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  • 08Apr
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Top Web Design Trends For Small Business In 2010
    A website is a great branding and marketing tool for any small business. It is also essential for a business strategy to ensure its brand, location and products are  found in search engine listings.

    In 2009 it became easier to design your website. Businesses had the choice of do-it-yourself website builder’ tools or open source software like WordPress etc. The open source software may require some initial setup help unless the business owner is technically savvy. In 2009 ready-to-use templates also got more sophisticated in the appearance of the finished product, i.e, the published web site, and at the same time got easier to use for the end user. Another new trend for 2009 was getting a design for your website or logo as a contest through “crowdsourcing” with sites like 99 Designs, CrowdSpring and Genius Rocket.

    For businesses that do not yet have a website, their goal for having a website in 2010 should be:

    * Discovery: Make sure your business can be found on the internet by users searching online for a business in search engines, maps and local
    * Engagement: Save your customers time by providing them an easy way to get information on your business.
    * Sales: Get sales and leads from engaged visitors
    * Service: provide information and tools for website visitors who have already made the purchase

    2010 will be the year of both the website owner and website visitor. Businesses will rediscover the marketing power of their websites. Users with an extensive choice of information on the internet will give their blessings to simply designed sites with easy to find information. Search engines will bless sites that are updated more frequently with ranking blessing. Social media integration will help websites spread their information far and wide and savvy website owners will use analytics to continuously tweak their websites based on visitor behavior. Entry pages, bounce rate, click paths will become easier lingo to follow and use for business purposes.

    2010 will be a call to action to those business owners who used the build –it-and-forget it policy for their websites to wake up and get the online marketing and brand engine going. If you don’t believe me, search Google for your competition or look how your customers are reviewing you on social sites like Yelp.

    2010 Trends for web design

    Find me on the Internet: Year of the Web presence

    As 2009 comes to an end and small businesses look to 2010, and an online presence will become important. Highly competitive businesses use technology like websites, online marketing tools etc to succeed (Small Business Success Index June 2009). With over 47% of small business not online 2010 will be an important year to get their business online and have a web site.

    Low cost or no cost ways to get a web site increase

    With the enormous variety of web site tools available for small business, it may be easy to start a web presence for almost no money at all. Hosting providers offering free websites tools, blogging software providers like Blogger, Wordpress etc also let you start a web presence easily. Small businesses could try these free tools to experiment and then advance to a customized hosted option. A hosted option with your own domain name would be more credible and more brand friendly for your business.

    Updating frequently. Realizing the power of a Blog as a business tool

    In the previous years Small businesses had set up websites and did not update them often. Even if they are not online businesses in 2010 these businesses will pay attention and update the content of their websites more frequently.

    More businesses will add Blogs to their existing websites. This will give them an additional way to interact with customers. Customers can comment and give feed back on the blog. An added bonus is that these businesses have a better chance to be in search engine results as blogs are updated more frequently and search engines like blogs. Customers will like this as they get a chance to comment and also get to know the business in a very friendly and conversational way. See Lisa Barone’s  tips on cleaning up your website.

    Flashy out;  practical in

    2010 will be the year of simplicity. Information on the internet is already overwhelming for users. Websites that quickly provide the information without too many flashy promotions will get more visitors. Of course the exception is if you are in the entertainment business.

    Personalized experience

    Greeting your visitors when they visit your website will become expected in 2010. Giving them a personalized experience based on their interests will make them WOW your business. No longer just limited to sites alike Amazon, show visitors what they looked at and recommend products they may like or content that is related.

    Are you for real?

    Security is increasingly a concern and the importance to establish credibility will continue to be important. Visitors will look for security seals, ssl certificates, secure forms (using https:) and also validation seals. This is even more important if you are selling products online and collecting information.

    You should make sure you add your website to the web master tools of Google, Bing and Yahoo. Security of your website will be very important against hackers and malware. To prevent this keep your website software always updated.

    Do you know who is knocking on your web site door; Web Analytics are a crucial tool

    Websites without analytics is like running a business without accounting. Websites will focus on using web analytics tools to learn which content is more popular, who is visiting and from where. Tools like Google Webmaster tools will be important to find stats for indexing.  Read Clate Mask’s article on using Web Analytics tools.

