators to speed up interaction between experts and the system. Construct it in such manner you're your system is able to cater both the experienced and inexperienced users. Permit users to customize frequent actions. * Users help. Display error messages in plain and simple language that accurately indicate what the problem is and then propose a solution. User interface and design principles: 1. Structure. Your web design must establish user interface persistently, in useful and meaningful ways that are based on consistent and clear models easily recognizable; put all related and similar things together. 2. Simplicity. Design your website simply, making common tasks easy to do, clearly communicating in the language of the user, and providing shortcuts that meaningfully are related to those longer procedures. 3. Visibility. Design your website that it keeps all materials and options visible without disrupting your visitors with redundant or extraneous information. Never overwhelm your visitors with too much alternatives. 4. Feedback. Your design must keep your visitors well informed of certain actions, changes of condition, errors or certain exceptions which are of interest and relevant to them through concise and clear language. 5. Tolerance. Your design must be tolerant at the same time flexible, reducing misuse and mistakes by permitting "undo and redo". Likewise prevent errors from occurring by accepting different sequences and inputs by translating all logical actions. How your website interface is designed either makes or breaks your business. Although website functionality is a significant factor, the manner by which it imparts that functionality or user performance is likewise as important. A website that is hard to manage will not be used at all. Period. Website Usability Tips Web usability according to research, was proven to be the most significant factor in web design. In fact, it is the influential element that keeps visitors returning to your site. Usually the most overlooked aspect when designing a website, nonetheless in actuality, usability has power over the web. When your visitors can not easily navigate your site, chances are, he will not utilize your library in search for information and just go to other sites. Note that all sites are just a click of the mouse away. Hundreds of thousands of other online stores that offer the same services or products as you are crowding the internet, making online shoppers more selective and choosy when concluding whether to stay and continue their browsing or just leave. The internet offers online shoppers ample freedom and various choices; nobody will ever waste their time on a poorly constructed website. In order to provide web usability, you must involve or think of your prospect clients in designing it. Not like a traditional "brick and mortar" store, a lot of online stores or websites do not permit their visitors to "walk through" inside the site as they can in a traditional store set-up. While this may seem an unworkable task to accomplish, if done correctly, a "user-friendly" approach to web design will easily accomplish this task. When online shopping, all things must to be located where visitors expect them to be at. The practice of flooding a client with abundant item choices all at the same time and making them search for certain items that they need, is most definitely not the concept of web usability. Your visitors must be taken into consideration all throughout your planning as well as designing process. Bear in mind that web usability must never be considered after the construction of a website. Fixing and then testing your website only after construction is useless and will not yield satisfactory results. Your best approach would be to combine a replica of "pervasive usability" unto your web design and construction process. According to surveys, here are top 12 reasons why visitors want to go back to your site: * Easy navigation 74% * Quick download time 65% * Frequently updated information 58% * Content quality 57% * Content quantity 30% * Content organization 40% * Prompt customer service 40% * Website search tools 25% * Layout of homepage 20% * Enjoyment 19% * Website appearance 18% * Inclusion of animated graphics 9% Basing from these reasons, here are usability tips to help you design your website: 1. Become familiar with your visitors based on their preferences. You need a website with personality as well as content quality that accommodates your visitor's taste; you should understand and recognize their color choices, technical skills, etc. 2. Create obvious and simple interface. The more apparent and recognizable the web interface is, then your visitors never have to undergo frustration in guessing how your site really works, and instead on concentrating on the interface, they should be concentrating on your site's content. 3. Website readability. Create "easy to read" paragraph, not using small text or font size. 4. Quick loading. You need a fast downloadable page as visitors hate to wait. 5. Avoid hidden navigation, as your visitors need to know where and what to click in order to go someplace. 6. Get visitor feedbacks so you will know what is working and what does not. Learn from your prospects. 7. Investigate on website visitor performance. Determine how long it takes to perform a certain task? It should not take too long, the faster the better. If not, work on your user interaction so to improve performance. 