Creating your Website with Promotion in Mind

  1. Use your three, main keyword phrases in the text of your home page.

And make text links to the deeper pages using those keyword phrases and any of the other keywords or phrases you’ve made pages for.

The first page, also known as the “Home” or “Index” page, of your site should have at least 25 words of text and shouldn’t have redirects or Flash. If you want to offer Flash or Shockwave or Quicktime, allow your viewers a choice of whether to view such things or not.

No matter what kind of graphical navigation you have at the top of your pages, you should have text links at the bottom of your pages. Search engines, as well as visitors with older browsers or slower connections, will be able to follow the text links, even if they can’t follow the graphical or multimedia methods. All graphical navigation should have defining “alt” attributes.

Before Going Live

  1. For every page, create a description and keyword meta tagthat specifically applies to the material on that page.

The description tag should be about 20-25 words and should use two or three of your most important keywords phrases in sentences that would attract people to your site.

The keyword tag should contain about 15 misspellings or alternate spellings viewers might make and some synonyms that you can’t get into the text for some reason.

  1. Make sure your web site address (url) and your email address are on all company materials.

All printed matter, including business cards, stationary, advertisements need to carry this information.

Email coming out of your company needs to have signature lines with your company’s name, roughly 3 words identifying the type of company and your web site address (URL). Link your web address (URL) to your site (i.e., include the “http://” before the URL which should make it clickable in most email programs — except AOL).

Four Keys to a Professional Website

A well-designed, professional web site is clean, clear, consistent and compelling. The appearance is should be neat and not cluttered. Everything should be clear; the visual layout, the writing, the navigation, the graphics and the message. If an ambiguity is designed into the site, it should be clear that this is on purpose and not a mistake. The basic layout, look, feel and tone of the site should be consistent, both within the site and with the subject matter. And the navigation should be especially consistent both within the site and with the conventions of the web. But most important of all, the site shold be compelling to the target audience; there should be content that is useful to the target visitor and the material should be presented in an appealing way.

A good web design is clear. Like good journalism, each web page should tell the visitor who is represented by the site, what the purpose of the page is, when they should take some action (including scrolling), where they are and where they might want to go next and how they can get around the site. There should be no ambiguities, either in the writing or the design, of the pages.

An portion of an actual web page. It is not clean, clear or consistent. And the only thing compelling is figuring it out. The text is lost by the background and the confusing font mismatches. The visitor can’t tell what’s a link, a header or important. The images are inconsistent and don’t even match the background. I literally could not have made this up if I tried. But somebody did. And it’s promoting an actual business!

A great deal of visual clarity comes from keeping the page clean and consistent. Cluttered, crowded pages give the impression of a cheap, possibly disreputable business. It’s the visual equivalent of talking too fast and too loud to try and make a pitch. A good web design gives a sense of space, space for the words and space for the graphics. A good web design gives a sense of direction, images and words line up to direct the eye vertically and horizontally instead of having the eye roam randomly over the page.

Clarity and consistency improve recognition. Recognition is created through repetition; images and text have a consistent alignment, a consistent font, a consistent design and color palette. Repetition also builds “brand recognition” and product identity.

A better web site. While this is a constructed example, it’s based on an actual site layout. The single, dramatic image captures the eye and sets the tone. The critical information is logically placed and a great deal of detailed information can be presented in a visually comfortable format. Nothing fancy, but a couple of good graphics and clean, consistent layout.

Clarity, cleanliness and consistancy sound dull, but a whisper can be much more compelling than a shout. We move away from someone who shouts; we lean in to listen to someone who whispers.

And someone who is saying something we want to hear is always compelling.

A good web design presents the target visitor with useful information. Estimates give a web page less than 15 seconds on average to convince the visitor there’s something worthwhile on the page. A compelling web page is focused on a single topic or purpose from the beginning of the download. Eliminate anything that isn’t critical to your subject for that page. Keep the page brief and on topic. Better one single, good, telling visual instead of several smaller, inconsistent, loosely-related ones.