    Widgets and Apps

    Widgets showing collaboration between your website and other properties will become expected for websites. Some examples of using widgets is adding your latest Twitter comments, best selling products, most popular articles. This will extend to the ability to share the content using widgets like Share This, Add this allowing the website content to be shared by the visitors to their own networks.

    Some great info on Lisa Barone’s post here.

    Can I call you now? Adding Interactivity to your website

    Chat and calling buttons on your website will be back. If people find something interesting on the website, features like ‘Click to Call “and chat or send a message will reemerge. This will also be an important analytical tool so as to track where the lead came from by using different incoming phone numbers. Earlier, these tools were only affordable by large corporations in 2010 these tools will become affordable by more small businesses. More website owners will start using  Skype , Google Voice or several commercially available options.

    More Multi-media will be added to web sites

    Videos and photo galleries will form part of websites . Small business will use cheaper and convenient options like FLIP HD cameras to tell the behind the scenes stories of their business and products. Uploading them to video sites like YouTube, Blip.tv etc for videos, and Flickr for Photos and embedding them in their own website and will have the advantage of being seen in both the website and the photo or video network.

    In 2010 using websites like BlogTalk Radio businesses will show their thought leadership through podcasts and even their own live TV show using web sites like Livestream.

    Links links links

    Websites home pages will morph into portals to cater to a wide audience visiting them. Links between websites and other local community websites, events, news will be part of the website content strategy. Media rooms i.e sections of the website where small business owners can showcase coverage of their business will be an essential part of the website. Business websites will show their support to local and community causes. Content will include links to industry trends and news.

    In summary if you are a small business owner you should be prepared in 2010 to show personality in your business by using your website and multi media tools to tell your story to your customers and prospects. Keeping an ear to the ground to learn about the conversations about your business like product reviews etc will become very important. You may get media and press attention by exposure of your business in social media channels. Any effort in 2010 you invest in your website will be highways to your getting more traffic customers and a better bottom line. 2010 is the year of the small business web site.





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  • 02Aug
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Is There Such a Thing as Optimal Web Design?

    When talking about design across-the-board, it’s harder to define what is the best based on a singular standard, as compared to deciding which is more aesthetically pleasing than the other. After all, like most human creations, there may be no exact definition or standard to define or embody perfect design at any cost, especially given the subjective perspective by which each individual may look upon any object.

    However, there is such a thing coined by many as optimal web design. Optimal, by virtue of its definition alone, already means the most favorable or desired form of any particular subject. This then translates to what is optimal web design—which is web design that best suits the tastes of the greater majority, while at the same time working within the feasibility constraints of any undertaking.

    What then makes web design optimal? Web design is optimal when it seeks to provide maximum utility to users while providing business or operational viability. In this way, the designer is able to best provide for the demand of both the end consumers as well as the people who plan and conceptualize for the purpose of deriving profit.

    Putting the end users in mind is another means in order to emphasize what’s in every web designer’s mind—friendlier usability for each and every user. This means taking into consideration the fact that people visit websites in order to find particular content; therefore, it is imperative that the content must always take the precedence over any other accents and extraneous designs or artwork.

    The more effective web designers are not afraid to make use of white backgrounds, or generally very clean lines in their website. By limiting the use of unrelated pictures that may even cause loading the page to take longer, and adding in very integral elements like the title and an outline of the contents of the page, it brings attention back to the content over anything else.

    Pictures, unless completely necessary, should be used sparingly. When it would take longer than usual to load due to the size or the volume of pictures, it is recommended to forewarn users so that they may opt out of viewing pictures and instead proceed to seeking content they need. Moreover, advertisements and their placements, when possible, must be planned so that while they will serve their purpose, they will also in no way cause distraction or distaste to the visitors of the website.

    Moreover, navigation is made consistent and simple in order to make accessing content as simple and as easy as possible. After all, who’s to say if everyone who surfs the Internet have the same capacities to grasp and decipher navigational tactics and the like.

    Integrate into the design a means through which each and every visitor may have access to basic information about the website and its proponents (usually in the ‘About’ page), as well as a means of access to the privacy statement of the company. After all, the latter has played a big role in building—or inversely destroying—many relationships on the Internet.

    An additional means in order to have an optimal web design is by using rudimentary conventions in web design—like making clear buttons, describing links accurately, and displaying links in the conventional blue. In this manner, the website will accommodate even the older users without the same sort of grounding with the use of the computer, and will make sure that users have the least amount of trouble in just trying to access a design.

