This subject had recently been brought to my attention through a blog in which I read about what makes a good website. There were many points about how websites are produced that hit a nerve, so I had to reply to put forward my opinions on the matter, and I would like to share these now in my blog.
“Did you know that the average time it takes for someone to ‘read’ a website is three seconds?” This is quite correct. I monitor my website through Google Analytics and most of my ‘visits’ are less then 10 seconds. So why is this? It’s all to do with how your market your website and the content on the first page. Your website should only communicate to the potential customer and not rant on about your business. Try substituting every ‘we’, ‘I’ and the company name with the word ‘you’ in order to put the customer first. People are only interested in find out what is in it for them and how they are going to benefit from what’s on offer through your website.
A clean, clear and uncluttered front page (I have yet to perfect this even with my own website) should contain excellent copy that in less than 10 seconds will describe the customer’s benefits and then intice them what to do next (for example, find out more by clicking on these links). This may make the difference between disappearing within three seconds or the customer going further into your site and finding out more about you.
Once they’re in, then navigation is SO important. Time again have I gone into a website, got confused and not been able to find my way out again… so I just quit. What is wrong with the back button being designed into the site, ‘breadcrumbs’ at the top of the page so you know where you are in the site (offering a sitemap shouldn’t be the solution), and incorporating your main links throughout your site’s design? My site will be extending much further in the future, and the reader will always be able to get to the homepage in one click and get to another part of my site in just two.
Websites with fussy designs, clashing colours and being more concerned with how pretty or tendy it looks all detract from getting your message across. Yet using good, simple design can compliment your website as well as help the surfer to quickly gain what they are searching for.
I often think that the use of colour is important in a website. Use the 3 colour rule: black (or grey) text, and two other colours, either complimenting (like dark and light blue, see the BBC website) or contrasting (like opposite colours or, by using Photoshop, changing a few of the colour’s numbers to see what other comparable colours you get, you will get a nice surprise!). Oh, and keep the background white, then nothing will clash, get swamped or disappear into those dreadful black backdrops that seem to be so popular. Simplicity always makes things much more legible.
Readers want to find their information quickly and not have to wade through confusing menus or images. This can be prevented by properly thinking out the navigation of the website beforehand, to create that overall shape of the website. Then create your page layout to accommodate the links so that they continue or repeat throughout the website, without destroying the design or corporate image. Use Photoshop to create colourful yet complimenting gifs or jpegs to use as links, which should be self explanatory and can be adapted accordingly for each page or wherever the site leads onto.
Flash introductions into websites are just annoying, and you usually find the surfer has gone before that dancing cartoon has finished playing! And some of these little ‘opening shows’ require extra software, which if you haven’t got, you can either download (do you want to?) or you cannot get into their site! What a waste of time and another opportunity to quit within 3 seconds.
Another thing I find useless are front pages before going onto the proper homepage. In one particular site I went to, I was confronted with their logo. ‘Now what?’ I thought. It took me about 3 seconds to work out that I had to click on it to continue. Even ones that gradually dissolve to reveal the front page are annoying, when all you want to do is just to quickly find out the information you want.
I hate the idea that there should be moving images and little film-shows on websites, they are so annoying. You don’t have to follow the fashion, just because it’s now possible to have this. Having moving images won’t capture the reader’s attention, if anything, it puts them off and diverts their attention from the real message at hand. Some sites have little gallery-shows of their examples, which are extremely exhasperating as each image comes up in succession and the reader cannot go back to see something before until it comes round again. It doesn’t allow a proper look at what is on display and can be very irritating. All you have to do is to clearly place each example on an appropriate page with either an opportunity for a larger image or an accompanying explanation and a link to the contact page to bag your customer.
What would be interesting is your views on this. Do you like jazzy inserts and fancy images on websites? What makes you enter a website and stay there? Have you ever really thought about it? Is clear, concise and uncluttered web design a factor for you?
I look forward to hearing from you.