I’ve seen a number of small business people recently spend a lot of money to have web sites built for them to advertise their brick-and-mortar operation. In almost every case the site doesn’t really work. Let’s take a look at why they don’t work and what you can do to make one work.
1. Keep It Simple
If you look at these sites they’re obviously well crafted graphical masterpieces either with extensive graphics, sounds and/or flash animations. And, herein lies the problem.
Most visitors to a business web site are looking for answers to a problem, such as “Where can I buy XYZ widgets?” They’ll give you about 5-10 seconds to start answering that question. If your site loads slower than that, back to Google they’ll go. Slow loading fancy graphics and flash presentations cause them to leave. Automatically playing sound also will result in a quick back button click.
The bottom line is to stay away from the bells and whistles. Keep it simple. You can use attention grabbing or even elegant graphics but avoid large, slow loading, graphics, sound, and animation. If you need this to help sell your product, put it on a second page, not on your main landing/home page.
2. Get Your Message Across, Quickly
If visitors find your introduction hard to read they aren’t likely to stick around. Your text should be crisp and easy to read so select fonts and font sizes with this in mind. Select colors that complement each other well. Chose a muted background color and font colors that match it well without blending in too much.
Your intro must also be a quick read. You want them to know within that 5-10 second window that they’re in the right place. You don’t want the visitor to have to scroll down or explore around the page. You want everything right in front of the visitor so they can’t help but get your message. Anything that’s not getting this message across to the user should be eliminated or moved to secondary pages.
Speaking of secondary pages, make sure your navigation links to them can be located and read easily but aren’t distracting from the central message.
3. Where Are You?
Far too many of these sites make it difficult to find basic contact information. Directions, phone numbers, business hours and other important information is buried or missing. What good is it to have a web site if customers can’t figure out how to get to you?
Make it easy for your visitors to find your location. Include all pertinent contact information and store hours. Include general directions and include links to maps on Google or other online map providers. Your visitors should instantly know how to find you. You don’t have to have all of this on your front page but you need to make it easy to find if it isn’t.
Do you have any questions about designing a business presence web site? If so, please leave a comment.