    However, there are also particular selling points that will assure marketability and will reflect business viability to its necessary degree. First and foremost, aesthetic design and code design are very much limited by the resources made available by the company. It is also important that the website has the capacity to meld in with the strategies undertaken by the company.

    The first consideration in the optimal business viability of a website are the limitations experienced and set in order to create it. This includes the limitations on space, the domain address, as well as the terms and conditions that a company would have to sign in order to enlist services.

    Moreover, optimal web design when it comes to business applications when the website is able to integrate itself to all the collective efforts, like marketing strategies and the like, of any company hoping to gain an edge through the Internet. This means that in the end, while aesthetics play an important role, creating an optimal web design is still one that best accommodates without alienation its users, sponsors, and web design planners.
    Is There Such a Thing as Optimal Web Design?





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  • 02Aug
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    When Web Design Gets Annoying!

    The Internet is home to various artists, web artists, and designers both professional and amateur. It can afford to provide individuals with opportunities to freely explore their artistic capabilities and publish content to a borderless audience.

    However, unluckily, alongside this freedom of expression afforded to everyone is the capacity to offend sensibilities. Some website provide great utility and aesthetic pleasure—others are bound to get annoying.

    There are ways and means in order to avoid getting annoying, and its best to start by knowing when web design of a website does get annoying.

    Using colors that just do not work

    Colors in good and sensible does are a good means in order to attract attention and communicate ideas and emotions to an audience. They can help add interest to a dull site full of text, and even introduce and maintain a certain mood (as in scary websites using black as a background).

    However, there is a fine line between too much and just about right. What gets annoying when it comes to colors is when readability is compromised, and combinations are too loud for comfort. When readability is compromised, it can pose great discomfort to the site’s visitors when they try to decipher the text that they want to have access to. Using too many colors and colors that do not complement each other tend to make the website look goofy and awkward, and can make the website lose whatever credibility it can possibly gain.

    Too many clicks to get to the end of the road

    At the end of the day, people who visit websites do so in order to access information and content in a website. Some websites tend to re-route visitors through too many clicks before they get to the content they want to get to assuming that the content is indeed somewhere in the multiple pages they are made to access. Obviously, that gets annoying. Rule of thumb says that a maximum of three clicks (but preferably less) should be enough in order for someone surfing a site to get to the information they want to get to.

    Excessive graphics that take too long to load

    Graphics and pictures, when relevant and are the primary content meant for the website, are a welcome part of a website. However, when they just serve the purpose of aesthetic enhancement, graphics and pictures that take too long to load—and inevitably, slow the process of accessing primary content—become a major reason for discontent and displeasure among visitors.

    It is also helpful to note that not all visitors of the website are equipped with optimal download or Internet surfing speeds; excessive graphics that are too large and thus, take too long to load are not only unwelcome but also a great inconvenience to a great number of people.
    Navigation that’s over-the-top and difficult to follow

    Overcomplicating the navigation of the website can greatly hamper the efficacy of the website to communicate its content, and can hurt the accessibility of many pages to its visitors. At any point during their visit to a site, it is important to assure that the visitors have some way in order to trace back their steps and return to content they previously accessed, as well as carry on with accessing other content.

    For simplicity’s sake, many websites solve this problem by having a constant button present on all pages for visitors to return to their main menu page, or their cover page.

    Fonts that simply do not work

    Depending on the browser and fonts installed by the users on their computers, extremely decorative and highly uncommon fonts may not be displayed the way the web designer intended them to appear—and may oftentimes even compromise the readability of the text per se.

    In order to avoid this from happening, many web designers opt to stay within the bounds of major font families (Helvetica, verdana, and the like). That way, they are assured that most (if not all) of their visitors will be viewing the site as designed, and thus have greater control of the way the page will be displayed in the end.

    There is never a ‘perfect’ template for design as it is open to the subjectivity and artistic limitations of designers. However, understanding the behavior of site visitors can only help make shape design innovation and utility move towards greater heights.
    When Web Design Gets Annoying!





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  • 01Aug
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Well-designed Headings to Improve Usability of Website

    When people go online in order to seek information, they usually end up utilizing means in order to best find the content they are looking for. At the end of the day, when they are able to determine if a web page contains the information they are looking for, they become better equipped in searching, deciphering, and even choosing the information they want to access at any given point, but particularly through search engines.