8. Provide a help section. If your website visitor does make a certain mistake, then they truly will appreciate it if you provide ways to assist them. "404 page" is great for directing "spiders" to crawl unto your webpage. Testing for usability Testing for usability is not complicated and very inexpensive to carry out. The easiest answer is to design a simple sequence of undertakings for web users to carry out trials. Invite people or friends to your workplace, then request them to navigate your website, watching and observing while they surf. Do not wait when your website is done before you test it; test it now. The work can be simple like finding out a product's information or finding out how a certain firm can be contacted or one can order a product and finding shipping policies information. After testing, fix any problem and test it again. Continue testing and refining web usability of your website until such time that there are no problems found, that the experience is efficient and pleasant. Remember that website usability is concerned to not just the appearance of a site, but more importantly how your site performs and particularly, it gives emphasis on the experience of your visitors. When Web Design Gets Annoying! The Internet is home to various artists, web artists, and designers both professional and amateur. It can afford to provide individuals with opportunities to freely explore their artistic capabilities and publish content to a borderless audience. However, unluckily, alongside this freedom of expression afforded to everyone is the capacity to offend sensibilities. Some website provide great utility and aesthetic pleasure -- others are bound to get annoying. There are ways and means in order to avoid getting annoying, and its best to start by knowing when web design of a website does get annoying. Using colors that just do not work Colors in good and sensible does are a good means in order to attract attention and communicate ideas and emotions to an audience. They can help add interest to a dull site full of text, and even introduce and maintain a certain mood (as in scary websites using black as a background). However, there is a fine line between too much and just about right. What gets annoying when it comes to colors is when readability is compromised, and combinations are too loud for comfort. When readability is compromised, it can pose great discomfort to the site's visitors when they try to decipher the text that they want to have access to. Using too many colors and colors that do not complement each other tend to make the website look goofy and awkward, and can make the website lose whatever credibility it can possibly gain. Too many clicks to get to the end of the road At the end of the day, people who visit websites do so in order to access information and content in a website. Some websites tend to re-route visitors through too many clicks before they get to the content they want to get to assuming that the content is indeed somewhere in the multiple pages they are made to access. Obviously, that gets annoying. Rule of thumb says that a maximum of three clicks (but preferably less) should be enough in order for someone surfing a site to get to the information they want to get to. Excessive graphics that take too long to load Graphics and pictures, when relevant and are the primary content meant for the website, are a welcome part of a website. However, when they just serve the purpose of aesthetic enhancement, graphics and pictures that take too long to load -- and inevitably, slow the process of accessing primary content -- become a major reason for discontent and displeasure among visitors. It is also helpful to note that not all visitors of the website are equipped with optimal download or Internet surfing speeds; excessive graphics that are too large and thus, take too long to load are not only unwelcome but also a great inconvenience to a great number of people. Navigation that's over-the-top and difficult to follow Overcomplicating the navigation of the website can greatly hamper the efficacy of the website to communicate its content, and can hurt the accessibility of many pages to its visitors. At any point during their visit to a site, it is important to assure that the visitors have some way in order to trace back their steps and return to content they previously accessed, as well as carry on with accessing other content. For simplicity's sake, many websites solve this problem by having a constant button present on all pages for visitors to return to their main menu page, or their cover page. Fonts that simply do not work Depending on the browser and fonts installed by the users on their computers, extremely decorative and highly uncommon fonts may not be displayed the way the web designer intended them to appear -- and may oftentimes even compromise the readability of the text per se. In order to avoid this from happening, many web designers opt to stay within the bounds of major font families (Helvetica, verdana, and the like). That way, they are assured that most (if not all) of their visitors will be viewing the site as designed, and thus have greater control of the way the page will be displayed in the end. There is never a 'perfect' template for design as it is open to the subjectivity and artistic limitations of designers. However, understanding the behavior of site visitors can only help make shape design innovation and utility move towards greater heights. Website Design That Can Improve Its Usability Internet users encounter a website's usability before they even have decided to use it and more so before they make up their minds on probable purchases. A fact is, the World Wide Web is the supreme setting for empowerment, where the one who is clicking the mouse controls everything. Search engine marketing is important as generally visitors utilize search engines in order to discover your website. However once they reach your site, they should be able to use your site with ease and understand its content. Research shows that of 43 million internet websites, only 42 percent are found to be usable. Evidently, a major measure of website success is its effectiveness in converting leads into buyers. However, recent studies show that 50 percent of website sales are wasted due to the fact that visitors can not locate the content that they need; this leads to reduced web productivity, increased visitor frustration, wasted visitor time as well as loss of visitor's repeat visits then loss of website money. Studies done by usability experts estimates that by improving your visitors' web encounter, it increases your buyers by about 40 percent and also increases overall amount of orders by 10 percent. A fact is, internet users do not like to wait, more so learning how to go about using a hard to navigate home page. Individuals need to easily understand how a certain