good web design
'It is common sense that if you practice good web
design, your visitors will want to stay for longer and
come back on a more frequent basis'. Jim 27/2
Firstly, let me say this; there is no right or wrong
answer to web design. During this report I am not going
to lecture you on what may or may not work. As a
Webmaster you have to realise that everyone is an
individual; what will please some, might make others
cringe. Let me use an example; lets say you walk into a
pub, the air is heavy from cigarette smoke and all sorts
of stains mark the sickly yellow carpet. What do you
think? Yes, I want to stay in here and have a pint or,
quick lets go next door to the well-ventilated, modern
looking bar? A select few will go for the first option
and a certain percentage will go for the second option
and I am sure that a few would not choose either option.
What is my point I hear you say, well, it is simple …
'You cannot please everybody'!
Nevertheless, the amount of research that has been done
on good web design and user etiquette is outstanding,
and the statistics speak for themselves, for example, it
is an established marketing fact that visitors only buy
your product after being exposed to your message, on
average, seven times! This report will look at
well-known methods on how, as an affiliate, you can
design your site so that visitors will stay longer. I
shall also teach you certain tricks of the trade to keep
your visitors coming back on a more regular basis, thus
acquiring customer loyalty and hopefully clicking on
Unfortunately impatience is a common feature in the
sphere of the world-wide-web; your visitors really do
not want to hang around waiting for a slow loading page.
They would rather close the page and try another site.
This is fair enough as you have to remember that they
are not all on Free 40 hour internet trials. There are a
number of guidelines you should follow on the download
time of a web page. The first important one should be
that your web page (including HTML, graphics etc) should
be no more than 80kb and in general a page should not
take longer than 40 seconds to download. It is important
to note that some of the page should be visible within
the first few moments of a visitor clicking through.
Don't get too worried about the speed of the page;
Robert Brady recently told me that the heaviest pages at
http:///www.highstreetcentral.com suffer no traffic
penalty from slow loading pages. The extra traffic
attracted by the keywords used, outweighs the number of
visitors who press the 'stop' or 'back' button. In a
perfect world all pages would load immediately. This may
be the case in the future, but for now though, make sure
they don't exceed the 40-second mark. The only real
exceptions to this rule are pages that deal with
customer transactions (it has been reported that
visitors will abandon a purchase if it takes too long)
and pages that are reviewed by directories (these web
pages should load quickly for obvious reasons).
What subject matter you include in your site is not,
necessarily, a factor for web design. The fact is
though, even if your site is visually stunning, you need
to think carefully about its content. Would you buy a
Ferrari that had no seats, stereo or engine? The answer
is NO (well some of you might); your outward appearance
may look flash but there has to be something inside to
keep your visitor craving for more.
Firstly, the content of your site should be as relevant
and concise as possible, for the quicker your visitors
are brought to an understanding of what your site is
about, the better for business. As soon as a visitor
clicks through to your site, there should be no doubt as
to what you are trying to convey/sell/promote.
You should also consider giving away as much free
information as possible. This will give your visitors a
reason to bookmark your site and return to it at a later
date (remember, it takes a number of visits before a
visitor performs a transaction). Another advantage to
free information is that, if it should contain your
keywords and phrases, it will then be indexed by the
search engines and found by your visitors that are
specifically interested in your end product (thus you
are more guaranteed of a sale).
An 'About Us' link is an extremely important addition to
your sites content. In the 'About Us' section, you
should include contact details, so that visitors can
e-mail you with suggestions, complaints and compliments
(good practice is to reply to e-mails within 48 hours).
You should also add a basic summary of what your site is
about and perhaps include the date when your site was
created (all this is extremely important for those who
take customer transactions online, for you need to
create an element of trust).
It is advisable to try to refresh your content on a
regular basis. I sympathise fully when you say that it
is a lot of work, but think about it this way - would
your visitors buy a newspaper that had yesterday's news
in it? You don't have to spend hours modifying the
content - refreshing the material around once a week
would still have the same effect.
Some other important pointers for your content include
using an easy to read font (there is nothing more
annoying than straining to read the text). You should
also try to avoid having great 'lumps' of text splashed
haphazardly across your web page; the only thing this
accomplishes is for your visitor to click on the 'Back'
button. Instead of great blocks of content, you should
separate them with numerous paragraph spaces (it
shouldn't require more than four clicks on the scrollbar
to get to the bottom of the page).
