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Do’s and Don’ts of Website Design

What are the most important things to consider and avoid when designing your site?

Summary:

Our WebTools guru’s sound off about website design. Here is their advice on the number one dos and don’ts to consider when you are designing your website.

Keywords: Website Design, Website Planning, Website Structure, usability testing, functionality

BARRY: Ok, here’s my sound byte … define your goal and plan, plan, plan. Just like you’d never build a house without blueprints, don’t even start designing a website without planning the structure. Lay out your site structure and pages on paper before you start building. Frank Lloyd Wright had a great quote: “It’s easier to make changes with a pencil than a wrecking bar.”

Part of your planning process needs to be defining the goal of your site and the action you want your visitors to take. Do you want them to buy something, contact you, or just keep browsing so they see more ads? Once you’ve done that, figure out what you need to do to drive the user to that goal.

MYLES: Well, that’s not a surprising sound byte from the guy responsible for the design of the Register.com website. I won’t dispute that design is important but functionality – that is the thing that will make or break your website! You absolutely need to make sure your site is functioning as intended and it is easy for your visitors to get where they want to go on your site. My advice is to test your site with your friends and customers. Give them a task to do on your site “Buy a widget.”, “Find my phone number” and see how they do. Remember, if they can’t complete the test – they’re not making mistakes, it’s the site that’s failing them.

This leads me to the number one thing I’d tell potential web entrepreneurs to avoid … overly complex designs that you can’t maintain. You’d be surprised how much flashy, fancy designs DO NOT contribute to a visitor’s overall website experience. Not only do they not make that much difference to your customers – you’ll have to find a way to maintain them. That animated flash navigation might look cool, but if you have to change it in the future, you’re going to have to pay someone to do it.

You can read a little more about this approach in a book called “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug (http://www.sensible.com). The author really puts the basics of usability into perspective. The text contains great examples and it’s a good way to learn the basics of testing your site.

BARRY: While I don’t completely disagree with Myles, (despite being the Register.com design guy) if I was advising a small business that was just starting to build their website – I’d say avoid the “big spend”. You don’t need a 40 page site to get people to call you. Get something out there quickly and learn from it. I’ll admit, I used a construction reference in my comment about building a website – maintaining a website is more like gardening than construction. You need to listen to your customers, watch your reports and make tweaks.

Myles Trachtenberg and Barry Bassin
WebTools Gurus
Barry Bassin and Myles Trachtenberg Gain insight from the experts on the tools you need to make your web business the best it can be.


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