    Headings play a particularly important role when it comes to finding information online, and secondly, facilitating the use of the website within which the content or information desired is to be found. It can be illustrated in two-fold scenarios, one before the website is found, and one when the user is already within the website.

    Headings in hypertext protocol or HTML are a group of text rich with content, usually composed of primary keywords that give a clue or idea about the content of the website. In general terms, a heading is a line or hierarchical label that informs the users as to the content of the website, alongside pertinent information as regards the nature of this content.

    When it comes to searching for particular websites, headings play a pivotal role in having the page show up at all in the results of any search engine query. Search engines, when they ‘crawl’ through the Internet looking for relevant information and related websites, usually put into consideration the heading. Headings are so important here that in order to search engine optimize one’s website, many believe that it must then contain major keywords that truly characterize the content of the page.

    Moreover, aside from the HTML content rich code headings, it’s also important to put primacy upon the heading that is present within the main text body displayed on the website. This is the huge hierarchical label or title that gives the readers an idea of what is contained in the page.

    In search engine results, these in-text headings are extremely important because they are what most search engines use in order to label each individual link derived from the search. This then can then determine if the user will find the heading relevant enough to the search he or she is looking for. By providing an efficient heading, one is already providing a great convenience to the user by making the website readily accessible and usable.

    More importantly, once the user is already within the realms of the website, headings in particular guide them as they explore its complete contents. When the heading reflects effectively the very content of a single page, the website as a whole is made more usable as no page is designed to mislead the user into thinking the information he or she is looking for is within that page.

    Another great function of headings in a website that may be used to subdivide various information contained in them is that it facilitates the scanning through of information of users in a page. As it is, users are oftentimes not interested on the content found in its entirety in a page, but only a particular part of it. By allowing them to be guided by headings, websites become more usable, friendly, and convenient for all its users.

    Moreover, it gives users a general idea about the hierarchical structure of the website and how information is organized. The flow of this information, and the understanding of the users of this particular flow, is of importance to users as this could very well determine their understanding of the concepts explored in the information presented.

    Headings also imply that when users scan for information they need selectively, they may pick out particular portions of the text in between headings without necessarily compromising understandability and being taken out of context.

    The most convenient use of headings is when text-heavy pages utilize a small portion of table of contents at the top of the page, where the information is subdivided into their respective headings. In this way, users are already able to have a general understanding of what the website contains in a direct and straightforward manner. Thus, if the table of contents is also link-activated, it will allow for them to skip only to the information they need.

    At the end of the day, headings improve a website’s usability by simplifying information made available to users and organizing them into a format most convenient. It allows for users to first, find the information they need through a search engine, and once within the website, determine and scan through the text easily in order to find the information they need in a short time and with very little trouble.

    Well-designed Headings to Improve Usability of Website





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  • 01Aug
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Website Usability Tips

    Web usability according to research, was proven to be the most significant factor in web design. In fact, it is the influential element that keeps visitors returning to your site.

    Usually the most overlooked aspect when designing a website, nonetheless in actuality, usability has power over the web. When your visitors can not easily navigate your site, chances are, he will not utilize your library in search for information and just go to other sites.  Note that all sites are just a click of the mouse away. Hundreds of thousands of other online stores that offer the same services or products as you are crowding the internet, making online shoppers more selective and choosy when concluding whether to stay and continue their browsing or just leave.

    The internet offers online shoppers ample freedom and various choices; nobody will ever waste their time on a poorly constructed website.  In order to provide web usability, you must involve or think of your prospect clients in designing it.

    Not like a traditional “brick and mortar” store, a lot of online stores or websites do not permit their visitors to “walk through” inside the site as they can in a traditional store set-up. While this may seem an unworkable task to accomplish, if done correctly, a “user-friendly” approach to web design will easily accomplish this task.

    When online shopping, all things must to be located where visitors expect them to be at. The practice of flooding a client with abundant item choices all at the same time and making them search for certain items that they need, is most definitely not the concept of web usability.

    Your visitors must be taken into consideration all throughout your planning as well as designing process. Bear in mind that web usability must never be considered after the construction of a website.

    Fixing and then testing your website only after construction is useless and will not yield satisfactory results. Your best approach would be to combine a replica of “pervasive usability” unto your web design and construction process.

