Let’s say you’re a customer, and you’re doing a Google search for a particular product or service. You’ll likely come up with a long list of companies to choose from (listed in order of Google’s pagerank, among other factors).
We all know the drill: click into a listing, scan it to determine its usefulness to you (which, for the average consumer, is an opinion initially formed not on content but on user-friendliness), and, if you’re annoyed with or confused by a website, chances are you’ll stop right there and try the next link down.
Sure, you’re taking the chance that you might miss out on a company that’s a great match for you—but if the website itself doesn’t inspire you, you’re not going to spend long enough on an overwhelming website to find out if the company behind it is equally uninspiring. You’ve already crossed it off.
Graphics: Less Is More
Entrepreneur success-story Mark Levine said it best; he periodically does background research on competitors’ companies and their websites, and of a particularly egregious sensory overload of a website, he said, “When I look at this site, I feel like I’m in the middle of Times Square outside Crazy Eddie’s Electronics store, and some guy wearing a huge gold chain is trying to entice me to come inside.”
The flashing lights from Part 1? Not meant to be taken literally. Unless you’re selling stage lighting or rave equipment, please, please skip the flashing lights.
Since there’s only one chance to make a first impression (and with websites, if you blow that you’ll likely never have a chance for a second), every design or layout decision you make should be filtered through the desire not to overwhelm potential customers. If you bombard them with pictures and animation, you’ll irritate them into leaving before you have a chance to wow them with your services.
To Optimize or Not to Optimize
Let the decision you made back back in Part 1 about how visitors will find your site dictate the design of your website. Without getting too in-depth (the ins and outs of Internet traffic could fill a whole library)—if you decided that you were going to direct existing customers to your company website, you don’t need to worry much about optimizing your website (translation: setting up your site in such a way that customers can find it via Google or other search engine).
If, on the other hand, you expect customers to be able to find your website by doing a search for the products you offer, you’ll want your website to be optimized.
Hire a Pro
[This completes our three-part Business Website series, which began with Part 1: Gathering Data.]