website functions immediately after they have scanned the page. Here are guidelines to improve your website's usability: Simple and clear web navigation design * It must be situated in the exact same location on each page and in exact same format, so that your visitors will not get frustrated and confused if links disappear and appear unpredictably. * Use suitable text in your links. Your visitors must know where links will take them, through reading the text provided in your link. * Employ the use of CSS to give emphasis on text links. * Include always text links. Keep in mind that each page must have "text links" which links to all important parts of the website. * Include a "site logo" linking to your home page. Generally site logos are located at the topmost "left-hand" corner of the page, where most visitors have the tendency to go even before searching for the homepage link which usually is located in your navigation system. * Place a website search box to help your visitors locate quickly the information that they need. Have a simple, authentic and clear content. An attractive web design no doubt attracts visitors yet good content is what keeps your visitors on your site and inspires them to visit again. * When you write your content, while it is important to think of search engines and keywords, also think of your visitors and present the content in a manner that is easily understandable and to solve their problems. * Create an attractive heading and each paragraph should offer appealing statements all the time. * Create a page content that is easy to scan and emphasize your most important points with colors, bold letters or header tags. Support your brand A great brand strengthens your visitors' impression or idea of your website. A site that is branded strongly imprints in your visitors mind your products each time they go "shopping". * Keep typefaces and colors consistent. Pick fonts and colors carefully and consistently use them throughout the website. * Keep your page layout constant. Employ the use of a "website template" in order to carry out a consistent page structure. * Make a helpful custom page error that can help visitors should they click on "a broken link" or enter an incorrect URL. Provide visitor feedback Forms are essential to your ecommerce site's success, as without it, you can not have your shopping cart. And any site generally needs a form for visitor feedback. * Keep them short and easily accessible, clearly noting what is required in order to submit it successfully. * Supply your complete contact details including your fax number, business telephone number, postal address and your email address. Test your website prior to launching * Test to determine if your website loads successfully in all "browsers". * Test all your links and be sure that they are working properly. * Look for and be sure that your website is free from errors. * Search for grammatical errors and misspelled words and correct them if any. * Test your website load times. Web usability puts designing and planning primarily for your website visitors your top priority. Website that measure up to the expectations of its visitors will have comfortable visitors that will visit your site again and again and recommend it to friends. Achieving Website Usability Through the Use of Frames The issue of website usability has garnered much attention today. In fact, there have been laws and legal moves against website developers who wouldn't take into consideration the wide range of people who will be viewing their websites. The issue of usability has been founded on the context that there are a lot of people who are disabled or impaired in some way. In America alone, there are 1 out of 5 people who are disabled in one way or another. The Internet has provided us with ways to communicate, interact, exchange information and do business. It is a pertinent tool in providing much needed avenues for accessing these things especially for people who are disabled. This is why usability has been a pressing issue in terms of website development. Frames and website usability One of the ways which can increase the usability of a website is the proper use of frames. Frames basically segment the browser into different portion and each portion is independent from the others. There are two major schools of thought when it comes to the use of frames: one that says frames should not be used and one that says that there are advantages to using frames in website development. This article tries to give guidance on the use of frames in website development. The ultimate aim of website development is to make it easier for more people to use the website, whether with the use of frames or without them. Why not use frames? There are a lot of negative thoughts when it comes to the use of frames in websites. Here are some of them: Printing There have been much complaints about printing web pages that are framed. Internet browsers seem to select the frame to be sent to the printer randomly. The user cannot usually print the frame that he wants because the computer selects the frame which is the focal point of the webpage. Downloading Many newbies in the field of website development employs frames to be able to cut the downloading time of their websites. This can only be achieved if the right ways of presenting the content are achieved. Other contents such as style sheets, images and scripts are recommended to be cached. Linking Using frames which contains third-party information can raise issues of infringement of copyrights and trademarks. Bookmarks Visitors usually cannot mark the particular frame that he wants when using framed websites. The basic structure of frames deviates from the normal structure of unification of the "website." This can cause problems in bookmarking. Search engines Search engines encounter problems when indexing framed sites. This is a result of the frames paradox. The "spiders" of the search engines are drawn to what developers refer to as black hole pages. Over-all usability Surfers may become confused with the structuring of a website which uses frames. The provision of multiple scrollbars will definitely add to the