    According to surveys, here are top 12 reasons why visitors want to go back to your site:

    •    Easy navigation            74%

    •    Quick download time        65%

    •    Frequently updated information    58%

    •    Content quality         57%

    •    Content quantity        30%

    •    Content organization        40%

    •    Prompt customer service        40%

    •    Website search tools        25%

    •    Layout of homepage        20%

    •    Enjoyment            19%

    •    Website appearance        18%

    •    Inclusion of animated graphics      9%

    Basing from these reasons, here are usability tips to help you design your website:

    1.  Become familiar with your visitors based on their preferences.  You need a website with personality as well as content quality that accommodates your visitor’s taste; you should understand and recognize their color choices, technical skills, etc.

    2. Create obvious and simple interface. The more apparent and recognizable the web interface is, then your visitors never have to undergo frustration in guessing how your site really works, and instead on concentrating on the interface, they should be concentrating on your site’s content.

    3. Website readability.  Create “easy to read” paragraph, not using small text or font size.

    4. Quick loading.  You need a fast downloadable page as visitors hate to wait.

    5. Avoid hidden navigation, as your visitors need to know where and what to click in order to go someplace.

    6. Get visitor feedbacks so you will know what is working and what does not.  Learn from your prospects.

    7. Investigate on website visitor performance.  Determine how long it takes to perform a certain task? It should not take too long, the faster the better.  If not, work on your user interaction so to improve performance.

    8. Provide a help section.  If your website visitor does make a certain mistake, then they truly will appreciate it if you provide ways to assist them.  “404 page” is great for directing “spiders” to crawl unto your webpage.
    Testing for usability

    Testing for usability is not complicated and very inexpensive to carry out. The easiest answer is to design a simple sequence of undertakings for web users to carry out trials.

    Invite people or friends to your workplace, then request them to navigate your website, watching and observing while they surf.  Do not wait when your website is done before you test it; test it now.

    The work can be simple like finding out a product’s information or finding out how a certain firm can be contacted or one can order a product and finding shipping policies information.

    After testing, fix any problem and test it again.  Continue testing and refining web usability of your website until such time that there are no problems found, that the experience is efficient and pleasant.

    Remember that website usability is concerned to not just the appearance of a site, but more importantly how your site performs and particularly, it gives emphasis on the experience of your visitors.

    Website Usability Tips





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  • 01Aug
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Website Interface And Usability

    Usability study normally precedes the interface and technical design of the website construction process, which involves establishment of complete user profiles, creation of the interface model or sample and extensive user testing.

    The ideal web interface design demands for organized approach in the designing process. However, to guarantee optimal performance, web usability testing is needed. This domain testing allows inexperienced users to supply data regarding what really is working, as have been expected and then what is not working. Only as soon as the subsequent repairs are constructed and done can a website be considered to achieve optimized user interface.

    This procedure, though in several cases takes a few repetitions, provide the necessary and important information and evidence for the finished web interface functionality and design, resulting in a website interface that conveys clear messages to visitors, regarding where they actually are, easily predict what is about to happen as well as where buttons will take them and what they need to do to accomplish their goals. The ease and simplicity of all these activity is what defines a usable website.

    The experience of the user is the main factor to acceptance; this is where interface design comes in the designing process. Whereas product engineers give emphasis on technology, specialists in website usability concentrate on user interface.

    The significance of a great interface user design is the driving force of a product’s acceptance or rejection.

    If visitors have hard time learning and using, a complicated website, even an excellent product can fail. Interface design must make your product simple to use and understand, so that it results to user acceptance.

    Here are guidelines for creating website usability:

    •    System status. Your system must always update users regarding what is happening, through correct feedback within a reasonable time.

    •    Simple words. Make sure that your website speaks the language of your visitors, having phrases or words familiar to them.  Construct information that appears in a most natural tone and in consistent order.

    •    User freedom and control. Note that internet users at times encounter mistakes in system functions and need an “emergency exit” in order to easily leave that undesirable situation. Support in your system “undo and redo”.

    •    Consistency. Visitors must not need to question whether different situations, words or actions represent the similar things. Follow platform principles or guidelines.

    •    Retrievable instructions.  Making actions, options and objects visible and easily retrievable. Your visitors do not need to remember certain information from a particular part of a dialogue “to another”.

