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How Much Is Your Web Design Hurting Your Business?

Web design monsterThere are over 182 Million web sites out there according to Netcraft. So what makes your site findable, usable, and effective? A good web site design should have three basic things on every page: search engine optimization, a good user interface, and a strong call to action. If your web site doesn’t focus on these things, your target audience will just move on, or not find you at all.

Search Engine Optimization
This is a huge topic, but I’ll talk about some web design basics.

  1. You need a list of key phrases. If you are a web design company, “web”, “design”, and “company” are horrible keywords. But “web design company” is a good one. Think about key phrases as opposed to words. Include your city in there as well. The more keywords you can come up with, the better.
  2. Target the keywords to your pages. You can’t effectively target more than 5 keywords per page. Three is a better number. Start with the page title bar. Use your keywords there, and then in the copy of the page. Links using keywords are great, too. Instead of saying “See our web design work here” use “See our web design work here“. Lastly, take a look at your copy, and see where you can inject your keywords more often. You need to balance effective communication with adding additional keywords, but it’s usually not that hard, just time consuming.
  3. Code the site correctly. A good web designer will use HTML searchable text, not text in a graphic. True, you can’t get too crazy with fonts this way, but findability is more important than how it looks. And there’s a lot you can do with HTML fonts anyway. Images should always have ALT tags, with keyword-rich descriptions. Headlines using tags hold more weight then body text. And if you can get keywords into the actual file names, that’s even better.

A good User Interface
This obviously starts with an easily understood nav bar.

  • Navigation is expected either on the top or the left side of the page. If you deviate from that, it will be harder to find. Don’t forget that most web surfers are still a bit technically challenged.
  • Keep the navigation options to the minimum. The more options you give someone, the harder it is to choose
  • Buttons should look like buttons. And if it isn’t a button, then don’t make it look like one. (Sounds simple I know, but we’ve all clicked away on that thumbnail image waiting for it to do something… waiting… grr — not a button.)
  • Wording on the buttons needs to be obvious. Don’t put product names on buttons. They make sense to you, but not to your visitors. Also, don’t get cute with titles like “The Team” and “Home Runs.” What does “Home Runs” mean anyway?
  • Don’t forget that the user interface includes proper labeling of areas of the page, including the name of the section that you’re actually in. A depressed button usually isn’t enough to tell you where you are.

A Strong Call to Action
What’s the point of your web site? Is it for lead generation? Or are you selling a product? There should always be a call to action on every page if you can. The top right column is ideal for this for a couple of reasons. It’s usually space that’s available, and it’s where people expect to see an important announcement. Make your call to action prominent, and you’ll see an increase in action.

What’s interesting, is that all of these things can usually be done to a web site without requiring a complete redesign. If you’d like an analysis of your site’s effectiveness, post a comment below and we’ll check it out!

About the Author: Michael Flint

Michael founded Metropolis Creative in 1999. He is currently an instructor at Northeastern University and has also taught at Bentley College. Speaking engagements include The Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Mass Health Data Consortium, and The Enterprise Center. Michael holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Rochester Institute of Technology and has won numerous design awards. Michael actively supports the entrepreneurial and startup community by participating as a mentor with MITX-Up and is e member of OpenHub. He also runs the annual Extreme Website Makeover event which supports local startups and non-profit organizations. When not at work, Michael enjoys painting, brewing beer, and playing hockey.

  • http://www.internet-marketing-strategies-and-secrets.com/ Justin Barton

    Thanks for the informative post Michael. As far as SEO goes, keywords are only part of the equation. Another big piece is filling the page with content that your visitors will want to share and link to. I cover this idea in-depth in a series of posts I recently wrote on optimizing your website for demand generation if you’re interested in linking up.

    I totally agree with you about usability and calls-to-action. I’m surprised how often a client will be fully vested in redesigning their website without ever considering what the main purpose of their site should be.