By Cecilia Camps on May 5, 2011
We all know looks matter.
Which would you rather do business with: an online store that looks cheap and outdated – and possibly unreliable - or a clean, attractive site that loads fast and displays all the information you need at a glance? Yes, I thought so.
Today, your business success depends almost as much on your website as on the actual value you deliver to customers. You can have the greatest product or service out there, but if your website loads slowly, has broken images, is difficult to navigate – or just plain ugly – people will be turned off before they find out what you have to offer.
It’s as if you set up a store and staffed it with sloppily groomed employees dressed in sweatpants and flip-flops. A well-designed website is like an employee who’s responsible, professionally dressed and ready to greet and help every customer who walks through the door.
How To Be a Well Designed Website
- Be upfront. Display vital content at the top of your page, so visitors don’t have to scroll down. It is important to catch their attention within the first five seconds. If people don’t find your site interesting, there are plenty of other websites they can visit.
- Keep it personal. Is your business online-based? Include tools that make the shopping experience personal and easier for your customers, following the example of online retail giants like eBay, Amazon, and Zappos. These offer shopping suggestions based on your browsing history and previously purchased items. Also keep things clear and straightforward by including item prices and shipping rates visibly.
- Be easy on the eyes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that several select font types work best on most web browsers. These fonts also facilitate quick reading. Coding Horror offers great examples of easy-to-read fonts.
- Enable word of mouth. Reviews and ratings are the Web’s word of mouth. Online retailers like Amazon and eBay have grown partly because they enable people to rank sellers and review products. Research shows that most people believe online reviews written by other consumers. Make it easy for people to leave reviews, comments or testimonials on your site, and you’ll engender more trust in new visitors, and encourage them to become customers.
- Let form follow function. You may have a beautifully designed home page, but it won’t do any good unless it is user friendly. Don’t let the design get in the way of your product or your message. Whether you are using a DIY template or hire a professional designer, keep testing the pages you want your visitors to use, and test the flow from page to page, to make sure it’s easy for people to do what you want them to do. Keep your site pretty, but simple.
- Be social. Almost everyone is communicating through social networks, and so should you. Include buttons for the main social and bookmarking sites on your website. Your customers can follow you – and importantly, recommend you to their friends – via Facebook, Twitter, and even blogs. You can also use the social platforms to announce sales and special offers, and share news about your business.
All of these tips can make a big difference in your Web presence and your income. A website is an effective way to market your small business, so make sure it’s looking its best and working hard for you.