21st

MAY
2009

Elements of a Great Business Website Part 3

Posted By:
David Saraiva

Welcome to part three of the Elements of a Great Business Website series. While this is the last post I have actually planned out, this series will never truly be completed. The web development industry changes at such a rapid pace, so I will be bringing all the latest useful developments in the form of future installments in this series. That being said, let's move on to this weeks installment!

1. User Interaction

The best websites do more than just display information for clients and potential clients, but they also provide opportunities for your clients to interact with your website and by proxy your business. An interactive website will increase the likely-hood of visitors returning repeatedly to your site. For example, if you're a mortgage broker, you can add a mortgage calculator and other financial calculators for your customers, if you operate a hotel or bed and breakfast allow your users to reserve and pay for a room through your website. It doesn't have to be overly complex, user interaction can take the form of a blog (like this one) that is updated with new posts regularly and allows visitors to make comments.

2. Devoid of Annoying Elements

When was the last time you actually sat through the flash intro on a splash page before being taken to a website's main page. More than likely you just clicked skip intro, or worse closed the site and moved onto the next page. The last thing you want to do is annoy your visitors, as ultimately you are trying to get them to become customers and spend their hard earned money on your products or services. You usually don't buy from a company that iritates you unless you have no choice. So you want to make sure you don't subject any of your visitors to any thing that will harm the experience of browsing your site. The common culprits are music on pages, forced flash intros, and auto playing sound or video clips, but a good exercise is to try and separate yourself from the website and view it as an potential customer who is indifferent about your business and any products or services you offer.

3. Good Pictures of your Business and Products

Having a nice design framing your site is important, and is definately a good thing to have, but in addition to a pleasing design, it's greatly beneficial to display high quality pictures of your products or your business and your employees in action (if you're service related). Potential customers will want to see what you do and how you do it, this will build trust and reinforce the fact that you don't just have a nice website, but you have a professional business that's the driving force behidn the nice website. The quality of the photos is important, if you take them on a low quality digital camera by yourself, it will be very noticable and reflect poorly on your business. Either invest in a high quality digital camera for yourself or hire a professional photographer.

4. Fast Load Times

Statistically, you have less than 10 seconds to grab the attention of a new visitor coming to your site, if you don't capture their attention in that time, they'll leave your site and move onto the next. If your page takes 3 seconds to fully load, you just lost 30% of the time you have to grab a potential customer's attention. This is where a delicate balance between design and file size needs to come into play. Fast load times are achieved by tying in many of the previously mentioned elements of web design including optimized images and CSS code under the hood, so to speak. However there are other things you can do to ensure a fast load time. If you are embedding a flash video or animation on a page (it shouldn't auto-play, unless it's a minor animation that won't be too distracting as that violates number 2 from this week), instead of coding the site to load the flash file as the page loads, have it load a much smaller "click here to play" flash element that will only load the full flash document when a user clicks on the image to play.

5. Well Written Concise Content

No one visits a website to read a novel. If you present a visitor with large amounts of text on your website (especially on the homepage) they will likely find the amount of text daunting and move on. Keep your copy concise and to the point. Avoid extra and unnecessary words. Instead, use pictures and imagery to augment the text on your site, this will help your users find the information they need with the least amount of hassle. The deeper in your site a page is, usually the more text you can get away with because when a user is browsing many pages on your site they are usually very interested in what you have to say and will be more willing to invest the time it takes to read what you have to say.

Well that brings us to the conclusion of the scheduled series, but stay tuned for more elements of a great business website in the future!