    •    Efficiency and flexibility of use.   Use accelerators to speed up interaction between experts and the system.  Construct it in such manner you’re your system is able to cater both the experienced and inexperienced users. Permit users to customize frequent actions.

    •    Users help.  Display error messages in plain and simple language that accurately indicate what the problem is and then propose a solution.

    User interface and design principles:

    1.  Structure. Your web design must establish user interface persistently, in useful and meaningful ways that are based on consistent and clear models easily recognizable; put all related and similar things together.

    2.  Simplicity. Design your website simply, making common tasks easy to do, clearly communicating in the language of the user, and providing shortcuts that meaningfully are related to those longer procedures.

    3.  Visibility. Design your website that it keeps all materials and options visible without disrupting your visitors with redundant or extraneous information. Never overwhelm your visitors with too much alternatives.

    4.  Feedback. Your design must keep your visitors well informed of certain actions, changes of condition, errors or certain exceptions which are of interest and relevant to them through concise and clear language.

    5.  Tolerance. Your design must be tolerant at the same time flexible, reducing misuse and mistakes by permitting “undo and redo”. Likewise prevent errors from occurring by accepting different sequences and inputs by translating all logical actions.

    How your website interface is designed either makes or breaks your business.  Although website functionality is a significant factor, the manner by which it imparts that functionality or user performance is likewise as important.  A website that is hard to manage will not be used at all.  Period.

    Website Interface And Usability





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  • 31Jul
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Website Design That Can Improve Its Usability

    Internet users encounter a website’s usability before they even have decided to use it and more so before they make up their minds on probable purchases. A fact is, the World Wide Web is the supreme setting for empowerment, where the one who is clicking the mouse controls everything.

    Search engine marketing is important as generally visitors utilize search engines in order to discover your website. However once they reach your site, they should be able to use your site with ease and understand its content.
    Research shows that of 43 million internet websites, only 42 percent are found to be usable.

    Evidently, a major measure of website success is its effectiveness in converting leads into buyers.  However, recent studies show that 50 percent of website sales are wasted due to the fact that visitors can not locate the content that they need; this leads to reduced web productivity, increased visitor frustration, wasted visitor time as well as loss of visitor’s repeat visits then loss of website money.

    Studies done by usability experts estimates that by improving your visitors’ web encounter, it increases your buyers by about 40 percent and also increases overall amount of orders by 10 percent.

    A fact is, internet users do not like to wait, more so learning how to go about using a hard to navigate home page. Individuals need to easily understand how a certain website functions immediately after they have scanned the page.

    Here are guidelines to improve your website’s usability:

    Simple and clear web navigation design

    •    It must be situated in the exact same location on each page and in exact same format, so that your visitors will not get frustrated and confused if links disappear and appear unpredictably.

    •    Use suitable text in your links. Your visitors must know where links will take them, through reading the text provided in your link.

    •    Employ the use of CSS to give emphasis on text links.

    •    Include always text links. Keep in mind that each page must have “text links” which links to all important parts of the website.

    •    Include a “site logo” linking to your home page. Generally site logos are located at the topmost “left-hand” corner of the page, where most visitors have the tendency to go even before searching for the homepage link which usually is located in your navigation system.

    •    Place a website search box to help your visitors locate quickly the information that they need.

    Have a simple, authentic and clear content.

    An attractive web design no doubt attracts visitors yet good content is what keeps your visitors on your site and inspires them to visit again.

    •    When you write your content, while it is important to think of search engines and keywords, also think of your visitors and present the content in a manner that is easily understandable and to solve their problems.

    •    Create an attractive heading and each paragraph should offer appealing statements all the time.

    •    Create a page content that is easy to scan and emphasize your most important points with colors, bold letters or header tags.

    Support your brand

    A great brand strengthens your visitors’ impression or idea of your website. A site that is branded strongly imprints in your visitors mind your products each time they go “shopping”.

    •    Keep typefaces and colors consistent. Pick fonts and colors carefully and consistently use them throughout the website.

    •    Keep your page layout constant. Employ the use of a “website template” in order to carry out a consistent page structure.

    •    Make a helpful custom page error that can help visitors should they click on “a broken link” or enter an incorrect URL.

    Provide visitor feedback

    Forms are essential to your ecommerce site’s success, as without it, you can not have your shopping cart. And any site generally needs a form for visitor feedback.