problem. If a designer hides the scrollbars, the contents of the website may become inaccessible. Advantages in Using Frames There are also some key advantages in using frames. Many people are still lured to use frames in their websites and listed below are some of the explanations why they are inclined to do so: Ease in designing One of the key features of the usage of frames in websites is that it makes the job easier for the developer. When a developer employs frames, he is relieved of the task of putting the logos and navigation menu on every single page that he will develop. Frames can contain these information and need not to be copied every time a user clicks another page of the site. Flexibility Frames provide a surfer several mini-browsers which he can view all at the same time. This allows for more flexibility in terms of getting more work done or getting more information for a single viewing of the webpage. Quicker downloads With the use of frames, different site contents need not be downloaded every time a click is made. This makes downloading much easier because contents that should be re-downloaded need not be downloaded because they are contained in a different frame. These are just some of the features and perceived disadvantages of the use of frames. They can be used as long as the developer knows how to fully maximize the potential of frames without making them a problem for the surfers. Information on Websites: Moving Around, Saying a Lot, and Remembering More Arranging information in a website is hardly different from laying out furniture in a house. As much as you would group different kinds of furniture together in certain rooms, so would you group different kinds of information in certain pages. If you're just starting out in building your own website, then this is a useful metaphor for you when it comes to positioning information effectively in your website and avoiding a confusing, unorganized mess. Grouping information together Beds, dressers and closets belong in a bedroom; kitchen appliances, cupboards and pantry shelves belong in the kitchen -- you get the idea, right? The idea is to categorize information. You don't want to be hopping from one page to another and back again to get a coherent set of information. You'd want them all conveniently contained in one page. So for example, if you sell items on your website, group these into one page. (Of course if you have a lot of items to sell, categorize them into the different kinds of products as well). If you maintain a website about your family or an association you're part of, group pertinent information together. It probably won't be helpful if you lump the family tree with the photo albums and the contact information all in one single page. That'd make for one very cluttered site. Typical websites have major headings or categories, which are: - Home (also called index) page - About Me / Us page - Resources page - Contact page A Home page should contain information that answers the question "What is this website about?" It should also display the other categories so a visitor can easily access them. The About Me / Us page holds information about the person or organization who owns the website. Some websites don't have these, but it adds to reliability and attachment to the site when visitors are allowed information that lets them know more about the site's owner. The Resources page holds useful and practical information for the visitor. Some resource pages also contain trivia and games, which many visitors enjoy. The resources page is usually the page that gets updated the most as resources are added or renewed. Updates on this page is usually the main reason a visitor comes back to surf the site again. A contact page is usually the last page to be viewed by visitor when accessing a site. It is usually done only when the visitor wishes to directly communicate with the website's administrator and / or owner. While the information for this could have been included in the About Us page, a Contact page makes this getting information easier for the visitor. And ease in accessing information is an important factor in good website design. Laying Them All Out Now that you've got your categories and the information ready, now is the time to lay the information out on each page. First of all, it is highly recommended that you maintain a uniform layout for all your website's major pages. This is to help the visitor orient himself quickly to your site navigate easily. For example, if you locate the major headings of your website at the top area of your Home page, it is best that you do the same for all the rest of the pages. Getting a different layout for each page tends to confuse the visitor. Hot Spots, Weak Spots With a uniform layout, now it's time to begin prioritizing information. As it is with a room, a web page has choice focal points and weak spots. You should identify these areas on your web pages and lay out the information accordingly in degrees of priority. Even with animation and graphics, the main medium of the Internet is still text. Since this is so, applying the principles of reading when laying out information on your website will make it so that viewing each page is easy and effective. The English language is written (and therefore, also read) from left to right, top to bottom. The website visitor will skim the pages in this general pattern. So the information you consider the most important should ideally be located at the top left area of your web page. Of course, the information may not necessarily be text as it could very well be a picture. But rest assured, what will be located in the top left will get the first and therefore, freshest attention from the visitor. It would do well to present your core message in this area. Other information follows as the progression from left to right, top to bottom continues. However, despite this pattern, a visitor is capable to digressing from such a pattern. In fact, next to the top left area, a visitor tends to notice the left and right margins of a page. Usually, links to other pages are located in the left side of the page, while pictures or advertisements are