March 6, 2013

Website Design Rules

When it comes to website design your options are limitless...or are they?

The truth is you can do anything you want with your website (after all it is your business), but it is not always advisable to do so. The web is an amazing marketing tool where options and opportunities seem endless. And, perhaps even better, the playing field has been leveled considerably between little businesses and big companies. It's safe to say, It's anybody's game. But big or small, when promoting your business, it is still best to think before you leap. 
I'm searching for seafood?
This should be
one of the 1st things I see
when visiting your
seafood restaurant website.
Not an inch thick blue bar
with your logo
The awkward truth is, when it comes to websites, there are more bad examples, big and small, than good. On one hand far too many business owners have decided, How hard can it be? I can do this. Often putting something up on the Web that frustrates, even baffles, their potential guests. While on the other hand many owners decide to pay a Designer to build their BIG website without first asking themselves, What is good website content and design for my industry? Realize this, Being an expert in design doesn't make a designer an expert on your industry. How your website needs to function for your customers in your industry needs to be clearly communicated to your designer. Don't leave it up to the designer to figure out. While they may be extremely talented they most likely don't know your industry very well.
Also, a website doesn't need to be super flashy or extremely unusual, even if you can afford it. As I've said before, it must first be useful and informative. The point is, do your homework! Don't lay out the big bucks, or even the small, before you have knowledge of just what functionality you need to incorporate. Then repeat after me, Keep it simple, clean, and easy to use.
I speak from experience. I have a degree in design and prior to that studied fine arts. I wanted to make my first website a work of art for all to envy – a Gogaun meets Spielberg website. Thank God my programer and my designer, Laz Creative, had the sense to talk me off the ledge, otherwise it would have been business suicide. Don't make your customers work for what they "simply" want.
Of course you want your website to be COOL, however, informative and easy to use should trump cool. If not, visitors will leave frustrated and probably never return. The absolute easiest way to gain knowledge on the subject of building a website is to go online to other websites (primarily competitors) and be the customer. Put yourself in their shoes. What frustrates you as the customer is what frustrates every customer and what works for you as the customer will work for them.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

(Incidentally, I've posted some of this before, but it warrants repeating)

  • Method of Contact 
    Your contact information, specifically your phone number and/or email address, should be the easiest thing to spot on your home page. Contact information is often buried or minuscule or missing all together. Remember, sometimes your phone number is all they want.
  • Physical Location
    If I don't know your physical location how will I find you? If I'm thinking of staying with you I want to know where you are. Are you hiding something about your exact location? Don't make me call you or leave your website to find you.
  • Hours of Operation 
    Really? You'd be surprised at how many restaurants don't list these. I'm not driving all the way to your restaurant only to find out you don't open for lunch or for another hour or you're closed that day.
  • Menu Links 
    At the very least put decent pictures of your menus up. Not unreadable images. 
  • Quality Images 
    Most websites do this - not enough images, tiny images or bad images of their facility.
  • Customer Reviews 
    If they're not on your website they will look for them elsewhere.
  • Mascot Photos 
    It's great that you love animals and that your pets are part of your charm, but if your pet is more important to display than your garden or dining room it makes me think it's your best feature. I'm not paying to visit your pet! And I don't want him on the bed I'll be sleeping in.
  • Instant Sound 
    OMG - Are websites still adding this or have you just forgotten to remove it from yours? If potential guests want music they'll simply listen to their iPod. This practice is very outdated and annoying.
  • Flash Entry (landing) Pages 
    If you have a page that offers a “skip intro” button think about why you've put the button there? It is necessary, because so many people find the page annoying. Get rid of this page! Even the few, like me, who might think it creative the first time skip over it the next time.

NOT Acceptable

A website is a crucial marketing and communication tool for your business. It's important that you get it right! Think of it this way, if you owned a restaurant but weren't a great cook, wouldn't you hire a professional cook or chef? So why would you even think of designing your website without enough website design and marketing knowledge? A talented, professional designer can build you a great website for a few thousand. If you, like many of us, don't have a few thousand, then look for the most suitable template out there. They're a mere fraction of the cost of a pro designer and as long as they have the functionality you need they are fine for starters. Either way, do your scouting first, because it's not good enough to simply have a presence on the web – You MUST have a good customer experience website. Remember - keep it simple, clean, and easy to use. Good Luck!

Laz Creative –
Fantastic Website Design and more

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