Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Internet Marketing Site Design Tips

Biggest site tips. I am often asked "what are the most important web site design considerations?" So I put together this quick list of high level things which cover the basic high level mistakes I see frequently when reviewing sites.

Main Navigation: For a website, stick with a simple navigation scheme that is transparent. A top tab or side navigation menu, period. Try to have about 5 main tabs, but definitely do not go higher than 7. Remember always that users are not looking for a certain term, they are reading EVERYTHING you put in front of them and ruling out all except the one they think fits best, so you need your navigation to be very concise. Make sure that wherever the person is on the site the main nav tab they have selected is highlighted so they can remain oriented (bread-crumbing). Remember that navigation is not content. It should be like wallpaper once someone has seen it and understands how to use it, which should take them half-a-second. Don't make your nav so loud it takes focus and attention away from the important content on your page.

Other navigation: Make sure that your logo is in the upper left and that clicking on it takes you to the home page. Try to have a search box in the upper right of each page balancing the logo graphically if you can swing it. Right next to the search box, a help or contact link will help user confidence immensely. Provide a utility tab on the footer with corporate information, site terms, privacy policy, and a site map at least.

Colors: Try to balance your colors with a 60/30/10 rule (roughly). Pick three main colors to hit and use the main content color for roughly 60% of your stuff (often this is blue to "match" plain text hyperlink standards, but it can also be black or dark grey). Use the accent 30% color to organize the main content, think borders, background highlights, navigation highlights, etc. Save 10% for your action cue. Save it for the things on the page that you want the user to do (BUY!). Don't draw their eye to something just because you think it is cool, draw their eye to the action button or link and make sure that compelling sales copy is nearby. If you can, use a consistent call to action button, same shape, size, and position on the page. It will train your users to stay on the happy path you have defined. Make sure your call to action has diagonal lines in it as they catch the eye. Often you see the greater than character, >, used, but you could also use a button with an arrow on the edge. Bullseye patterns also draw the eye and you may be able to mimmick one by putting a mostly white picture or icon inside a circle that is your call to action color or vice versa. Oh and it goes without saying to have a white background, right? And if you are going to do a different background, definitely not black or some other dark color with white text!!! It is fatiguing on the eyes and will drive traffic away. Looks pretty, works horribly. People won't even know why they are leaving, they will just leave.

Test: Make sure you test your site! Use google's free site tester if you have to (see my note about using google too much in my other post), but do some testing or your site will be grossly underperforming relative to its potential and its competitors, and ultimately, doesn't have a chance and doing anything too big.

Page design guidance;
http://www.useit.com/ (Nielsen wrote the bible on web usability)

Why Flash is Mostly Bad: http://www.designinginteractive.com/design/why-flash-is-mostly-bad/#comment-82

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