Keep the page clear, clean, and consistent to communicate your compelling message.

The Art of Writing About the Science of Web Design

The Art & Science of Web Design by Jeffrey Veen should be required reading by any and every executive, web developer and marketing staff member in every company in the U.S. Okay, maybe I exaggeratre — but only a little. Veen “gets it.” Filled with commonsense arguments (like the initial quote) for function over form and form’s impact on additional function, the book presents the necessary marriage of the practical, the commercial and the possible of web site development. And it is presented clearly and comfortably. The Art & Science of Web Design is for anyone wanting to fully understand the practical purpose and potential of the web. If you’re considering a sizeable expenditure on your web site (i.e., hiring a web design agency and allocating several thousands of dollars), then you — everyone else involved — really should read this book before anyone steps into the first meeting.

The first chapter on the history and development of the web may be a bit daunting to the technophobic, but you can come back to it later if you wish. I agree with his thesis that good design comes from a deep understanding of the technologies it’s built upon. An artist must understand his or her materials to get the most from them. But it’s when Veen moves directly into the issues of development — interface, structure, behavior, browsers, performance — that he shines. He methodically takes the reader from the very core of web page development through the steps of adding additional functionality and efficiency by adding the skills of the engineers (the coders) to the vision of the designers (artists) to meet the goals of the architects (developers and copywriters).

Veen is persuasive in each of his arguments. He’s even convinced me of the advantages of using relative measurements in my style sheets. Although he didn’t convince me to use javascript to give my pages relational layout. If I had a large coding staff, yes, but many of his extrapolations on site enhancements require considerable additional time or backend development. But the book isn’t targeting the single person shop. It’s targeting the corporation or the corporate executive who is responsible for overseeing teh several thousands of dollars investment his company if about to make in their web presence.

And that’s my only caveat about The Art & Science of Web Design. It gives an excellent overview of how a web presence should and can work, however, Veen assumes a larger budget than most small organizations can allocate initially. I do, however,highly recommend any business person preparing to develop a web site read the The Art & Science of Web Design to get a thorough grounding and understanding of professional web site development and maintenance. Just don’t let the book discourage you. It is possible to build a professional, functional web site for considerably less, but this title will help you know where you may be heading as you grow and let’s you start with “the end in mind.”

Don’t Make Me Think

If you have or are planning a web site, you should read Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

Oh, you want to tell you more.

Don’t Make Me Think is subtitled “A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” and that’s exactly what it is, written in a clear, lighthearted, easy-to-understand tone with plenty of illustrative examples. Krug admits he’s designed to book to be read by an executive on a long plane flight, so it’s brief and direct.

It’s not about HTML coding or snazzy interfaces or frontends for dynamic pages. It’s about making a web site that real people (like your customers and clients) can — and will — use. And it’s about the avoiding poor decisions because no one paid attention to how the decisions were being made.

The book covers how people use the web and how to design sites that match people’s actual behavior. Starting with the first law, don’t make me think!”, Krug moves on to the way people initially scan a web page then delve deeper and the need to design pages for scanning. He delves deeper himself in the issue of navigation, particularly “signage” and “breadcrumbs” (those little textual lists of where you are in the structure of the site). And he devotes a whole chapter to one of my ongoing struggles when working with many designers — the fact that the page, particularly the home page, is out of our control. I confess I don’t keep my pages as tight or my text as brief as Krug recommends, but we all have our faults and I like to give more complete information to my visitors.

There’s considerable excellent information on low-budget (I mean really cheap) useability testing, how to interpret the results, and how to fix what needs to be fixed in the most cost effective manner.

This is one of those books that pays for itself in project savings. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is a book I wish I’d had on the last 3 large web startup projects I worked on. It would have saved hours in pointless meetings and tens of thousands in wasted dollars. Even if you are planning a simple “brochure” site of a few pages, this book would be worth reading to avoid making major design blunders.

So don’t think about it, buy it.