When it comes to the actual text of the web page, make
sure you have proof read it all. I am a very fussy
fellow and cannot stand to see simple grammatical
errors, typos and spelling mistakes. All it achieves is
to make your site look amateurish.
Graphics, Layout + Thought = Quality Design
What your site looks like is an enormous factor when it
comes to your visitors wanting to either 'stay, shop and
come back' or just 'window browse'. I have split this
subject into a number of important sub-categories,
ranging from the use of frames to choosing the
background colour, all of which are essential in making
your site a professional looking, visually stunning
I recently wrote an extensive article on how to increase
the effectiveness of your links. In the report I
concentrated on banner links because they, above other
forms of advertising, bring in revenue and can also
dramatically change the way your site looks. For the
present moment, I am going to run over a few guidelines,
(please read the report for a more in-depth view).
First thing's first, don't make your site look like a
banner farm. Pasting your site with numerous adverts
ruins the professionalism of your site and inevitably
makes your visitor hit the 'x' button. There really is
no point in using all the space available on your web
page for banners, your visitors know that you are trying
to make money out of them, so be more subtle (in
general, targeted traffic results in a higher
Try to keep the number of 468 x 60 banners on each page
to a maximum of 2. If you really want to show a large
amount of banners, why not use rotating banners. By
doing this, the page the banners are displayed on looks
different every time it is refreshed and you are able to
display a variety of banners without adding more
bandwidth to your pages. It is also a known fact that
after someone views the same banner over and over again,
they'll become immune to it, thereby reducing
If you are using text-based links try to place them on
relevant web pages for targeted traffic. The majority of
http://www.ukaffiliates.com's members use their text
links in online directories. If someone were after a
stereo system, they would go to the HIFI/electronic
section, not the fly-fishing section. Relevancy is the
· GRAPHICS (+ software)
Graphics can give a helpful edge to your website but if
used foolishly, can serve to undermine your site.
Remember the original Ford advert? - You can have the
car in any colour, as long as its black - well, life is
not that simple anymore. Surfers want ultra cool sites,
with eye-catching graphics and 'flash' based movies;
unfortunately all these options slow the downloading
time (see the 'download section'). It is a good idea to
use a certain amount of graphics on your web page to
gain attention, just don't overload any one page (this
is especially important of your index page).
There are a certain number of graphic packages that can
help you in the design of your site. To make your site
vivid and interesting, why not try Macromedia Fireworks
(which works with Dreamweaver). It allows you to create
buttons and animations without any fuss or fret. Adobe
Illustrator expands your creative freedom and enhances
your productivity with its web graphic tools. If you are
into photographic images, why not take a look at Adobe
Photoshop; with some of the best interface's available
and one of the broadest toolsets, you can explore your
creativity and achieve great results across all media.
There are also plenty of readymade freebies that can be
found on the web if you do not wish to pay for any
software. http://www.freegraphics.com/ has a large
searchable database of graphic sites and http://www.animationstation.com/
has hundreds of free backgrounds and templates to choose
The use of colour, be it the background colour or the
colour of your font / links, should be thought about
with care before you paste it onto your site. In
general, anything outside of a white or black background
should be approached with caution. In broad speaking
terms, white backgrounds are used for sites that have a
lot of text, whereas black backgrounds are used to
'achieve a cool look'.
Remember that different colours show different moods.
Black creates a dark and enclosed mood, whereas white
gives a crisp, clean, open mood.
Your links should also be a different colour to the body
text (blue being the obvious choice, as it is the
default for most browsers); if the links are the same
colour, things can start to get confusing.
I also feel that a busy background (i.e. flashing
banners, pop up gifs etc.) can undermine what you are
trying to achieve; try to keep the colours consistent.
If you have text that needs to be concentrated on, do
you want your readers attention drawn away because of
the distracting background?
There are both positive and negative aspects to using
frames on your site. You should only really use frames
if you honestly feel they will improve your site. If,
for example, you intend to use frames for navigation,
then why not think about using a navigation bar instead.
If you are going to use them, there are a number of
pointers you should watch out for. Firstly, under no
circumstances should you trap external links within your
web site's frames; yes, you may keep your visitor for an
extra few minutes but believe me, the visitor will NOT
come back! You should also try to provide a non-frames
version as not everyone want to experiences frames.
