This was written by Chris Campbell of Lakeshore Branding and I couldn’t agree with him more, except maybe that I would tell you these things….
On October 20, 2009, Chris Campbell wrote:
So you have an idea for a business website and you’ve hired a web designer. It’s a simple enough collaboration. You’re raring to go live. If, however, you wish to encourage people to keep coming back to your site, understand that this takes more than stylish, colorfully designed pages and great Photoshop skills. After all, there are things that a web designer won’t tell you – or can’t tell you – but which you should know anyway. Here are some of them:
1. “Shiny, sparkly, and splendidly bright” doesn’t cut it. It might work as a lyric for a Michael Jackson single (“Gone Too Soon”), but not as an agenda for web design. Out of propriety, or shyness typical of people with artistic temperaments, a web designer might not tell you to keep off the electric neon-colored background, or the blinking rainbow font, or the head copy that scrolls like a snail. Keep off them anyway. You want your website easy for your visitors to read. Don’t give them a headache.
2. Put a “Skip” option on your fancy Flash intro. It’s actually simpler and easier to not have a fancy Flash intro altogether. But in case you decide to have one anyway (it makes sense for some businesses), remember to make the option of skipping it available to your visitors. If your web designer doesn’t tell you this, well – it might be that he just wants more and more people to see his work. It doesn’t matter: put a button so repeat visitors won’t have to sit through the same thing over and over.
3. Say no to popup windows. All right, those ads can bring in a bit of revenue. But make sure they comprise no more than a quarter of your website content. And place them with subtlety. If you want a visitor sign up for your newsletter, buy your e-book, or take the online survey, do it with subtlety. Pop ups are not subtle. Nothing is worse than a popup while reading an article, its easier to click the back button than stay on your site. Very rarely do people bookmark sites with popup ads popping up all the time. (See? Even reading “popup” several times is annoying.)
4. Turn it down; better yet, turn it off. At least give people the chance to do so. I’m talking about the sound that suddenly starts playing when one visits a website. Again, this is a matter of subtlety. Neither your website designer nor you should play DJ and force visitors to listen to audio tracks, be it a business podcast or your choice of background music. If you just have to play audio on your website, place in a prominent area on the webpage the option of muting or pausing it.
5. “Back to top” makes reading a lot easier. Your web designer will probably have learned in design school that reading a page that scrolls horizontally can be irritating. But if you have to have so much content that your page scrolls, make it scroll vertically. And then put a “back on top” option for easier navigation.
6. Don’t ask for TMI, or too much information. Think about it: if you were to visit a website, you’d hate signing up for anything that requires you to enter your residential address, phone number, and birthday, among other personal details. And unless there’s a financial transaction involved, you’d be foolish to give out your credit card information. So build a website that doesn’t ask too much; keep it basic. If you have to use a form with fields that visitors have to fill in, don’t make it mandatory.
7. Highlight your brand and make it easy to contact you. While you may have a shared aesthetic with your designer, it doesn’t automatically mean that he understands your brand fully. Your web designer can’t be expected to double as your strategic consultant. That leaves you in charge of communicating the story of your business through your website, which really is a cost-effective way of establishing your brand. Highlight it. Put a logo, your site name, and your contact information where visitors can see them. And then tell the people what you can offer them.
8. BONUS– Build it and they will come syndrome. Yes the first step to effectively marketing your organization online is through a website, but web designers often are not internet marketing experts. Having a strategy and plan for how you are going to market your business online through email, search engine optimization, paid advertising or maybe even blogging is important to maximizing your investment of your website.