located at the right. The center can either become the weakest or strongest area of a page, depending on how the other elements are laid out. It becomes weak when the body is uniform all throughout (as one continuous block of text or pictures). However, if the body is strategically broken up, the center of the page becomes a prime focal point and therefore may rank as the most important area next to, if not higher than, the top left area of a web page. While it is possible to have an endless length for a web page, it is highly discouraged. It is much preferred to have several short pages that are concise with easily seen information, rather than to have a few long ones that are crammed with text and pictures. As you layout the information you wish to share on your website, keep in mind convenience and practicality as would in laying out tables and chairs in a room. You will soon find that you have come up with a website that is not only informative, but memorable as well, because of how well you laid it out. Build Customer Relationships When Building Your Website E-commerce, or doing business through the Internet is certainly picking up. This may primarily be because of the ease and convenience of shopping online, not to mention the savings from a significantly lower overhead compared to brick-and-mortar stores. However, regardless of the benefits of e-commerce, why is it that traditional brick-and-mortar stores are still around and seem to grow instead of decline? One major reason could be because these kinds of stores still represent and hold a significantly higher degree of security to the consumer as compared to a website. The sense of permanence, familiarity and reliability that a physical location holds is what brings customers back to the store. While online businesses cannot compete with the physical assurance brick-and-mortars have, web-based enterprises can still develop a degree of familiarity with their customers that fosters a relationship of trust and reliability. And majority of this is built around the design of a website. The One Unchanging Principle: Think Like Your Customer Whether your business has a physical or virtual location, one principle in building relationships ith your customers remains -- and this is to think like them. The more successful businesses have prospered because they have made their customers' mindset their own. For traditional businesses, it meant everything from convenienctly locating goods to offering ready and credible assistance. Successful websites should follow suit. With the lack of tangible contact, a potential customer could have little basis for forming a relationship with an online store. And if building customer loyalty is your goal, then suitable substitutes must be found. Looks and feels familiar First impressions last. As soon as a visitor clicks on a link to your site, he expects to see something that he will like, and therefore trust. Take an online garden supply store for an example. A cut and dry layout of columns and rows, with little to no pictures won't give the visitor the impression he has accessed a gardening store. Not a lot of hits would result, much less in sales. However, if that same site was built to look like a garden shed, for example, the customer might feel more at home with shopping there because the look of the site used a familiar concept with the customer and incorporated it into the over-all look and feel of the website. Being able to capture and retain your visitor's attention is the first step in converting a visit into a sale and eventually working towards a strong business relationship. Ready Assistance and Assurance A customer appreciates a ready source of help and information when he or she is shopping. So again, thinking like a customer, find ways where a visitor can access answers to common questions about your products. This could be in the form of a prominent FAQ page or a concise product description alongside a picture. It helps to strategically locate short but strong testimonials from satisfied customers among your products so visitors can see right away the reliability of the service and goods you provide. Safe and Secure While familiarity and assurances of reliable service is great in building customer relationship and loyalty, the bedrock of any relationship is trust. So place a good deal of emphasis on this. Almost all business and financial transactions over the Internet are now performed over a 128-bit encryption system. So settle for nothing less than this. It will also help to prominently display this information on your payment and sales confirmation page to assure your customers this measure of security. Build on the Relationship The beginnings of a lasting relationship start from a good first impression. Hopefully, the look of the website has drawn your visitor in comfortably enough to make them want to purchase something from you for the first time. Once they have done so, it is still well within your control to assure that that first transaction will lead to many more. You can do this through a number of ways, the most common of which is to thank the customer for purchasing from you and to assure them of your products' warranties (if any apply). Offer your customers useful tips and information on a resource page so they can visit you again, even if to purchase is not the primary intention. Most online transactions require an email address to be submitted so invite the customer to subscribe to your e-newsletter (if you have one). You may offer perks and / or discounts if they do subscribe. However, to avoid being labeled as spam, make sure the material is clearly solicited for and is sent in timely manner. About the best indicator of loyalty is when your customer sees you as an expert in your line of business. Aim to be this through your website and your customers will begin to see you as more than just a supplier, but a trusted consultant. By taking the necessary steps with your website in cultivating familiarity and trust with your customers, results will be reflected not only in your sales but with your customer relationships as well.
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