Another thing to remember is that frames can sometimes
present problems to your visitors when they try to
bookmark or print the page; which again would affect the
number of return visits. One last thing, make sure the
frames can be scrolled, if necessary; your links might
fit into the frame perfectly on your 19" monitor,
but a visitor has no chance of squeezing everything in
on their 14" monitor.
Easy to use navigation is fundamental to the design of
your web site. Think of your website as a futuristic
DisneyLand, the old-fashioned 'YOU ARE HERE' signs can
now provide instant teleportation to the ride you choose
- thus making it hundreds of times more efficient.
You should aim to have navigation links at the top,
bottom, left and right side of the web page. I myself
cannot stand to go into a site on my lunch break, only
to find that it takes 15 minutes to try and find the DVD
section. Providing navigation links may be time
consuming, but in the end they will keep your visitors
Another golden rule is that you should try to keep the
number of clicks required to get from your main page to
any other page down to four. If it is a lot more than
that, you should really consider your navigation design.
Name that tune
Da, Daaa Da, Daaa, Da Da, Daaa Da, Da, Da Da, Daaa, Da.
Da etc. - this is my rather poor rendition of
Greensleeves; unfortunately (like the mobile phone ring
tone), it is an all to common feature that is being used
by webmasters worldwide. Being an affiliate coordinator
at http://www.ukaffiliates.com/ I have to source new
signups for unsuitable content and one thing I regularly
come across is a blast in the face by a midi version of
Whitney Houston's 'I will always love you'. Do me a
favour guys, if I want to listen to this 'music' I'll go
to Switzerland where I can buy some real cheese.
I am not saying that a web site shouldn't feature any
music; I have in fact been to a few that pulled me
deeper into the site by the magnetism of the sounds
being played. What I am saying is that it shouldn't
'auto play' whenever you click onto the homepage. None
of the top 100 websites use 'auto play' and I know it's
good to be original but really, neither should you.
Having an 'auto play' feature can even crash your
browser - so Greensleeves could be your downfall.
Obviously, if your site were relevant to the music
business (for example you have an MP3 site) then music
would be advantageous. Otherwise, if you want your
visitors to come back again and again, turn off the
music feature before they turn off their speakers.
In this section I shall go over a few useful guidelines,
which will hopefully make your visitors stay for a
longer duration whilst encouraging their return.
Firstly, as I have already said, you should strive to
add new content on a regular basis. New material
stimulates re-visits. Your visitors do not want to miss
out on any goodies - and they won't if they bookmark
your site. Remember, you can attract visitors with
keywords and key phrases (see the 'search engine
report'), but you will only get them back if you give
them exactly what they want.
Book marking is an extremely important method for
getting repeat business on the web. On your front page
you should encourage, without looking garish, your
visitors to add your web address to their favourites.
Newsletter subscriptions are another method of getting
your visitors to come back to the site. On the
subscription form, keep the amount of information you
ask for to the bare minimum - long admin forms can scare
off potential subscribers. The best thing about
newsletters though is that they not only encourage
subscribers to re-visit but they also build brand
loyalty through familiarity (thus helping to convert
subscribers into customers, an all important factor when
it comes to pay per sale banners).
Competitions are another way to encourage your visitors
to return to your site. How are they going to know if
they have won the BMW if they do not check the winner
Remember that honesty is the best policy when it comes
to web design. If you trick your visitors and lie to
them, not only will your site's reputation go downhill,
but also your visitor numbers will slowly diminish. If
you are currently under construction, then you should
post the message and give them a correct timescale for
when your site will be re-launched. You should also make
efforts to apologise for any broken links or Error 404
pages. If your visitors are presented with an apology,
and information that gets them back on track, then the
best is made from a bad situation.
Don't get too discouraged early on. Everyone has to
start somewhere. If you keep working at it, using the
resources available, then your site will soon attract
larger numbers of traffic and hopefully earn you more
revenue. Bear in mind that there is a huge number of
sites out there; so next time you are surfing and you
come across a well-designed site, why don't you stop and
think what has made this site stand out. Remember, it is
good to be original but you can learn from other peoples
success and add your own material to it … never be
afraid to challenge the existing ways of web life.
Keep it simple, keep it relevant and enjoy what you are
doing. Anyone can create a website, but not everyone can
design it so that they have their visitor's interests in
mind. Even if you put into practice a third of what I
have said, you will still see an increase in the number
of visitors and hopefully an increase in the number of
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