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11 Web Site Design Tips
to Help Keep Your Visitors
Coming Back Again and Again
by Joe Gracia

1. Keep it Simple:

While Java and Shockwave animations may look neat, they rarely increase your marketing results. More often than not, they will distract your visitors from your marketing message, or even crash your visitors' computers.

Many of your visitors won't have the necessary plug-ins needed to view these animations.

Perhaps in a few years Internet technology will make the use of these animation techniques more accessible to your visitors. Until then, you are much better off keeping your Web site simple and focusing on your marketing strategy and your content.


2. Make it Easy to Read:

If content is king, then easy reading is queen. If trying to read the information on your Web site is difficult in any way, the majority of your visitors will leave and not come back.

Don't put your words on dark or black backgrounds--the Star Wars effect. It's very difficult to read.

Don't put your words on patterned backgrounds, even if the pattern is very simple. Anything behind your words will be distracting and make your copy difficult to read.

Use black or very dark text on plain white backgrounds for the bulk of your text on your Web site. People are used to reading black type on white paper.

Don't use fancy fonts. Many of your visitors have limited or different fonts on their computers. Their computer will then simply replace your fancy font with something totally different. You'll never know what your visitors are seeing with the substitute fonts.

Use Times Roman, Helvetica or Arial for your fonts because these fonts are available on everyone's computer. By sticking to these basic fonts you will be safe in assuming that your visitors are seeing what you created.

Use ALL CAPS very sparingly. It's okay to use all caps for a short headline or subhead here and there, but don't overdo it. ALL CAPS is like yelling or DECLARING WAR!! You especially don't want to set an entire paragraph in all caps or you will definitely repel your visitors.

Create a consistent format for your fonts. Use one font and size for your major page titles, one for your subheads, and one for the body text of your articles.

Create standard and consistent links. Links should be blue and underlined whenever possible. Be careful not to underline other phrases that are not links, because your visitors will think they are links and get very frustrated clicking on them. Keep it simple. Keep it consistent.


3. Keep Your Line Lengths Short for Easy Reading:

Pick up your local newspaper or a national magazine and look at the articles printed in them. Notice how narrow the columns are. They are designed like that for a purpose.

Narrow copy is much easier for people to read than long lines. For one, people can absorb a very short line of copy much more easily than a long one that they must break down mentally into smaller segments.

Plus, when your copy lines are long, people often have a more difficult time finding the beginning of the next line.

If you keep your copy lines short, no more than 85 characters, you will make it much easier for your visitors to read your articles.

Long lines repel. Short lines attract.


4. Keep Your Paragraphs Short:

Nothing is more repellant to a Web surfer than a solid block of text that is 20-40 lines long. Ugh! It's like reading a legal document.

If you want your readers to keep reading your copy, then you have to make it as easy and as inviting as possible for them.

Keep your lines short, and keep your paragraphs to 5-6 lines each. The shorter, the better.


5. Use Sub-Heads to Break Up Your Paragraphs:

You can also make your copy more appealing to your visitors, by breaking up your paragraphs with bold sub-heads that describe the next section. It relieves the monotony, plus it helps them to understand what is coming up next.

You can also use bulleted lists to make it easy to see listed points.


6. Make Your Pages Load Fast:

Your visitors aren't going to wait forever for your neat animation or graphics to load. Keep your graphics small and use them sparingly. The faster your Web page loads the fewer visitors you will lose. You want to keep your loading time under 20 seconds. Focus on content not graphics.


7. Tell Your Visitors What to Do:

Too many Web site owners mistakenly believe that everyone surfing the Web is an Internet expert. They are not. They don't know much about navigation, or Java, or forms, etc.

If you want someone to click on a link, then make it look like a standard link by making the font blue and underlined.

Even then you may have to actually tell your visitors to Click Here. It may seem redundant, but we have found by testing that more people will click if you tell them specifically what you want them to do.


8. Design Your Page for a 600 Pixel Width:

It's a big pet peeve of ours and we know that many Web site visitors hate it too. We're talking about creating your Web pages wider than 600 pixels.

A Web page that is designed wider than 600 pixels may look great on YOUR computer, but there's a good chance that your visitors have to scroll their screens left and right to see your pages. If they do, most will leave.

Keep in mind, also, that many people surf the web with their windows minimized, which means that they will see even less of your pages.

By designing your pages specifically for a 600 pixel width, you will overcome 90% of this problem, and your visitors will have no reason to leave because of frustrating scrolling back and forth.


9. Design Your Page for 800 Resolution:

You may have a super, high resolution computer where 1024 resolution or higher looks great. You may also have perfect vision and have no problem reading the teeny, tiny type that higher resolutions produce, but many of your visitors won't have their monitors set to the higher resolution, and many can't or won't try to read tiny type on Web sites.

Most people at this point have their monitors set to 800 resolution. You can't get them to change their monitor settings to accommodate your particular Web pages by saying, "This site is best viewed at 1024 resolution. Please reset your monitor for that resolution." No one is going to do that for you. They will just leave your site.

You want to create your Web site so that it will be easily read by the majority of your visitors. In the future this may change, but for now the majority says 800 resolution.


10. Organize Your Web Site:

It's important that your Web site visitors feel comfortable navigating throughout your Web site.

Think about a book. Imagine if there were no table of contents, no chapters, no division by subject matter, just a hodgepodge of paragraphs and pages. Not many people would go through the frustration and trouble to read it.

Most books are broken down into logical sections or chapters so that the readers can find what they are looking for quickly and easily.

Your Web site should be organized the same way.

Break down your information into logical sections or departments.

We have a department for articles, one for tutorials, one for motivation quotations and stories, one for checklists, one for our store, etc.

Once you click on one of our department links, you will go to an index page for that department.

Plus, we put all of the links to our departments on every page of our Web site, so that our visitors can get to any other department with one click of the mouse.

If possible, put a Site Map page on your Web site. This page will show your visitors all of your departments and all of the pages within each department all on one page. It can be formatted as a simple outline.

Make it easy for your visitors to find what they want on your Web site and they will stay longer and come back more often.


11. Organize Your Web Pages:

It's important for you to establish a simple and consistent format for the pages of your Web site.

Nothing looks more unprofessional than a mish mash of different looking pages on a Web site. Don't use a two column format on some of your pages and a three or four column format on others. Create a consistent format for your pages and then stick to it.

You should use a consistent layout for your pages. If you want to put your links to your other pages in a left or right hand column, then do that for all of your pages. If you want to put a title at the top of each page, then select a font, color and size for those titles and use them for all of your pages.

While variety may be the spice of life, consistency is the glue that holds your Web site together. Use variety in your content and your ideas, but inconsistency in formats destroys trust and comfort in your visitors.

Pick up a few books and look at how the chapters are laid out. You will find a logical, and consistent layout, fonts, graphics etc. throughout most professional books.

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