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Do’s and Don'ts of a Professional Website
A professional website is, above all else, professional. What constitutes professional though? This question has been asked by many, and the answers are as varied as those asking the question. There are at least a hundred or more possible aspects to consider, some consisting of parts of others, such as demographics and content. Each factor has its own affect on how customers perceive a website.
Being professional is an attitude portrayed by you, the business owner, your business and your website. You don't have the luxury of smiling real big, wearing your best suit, and shaking hands with the customer. Your site has to do that for you. This brief list of what to do and what not to do when creating a professional website is only the beginning, one small step towards success.
Do's 1. Know your visitors. Your site should be designed to fit their needs and wants. If you're selling, know the demographics of the people you're selling to. If you're just providing information, know who you are targeting. Rule of thumb: Know more about your audience than they know about you. 2. Know your product. As strange as that may sound, people know when a site offers products or services that they themselves know little about. If you are letting someone else write the content for your site and that someone doesn’t know the product, then your customers won't know it either. Anticipate questions from customers and answer them before they are asked. 3. Make your site visually pleasing. Just because bright red and bright blue are your favorite colors doesn't mean that they should be the dominant colors in your site. Red and blue are at different ends of the spectrum and will give viewers a headache if viewed to long. You want to make viewers feel welcome, comfortable, and that they are able to trust you. 4. Outline the concept of the site before it is created. Know the answers to those golden questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. While these questions apply to your demographics they are also helpful in deciding what information is truly important and what isn't. Pinning down your tacit knowledge is often a challenge, and not all tacit knowledge is valuable. What do you want the customers to know and what do the customers want to know? 5. Make your prices readily available. Hide your prices and customers will wonder what else you are hiding. Don't wait until after you ask for their credit card information to tell them how much it costs. You don't make sales that way; what you do make is frustrated customers who tell other potential customers to stay away from your site. 6. Keep your site credible. Back up what you say with statistics or links to articles that support your claim. If you have experts in your company, highlight them. Show the customer that there are REAL people running the business. Update the content as often as possible - if updating the content isn't possible, add links to news articles and update those links. It is time consuming, but in the end it is worth the time and effort. 7. Ask for input from people who know nothing about your product/service/business. This is the best way to get true feedback. People who know nothing about what you are doing can find the smallest error and ask the best questions. They can give you a fresh perspective on your site and sometimes your business. They don't know what you know, and they often see what you don't. 8. Use images that portray confidence. You want the customer to trust you right? Then show them that you believe enough in yourself and your product that there is no doubt that you are trustworthy. Dress for success. You wouldn't wear snow boots on a hot summer’s day, would you? Then don't let your site wear images that could make you look cheap and untrustworthy. 9. Keep your site translator-friendly. This can sometimes be challenging as we tend to use different terminology than other countries. What we would consider 'normal phrasing' may be considered 'odd' or offensive to someone else. Avoid slang and check your site with a translator. Check to see which words are translated and which ones aren't, then try to figure out why. 10. Be consistent throughout the site. Making each page of your site different can be entertaining to teenagers and new internet users, but most of your potential customers aren't new to the internet. If a viewer feels as though they're on a different site each time they click a link on your site, they are likely to go to another site. Consistency counts in site design and professionalism, and your customers will expect it.
Don'ts 1. Don't guess at who you're trying to reach with your site. ‘Guesstimation’ is for horse shoes and card games. If you don't know your demographics then you might as well have thrown your site together. 2. Don't get too technical. Your customers are the ones reading your site, so it should be written for them. Sure, your competition might read your site as well, but they already know the business jargon. Besides, you aren’t trying to sell to them anyway. Remember, other business owners may browse, but your customers are your buyers. 3. Don't give your customers a headache. There are 256 colors available for site design. 216 of those are browser 'safe.' Just because there are an abundance of colors does not mean that they all should be used at once. Warm colors shouldn't be used with cool colors because of the conflicting hues. Meanwhile, bright colors make the eyes work harder to focus and after a few minutes will likely give your viewers a headache. 4. Don't keep content that isn't being read. Keeping track of what your customers are actually reading is very helpful. You want a customer to peruse your site as completely as possible. The more they know, the better your chances are that they will purchase or sign-up. If a page isn't being read then try something else. Rewrite it. Add psychological triggers. Rephrase. Find a way to make the page valuable. 5. Don't repeat the same information on every page. The viewer doesn't want to read the same material over and over. Give them new, fresh information on each page. If they want to go back and read the previous page, give them that option. 6. Don't hide contact information. You'll find conflicting information on this topic. Some designers will tell you to put your contact information on every page, but customers tend to find that redundant. One page with multiple ways to contact you is more affective even if the customer never visits the page. Just having the page there tells them that you can be reached and that you really are there for their convienence. 7. Don't use animations. Some would say use animations to draw attention to your ad, product, 'new' idea/newsletter/etc. but by following that suggestion you frustrate the customer. Flashing, moving objects distract the eyes. A customer is there looking for information, if their eyes are distracted while reading, their comprehension decreases while their frustration rises. The use of colors such as yellow and orange become helpful in this area. Bolding or italicizing words is another way to emphasize phrases, or items you want the customer to notice. 8. Don't use multiple fonts. It only takes the eye seconds to adjust to a new font, but those seconds are distracting to the mind. Different sizes, styles, and colors are confusing. Choose one font and stick with it. Consistency is more important than creativity when it comes to text. 9. Don't take control away from the viewer. Creative cursors, full screen browsers, and other 'entertaining' aspects of site design are great, if your target audience is teenagers or new internet users, but for a professional website they give the appearance of being cheap, second rate, and amateurish. 10. Don't 'bunch up' the text. Add spaces between paragraphs so the customers don't feel overwhelmed with information. Placing a small picture pertaining to the content gives the eyes time to relax before reading further.