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In today's world, a web site is virtually mandatory for any successful business. But there are web sites that will win you customers, and there are web sites that will lose you customers. Good design has a lot to do with which category your web site will fall into. But what is it that makes good or bad web site design? In my personal opinion, a good web site is one that's simple, informative and gives me a reason to come back frequently. That's what you should get from a good web designer/writer team. Bad sites, on the other hand, are complicated to use, slow loading, confusing or just plain annoying. Here's a list of my personal top 7 turn-offs as far as web site design is concerned:
1. Slow loading pages
Studies have shown that you have less than ten seconds to grab a visitor's attention. If your web page hasn't finished loading within that (very short) amount of time, you might as well forget about it. The main culprit I've found here are huge, slow-loading graphics, especially when they are embedded in tables. If large images are absolutely vital to presenting your business, compromise by adding thumbnails to the main page and allow the visitor to click on them to access the main image. Nobody minds a longer loading time, as long as it's them who can make that choice.
2. No contact information
As I've already mentioned in my article "Do's and don'ts of web site copy", one of my pet peeves is a web site that has no contact information accessible form the main page. If I can't get in touch with a company quickly and easily, chances are that I'll go to the competition. My advice is to have a whole page dedicated to contact information - address, phone, fax, email, and preferably a map of where you can be found (remember item #1, though - no huge graphics!) And please, don't use a graphic to display that information in a particularly clever way. I like to copy and paste that information directly from the web page to my contact management program. If I can't do that, you'll likely never hear form me - and all other customers who do the same!
3. Difficult to navigate
Don't try to be clever with navigational features. Simple text links or, if you prefer, quick-loading graphics are perfectly good means of allowing a visitor to navigate your site. Anything that requires interactive navigation, like menus that expand into sub-menus, sub-sub-menus and so on, is more an indication of a wrong information architecture than of a true need for complicated navigational features.
4. Non-HTML features
5. Huge splash page
Another pet peeve of mine. As mentioned earlier, you have less than ten seconds to get your message across. Now guess how many visitors are going to wait longer than that just to watch a fancy animation? 'Nuff said.
6. Pop-up ads
A huge turn-off as far as I'm concerned. As a matter of fact, I've got a pop-up blocker installed on my PC, so if your web site tried to tell me something important via a pop-up window, I'd never even see it. If you feel that you have to use pop-ups, conider going for the less intrusive (and annoying) pop-under windows instead.
7. Sideways scrolling
Not everybody has a monitor with the same screen resolution as you, so make sure that your web site displays on monitors with a lower resolution without forcing your visitor to scroll sideways. It's a singularly annoying thing, and chances are that you'll lose those visitors very quickly. Or, if you have information in a column on the right side of your web site, it may simply never appear on the screen.
Need online copy that gets results? Frauke Nonnenmacher is a copywriter who specialises in clear, informative and persuasive web copy.
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