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Don't Settle for Web Site Mediocrity

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A recent marketing study by ServiceXRG found that most online shoppers (74.5 percent) use a company Web site to find needed information about products and services. However, less than half (44 percent) said the information provided met their needs and expectations.

Other studies, including by the Nielsen Norman Group show, that only 50 percent of Web visitors scroll down the screen to see what lies below the visible part on their PC monitor. That info highlights the importance of catching and holding the attention of your online consumer with that crucial first impression.

The Two Major Elements of Web Site Success

A Web site has to accomplish only two basic things to deliver success for your business—and, also basic, those two things are mission-critical. A successful Web site must be built from the ground up to attract and capture:

  1. The attention of your target audience
  2. The attention of the major search engines

If you can accomplish these two great things, your Web site business will have excellent prospects for success. If you design a great-looking, user-friendly site with well-written market copy, but your site is not constructed on search-engine-friendly design principles, no one will get the chance to experience your work of art.


If your site is well-built and well optimized, yet the design is boring and amateurish, then your well-placed Web site will drive customers away and just might as well not exist. Every potential customer who either bounces out of your site or can't even find it is another sale for your competitors.

Practical Information for Building a Powerful Presence

Web site success boils down to being easily found in the first pages of the search engine listings and, once found, grabbing and holding the fickle focus of internet shoppers. The Web site design elements and principles that make these two major goals happen are many and are based on industry best-practices and practical marketing principles.

Following are a few key points to keep in mind as you embark on your journey to Web site dominance:

Avoid (like the plague!) templated Web site solutions or cheap overseas Web shops

The adage "you get what you pay for" could not be more relevant in this situation. Templated Web site builders generate sloppy, extraneous coding that is very unfriendly to the search engines, limits programming access to the site, and generally produces a canned, off-the-shelf-looking Web site.

Farming out your Web site project to the lowest overseas bidder can come back to bite you in the business butt. Cultural differences and design practices can become an instant hindrance to your Web sites performance. Communications are also often difficult and industry standards that are common practice in the US are not generally in use overseas.

Choosing an experienced Web development agency to build a custom Web site could be the most valuable investment you make for your business.

Reputable Web design agencies follow the requirements of the W3C, Google webmaster guidelines, and industry best-practices. They use proven marketing and design elements to tailor site design to the target audience, build user-friendly navigation and layouts, and ensure the site functions smoothly in all environments.

Using client conversation, design questionnaires, market research, and other sources of info, your Web designer should partner with you to build from the ground up a Web site that will accomplish those two big Web site goals: attracting and capturing the attention of your ideal customer and the search engines.

Research your market and build with your customer in mind

Get a very clear picture before starting your Web site project of who your ideal customer really is. Web site preferences of look and feel vary according to gender, age, culture, and interests and this information will be incredibly valuable when you design your site.

A Few Tips on Color to Get You Started...

  • Women prefer red and yellow, whereas men like blue and orange. Women also can sense a much greater range of shade variations.
  • Older people tend to like sites that are more conservative, with blue, brown, and gray tones. Young adults and teens are often excited by vibrant colors, contrast, and movement.
  • Colors evoke different feelings in different people. When targeting a market audience in other countries, be sure to research the cultural color beliefs of that group. In the US and Western Europe, the color white signifies purity and blessing. However, in China and Japan, white is bad luck and red is the traditional color of brides.
  • Make sure to use a good contrast between background color and text color. The best choice is a white background with black text. Gray with black text or black with bright text color are also good choices.

* * *

These are just a few Web site fundamentals to consider closely when planning your Web site. Keep the customer always at the forefront of your thoughts when designing your site, with the search engines firmly in mind. Find a well-respected Web design agency to build a custom Web site created with your unique goals and market in mind from the very beginning. Remember that you do get what you pay for and that value and quality, not the lowest bid, should be your focus when planning for long-term Web site success.  


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David A. Salinas is CEO of Digital Surgeons (www.digitalsurgeons.com). Reach him via david@digitalsurgeons.com.

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  • by Tealer Tue Nov 11, 2008 via web

    Shocking! Couldn't believe the line '...industry standards that are common practice in the US are not generally in use overseas...' I'm from the UK, infact Cornwall and we have some of the most innovative design companies in the World!

  • by Justin P Wed Nov 12, 2008 via web

    I think that his point was probably poorly expressed... what works in India probably doesn't work so well in the US, likewise what works in the UK won't work so well in the US.

    Seriouslly though, is a open source CMS THAT MUCH WORSE than a web developers homebrew CMS that you can't get support elsewhere for? I've always had grief when using custom CMS's and would much rather work with an open source one where you can get support and extensions at good value prices.

    Thoughts?

