When it comes to designing a website in the Bahamas (or anywhere for that matter), there are three main ingredients to a successful website:
- An aesthetically pleasing layout
- Proper structure of information
These ingredients do not exist in a vacuum, they each depend on each other and work with each other to produce a successful website. Just like baking a cake, if one of these crucial ingredients is missing, then the cake is ruined.
However, this article is going to focus primarily on the first point. That of having an aesthetically pleasing layout.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
You may have heard the above phrase many times before. However, when you visit a website for the first time, that’s exactly what you are doing. The design and the appeal of a website is the very first thing you see and notice upon arriving. The colors, the layout, the images and the logo, all play a crucial part in how a person perceives your business.
Read that last line again. Your website is an online representation of your business. The design and layout of your website will influence how a person perceives your business. That perception is in directly proportional to the amount of trust they have for your business. When it comes to your website, first time visitors are judging the book by its cover.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when surfing the web, a potential customer may have several windows or tabs open at the same time. These other windows and tabs undoubtedly are your competitors websites. If their sites are more aesthetically pleasing than yours, you can rest assured that your potential client will almost always opt to look through the competitors website first.
Today, anybody can design a website but not everybody can do it well. A website designed by your 12 year old nephew will look exactly like it was designed by a 12 year old and will not win you any customers. When looking at your website, look at your competitors or other similar websites and ask yourself “Is this a website that belongs to a business that I’d want to do business with?”
With that said, here are some design flaws to avoid when developing your website:
- Don’t use a Flash intro or other gateway page that requires the user to go through an additional step before arriving to your website. If a user has to click an “Enter Here” button, you’re already losing the battle
- Make sure that your website’s width is not working against you. At the time of this writing, most websites are being designed at a width of 960 pixels wide. Anything smaller will leave too much empty space in the browser window of most users. Anything bigger will require most users to scroll horizontally which would make your website wreak of amateur design.
- Don’t go overboard with the graphics. Keep it simple. You don’t need tons of fancy graphics. Your main goal should be to go for a clean uncluttered design that helps your visitors get the information they want as fast as they can. Avoid animated backgrounds, flaming text or anything else that you’ve decided to use simply because you think it may be “cool”.
- Make sure your navigation is simple to use. Don’t over-use graphics in the navigation bar. Make sure the navigation is self-explanatory and easy to use.
- Avoid using frames as much as possible. Frames are a technology that web developers use to pull one web page into a predefined area on an existing web page. I know it sounds a bit complicated so here’s an example that will clear it all up:http://242studios.com/framesExample.htmlIt’s a bit over the top but it serves our needs. Sometimes web developers will put the navigation of the website in a frame and have the content load in another. This is a terrible idea. Frames do not behave well on mobile devices such as Blackberry’s and iPads. Also, if a user tries to bookmark a page that uses frames, more often than not, they end up bookmarking just one of the frames. It’ll be very confusing for a user who tries to revisit your website only to find out that they are coming to a page that only contains your navigation bar.
- Center your website in the page. There is no reason for your website to be aligned to the left of the page. If a user has a screen resolution higher than 1024 x 768, there is going to be extra white space on the page. You want that white space to be evenly distributed on either side of your main layout.
- Use a simple readable font for the main text of your website. 9 times out of 10, I use Arial as the font for the body copy of the website. Arial is very easy to read on a screen.
- Be mindful of color schemes that reduce readability. Off-black text on a white/cream background is without a doubt the best color combination for your text. Stray too far from that and you’re playing with fire.
- Make sure the main text on your website is actually text and NOT an image. Graphic designers are not web designers. Because of this, there are tons of graphic designers that still use non-industry standard software when developing a website. Most of the time, this software generates websites that are merely images. The easiest way to determine whether your text is an image is to try to select it. If you can’t select the text, it’s an image and not text. If all of your text is actually images, your website will take longer to load and it will not perform well in searches.
I could go on and on about design flaws but it’s up to you to use your common sense to avoid problems. The best thing to do aside from hiring a great web developer (hint hint) is to look at the websites used by big name companies and see what they’re doing. These guys have huge marketing budgets and they’ve spend a great deal of time and money determining what works.
Customers will normally do business with people they know, like and trust. Your design is what will help them like and trust you. Try your hardest to make your website convey a professional and trustable appearance.
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