    •    Keep them short and easily accessible, clearly noting what is required in order to submit it successfully.

    •    Supply your complete contact details including your fax number, business telephone number, postal address and your email address.

    Test your website prior to launching

    •    Test to determine if your website loads successfully in all “browsers”.

    •    Test all your links and be sure that they are working properly.

    •    Look for and be sure that your website is free from errors.

    •    Search for grammatical errors and misspelled words and correct them if any.

    •    Test your website load times.

    Web usability puts designing and planning primarily for your website visitors your top priority.  Website that measure up to the expectations of its visitors will have comfortable visitors that will visit your site again and again and recommend it to friends.

    Website Design That Can Improve Its Usability





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  • 31Jul
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Use Graphics Wisely to Improve Website Usability

    There can be no argument about the importance of design in attracting Internet users to a particular web site. No one would bother to explore the contents of a site if it does not contain eye-catching graphics that can please the visual sense of the users. With so many kinds of web sites existing online, it is extremely challenging to attract users and keep them interested in the site.

    But a web site developer does not simply apply graphics freely on a site. Graphics should be used in the correct manner, or else, users might get turned off because the graphics featured just overwhelmed or confused them.

    While it is true that attractive design is important for reasons that need not be explained, the choice of design must be carefully considered against the fulfilling the needs of users. When done successfully, it could be safely said that the web site has achieved its goals.

    Graphics used in the Internet is inextricably linked to multimedia. Multimedia is a combination of graphics, text, sound, and animation to express a message to users. The multimedia features that will be incorporated to a web site should be dependent on the content. In general, multimedia and graphics should serve as supports to content, and should have precise, instructional purpose.

    According to research, animated images can facilitate the transfer of learning in a positive way if it is utilized to show a vital part of the concept that is being illustrated. On the other hand, animation can serve as a barrier to user recall and performance.

    Here are the guidelines in incorporating graphics to web sites:

    1. Justify the usage of the graphics
    The most obvious problem that can be seen on web pages is the over-usage of graphics. The main downside of this is that complicated, unnecessary graphics can take a long time to download, and this, of course, will not sit well with users. The graphics to be applied should support the transfer of data and should also be in relation to the accompanying text.

    2. The difference between graphics with text-redundant data and those containing information that is non-redundant is that the former facilitates and ushers in the learning process, while the latter does not either help or slow down learning.

    3. Consistency should be a priority in graphic design

    4. Web pages should be marked up so that text will be downloaded before the graphics. In this way, the users will know immediately if the page has the information that they are looking for, and if not, they will be able to save precious waiting time knowing that they do not need that certain page.

    5. The loading of graphics should be controlled as such that loading will commence from top to bottom, and the users scrolling down the page will encounter said graphics.

    6. The downloading of pages should be fast in order to save users waiting time, and in order to reduce the chances that they will get frustrated that they will abandon plans to download. Here are several ways to achieve fast download periods:

    • -Keep the physical size of the graphics to a minimum
    • -Images should be combined in order to minimize the number of server connections. Remember, the more connections that exists, the slower the download time will be
    • -Decrease image resolution
    • -Limit the colors that will be used for the images
    • -Limit the use of animation

    Animation is very much a part of web graphic design. The primary difference between web text and graphics and contents that are print-based is the dynamics. Moving displays attract the attention of users as long as the frequency of the display is regulated. Too much animation display can irritate and distract users. An animation that is perpetually moving can destroy the readable quality of the web page.

    The usage of blinking texts should be avoided. It has long been regarded as an overused feature and the latest browsers no longer support it.

    In designing a web site, there always exists a conflict between the desire to have total control over the appearance of a page and the need to permit users to establish their own preferences. The general appearance of the page should be made by the designer, but there are certain elements that users should have control over, such as color and text background, and the option whether to display graphics or not.

    It takes a considerable amount of effort to establish and maintain the attractiveness and efficiency of a web site. If the guidelines above will be followed, all the efforts of web designers will bear desirable results. They only have to remember that the benefit of the users will always be the basis for everything.
    Use Graphics Wisely to Improve Website Usability





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  • 31Jul
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    A Fitness Plan for a Lean & Mean Website

    In this age of instant everything, hardly anyone wants to wait. That is probably the main reasons why drive-thrus, instant messaging, one-touch photo printing and all sorts of “now” technology and products were invented and are profitable today.