  • by Pamela Martin Wed Nov 12, 2008 via web

    Understanding your site visitors and crafting intuitive user pathways through your web site are definitely fundamental building blocks of any successful web site. A good site successfully supports your business goals AND your user's goals. Templated solutions never offer the customized experience that your users deserve and that your business needs to succeed.

    Any plan for web site design (or re-design) should include a substantial planning period to ensure that your web presence is built on a bedrock of understanding your site visitors and target audiences.

    Custom web development doesn't equal custom "homerew" CMS. Any web development agency worth its salt will leverage the power of a developed, open source CMS versus trying to shove you into their packaged "custom" CMS solution. We are an award winning web development and design firm and we built OUR OWN site in WordPress. Check it (and us) out at www.newcitymedia.com

  • by Charles Falls Wed Nov 12, 2008 via web

    This article is nice for online retailers, but it means little to those whose websites are used as reference tools, such as hospitals and healthcare providers. Those in their situation need a website, but also many other microsites, blogs, news feeds, etc. that will spread their info to a wider audience (plus it helps to have multiple pages appear in searches rather than one and then sub listings).
    We found that healthcare websites should be focused on getting the viewers' email addresses so that the organization can consistently spread their news and helpful information including classes, new hires, new techniques, etc. Because in healthcare, the "sale" doesn't necessarily occur from one visit to a website. Instead, it comes from a relationship that is born out of good communication.

  • by Mike Volpe Fri Nov 14, 2008 via web

    I think the points about website templates are totally wrong. Usually it is the custom design websites that are not SEO friendly because they are designed by an artist that does not pay attention to the SEO details. Pick a good template on a CMS you like, customize it to make it your own with colors, logos, fonts and images, and you have a very cost effective and SEO friendly website. Just look at blogs, most of which are on templates, and they performs better in SEO than most websites.

    Additionally, if you ask marketing Guru Seth Godin, he will say that you don't want a custom website for most companies - there is a standard layout and look and feel that people are used too and something too different is confusing. He says: "I'm going to go out on a limb and beg you not to create an original design. There are more than a billion pages on the web. Surely there's one that you can start with?" See the full article here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/10/how-to-create-a.html

  • by Justin P Mon Nov 17, 2008 via web

    Thanks Mike- I thought I was going mad thinking that- I'm glad seth thinks that too!

    I think what website CMS providers are trying to do is differentiate themselves- good marketing!

    What's good for them isn't necessarily good for the customer and we have to cut through the marketing spin and get results that are genuinely good for us as marketers- not for the website providers!

    They need to differentiate on other things as opposed to having a "custom" CMS.

    Thougths?

  • by Eva Thu Nov 20, 2008 via web

    I also disagree with many of the points of this article. There are plenty of templates out there that do a good job of SEO...

  • by David Thu Nov 27, 2008 via web

    Most of you are discussing blog templates. Forgive me for not being specific. I was referring to website templates and thought i was clear there. Anyone can use wordpress and SEO plugins if that's the path they choose to go. I was referring to the many website template sites out there provided by Monster, godaddy, etc.

    With regards to Seth Godin, please keep reading his books as he is an incredible marketer for himself and if you are marketing yourself as a brand he could provide insightful info. I would also like to point out the fact that his overall traffic trend for his beloved Squidoo is steadily declining.

    Creative and content makes the world go around when it comes to a quality web design. In my opinion nothing takes the place of a creatively executed website with great content. You are more likely to get repeat visitors and higher conversions.

    In fact there are studies on the net that prove that professional design and architecture are the biggest factor when determining the credibility of a website.

    Can you spot a template website? I sure as hell can so i would venture to guess it won't be long till your target audience does as well.

    The goal of the article was to hopefully open some eyes to the fact that choosing price over value just to "get on the internet" will end up costing you in the long run.

    I can't even begin to tell you the COUNTLESS stories i have heard from people.

    www.DigitalSurgeons.com is not a web design firm - we are a digital marketers. Our goal is to position our clients, enhance visibility, convert, and track using a variety of methods.

    For those of you that cannot derive good code, sharp meaningful design, with SEO friendliness, or a budget for that matter....templates and the long road may be your best bet.

  • by Cutting Edge Wed Jun 24, 2009 via web

    Many of our website designs started as templates but we mod them beyond recognition and are easily able to perform the SEO work needed.

  • by kimberly m Tue Mar 16, 2010 via web

    I agree with "Choosing an experienced Web development agency to build a custom Web site could be the most valuable investment you make for your business." But not necessarily with the word "custom" as I agree with Mike Volpe's comments. There are many factors to building a great website - one involves the CMS being SEO friendly and user-friendly. It shouldn't be a long and cumbersome task for the content editors to make updates and they should be able to easily fine-tune for off-page as well. As far as the layout of the website/templates topic - it is true that there are certain design aspects we expect to find on a webpage - just like we expect in any book to find the Title on the spine, front cover, a bio somewhere near the front, an index in toward the back, etc. :)

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