What every website needs to look professional

Under construction sign

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and SuperTrooper

The Internet is an amazing resource that allows us to filter through massive amounts of information in seconds. Unfortunately, with this ease of use, our attention spans have quickly diminished making us more quickly to judge what we’re viewing.  While we process through search results and pages, our subconscious asks two basic questions of any site we see:

“Is this what I’m looking for” and then, “Can I trust this person/company”

Over the years, a sort of “standard” of site design has developed. While you should cultivate your own style, you don’t want to deviate too much from certain standards. A unique website may be eye-catching, but it won’t do you much good if your customers don’t find you credible. In order to reach your customers, you need to give them what they’re looking for and make them feel comfortable enough to open their wallet.

Here are some basic standards of web design that have developed over the years:

1) Logos are generally in the upper left hand corner. When clicked, the logo will return you to the home page.

2) Navigation links are on the left side of the page, or across the top.

3) Underlined words should link to another page. Otherwise you’ll confuse people. (You clicked…didn’t you?)

4) Text in different colors should be clickable. Same as reason above.

5) Color is used to highlight the pages, not as a main focus. Look at Google, or Amazon.com: Both have white backgrounds that let color accent the page, not dominate it.

6) Always have a contact page with your name, address, email, and phone, if you don’t mind them calling you. (A toll-free number is always best, and relatively cheap…if you have support staff to handle it.) And, if you don’t want your email getting spread around the internet, create a form for people to contact you instead of typing out your email address.

7) Have your contact information on every page, or, at the very least, a link on every page to your “contact” page.

8) Frames do NOT look professional. Come on folks, this is not the 1990’s!

9) Have an “about us” page: mission, vision, and values. People, founders, pictures, photos of buildings, employees, etc. Highlight your experience or expertise, relevant degrees, accreditation, etc.

10) If you have products or services, have testimonials and reviews from customers and strive to provide good customer service. For anything negative, address the issue promptly and professionally.

11) DON’T WRITE IN CAPS…SERIOUSLY. JUST DON’T.

12) State your privacy policy if you’re collecting information.

13) Avoid errors. Your 6th grade English teacher was right: Spelling does count!

13) Determine how fast your site loads. We lose patience after 5 seconds. You can see how fast your site loads at Loadimpact, or Pingdom. They’ll show you what is slowing your site down so you can correct it.

14) Content: you NEED to have some sort of content. People are looking for information, images, or videos. Providing good content is the cornerstone to any website.

15) Links that navigate away from your site should open in a new window. Otherwise you’re just sending your customers away, and they might forget how they found you in the first place!

16) Determine your most valued response: what do you want your customers to do? Create a page that highlights that action. If everything looks the same, people will get bored and leave. Look at Hooked on Phonetics, it’s pretty clear what they want you to do.

17) Develop pages for scanning–not reading! People scan sites to determine if it’s what they want, and remember, you only have 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention!

18) Think about visual hiearchy…newspapers…headlines. You determine the most important story. Without hierarchy, you’d just have noise and confusion. Examples of good hierarchy are Nordstrom, and MSNBC.com.

19) Be obvious: don’t make your customers play a guessing game

20) Be consistent: have the links on the same side of each page. Don’t make them go hunting. Don’t make your customer’s think. A confused mind always says NO!

Check out Webpages That Suck and The World’s Worst Website for other tips on what not to do when creating your site….that is, if you can handle reading it all the way to the end!

 Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company.  Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

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