    The same can be said when surfing the Internet. Recent studies conducted on Internet habits show that users get irritated when a web page takes more than 10 seconds to completely download; beyond 15 seconds, more than half leave the site entirely. That is how demanding the average Internet user is.

    Some web designers and developers would probably argue that with broadband access, download time should no longer be an issue. However, what these people fail to mention is that only 3 in 10 users in America have hi-speed access. A great majority of Internet users still surf the Internet via dial-up modems. At speed of about or below 50 kbps, web pages heavy with unnecessary baggage easily lose the race for the user’s precious attention.

    So how do you keep your website lean, mean and quick? Here are some tips:

    1. Use lean graphics.
    Graphics, even in .jpeg or .gif form will still take a while to load. But since images do enhance a website’s appearance, it is very likely you will find these necessary. However, keep the loading time for the images down by specifying the height and width attributes of your images. That way, the user’s browser will be able to map the page’s layout while the images are being loaded.

    If large images are necessary for your content, use a thumbnail a link to the bigger version of the picture. This allows the user choose what images he will wait for to load and saves him from needing to wait for those pictures he’s not interested in.
    Another nifty trick for quick-loading images is to use software that cuts up large graphic files into smaller pieces that can be put back together using a table. Software like PictureDicer (by ShoeString) or Online Image Splitter does exactly that and generates HTML code for a table tag. However, be sure to reduce 256-color images to 8-bit colors before processing the picture.

    2. Cut down on the flash intros.
    They may look nice, but they take forever to load. And if these animated presentations are at the front door of your website, you stand to lose a lot of visitors (practically half) even before they saw your actual site.

    If you simply have to have a flash introduction, please do not forget to include a “skip” button prominently displayed on the page as an option for those who don’t want to wait to load the intro.

    Another caveat that comes with flash intros is that (as of now) search engines are unable to index content on flash format. So if you intend to present most of your important information via flash presentation, you stand to lose a lot when it comes to hits from search engines.

    3. Maintain an ideal page size.

    Experts vary in opinion on what is the optimum file size for a web page. As a middle figure, somewhere between 30 to 50 KB file size (including fonts, graphics, html and JavaScript and so on) should do fine and load pretty quickly.

    4. Keep the pages as shallow as possible.
    No one wants to go through so several clicks and links before accessing the page they intend to reach. When creating your site’s over-all organization, make sure that every page can be accessed from any point within 2 clicks. (3 are ok, but it’s pushing it.)

    That said; try to keep all your pages no further down than 2 levels deep from the home page. If the site grows to have so many pages that making deeper levels is inevitable, consider creating an archive page where outdated pages may be kept for reference without causing delay to the more current content.

    Having a quick-loading page show that you value your visitors’ time. They will show their appreciation by staying longer to know what you have to say. It also enhances your company’s brand, showing that you can be efficient, but substantial.

    Paying attention to what is important and useful rather than what looks good but offers little in content will result in a website that is not only quick and lean, but usable as well. And for your target audience, that is the main and most important key.
    A Fitness Plan for a Lean & Mean Website





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  • 30Jul
    Web Site Usability Comments Off

    Making Useful Websites: Getting First-time Visitors to Come Back

    Whether it is to shop online, to book a plane ticket, to check movie schedules, or to pinpoint your current location via GPS, the Internet has become a one-stop shop for almost all the needs for daily activities – and then some.

    And yet, despite all functionality many websites offer, there are still a huge number of websites that simply do nothing but take up space, particularly on a SERP or search engine results page. What happens is that even with the most stringent of filters employed by powerful search engines, Internet users still need to wade through websites that are practically dead – dead because they offer no real information and are therefore useless.

    But should it necessarily be that way? Do functional and effective websites come into being by simply throwing money at it? Does it mean that small companies cannot produce useful and practical websites? The answer to all three questions is a resounding NO.

    With just a little bit more effort, small websites can offer just as much information, if not more, than the high profile websites maintained by media giants and conglomerates. And it doesn’t necessarily entail needing to break the bank.

    There is a fundamental rule in designing websites and that is Content is the number 1 consideration.

    You could spend a fortune on producing glitzy and flashy animation and special effects, but if your target user is not getting anything useful from the site, then all the bells and whistle will be for nothing. Remember that the Internet paved the way for the Information Highway and as such, content – useful content – is the heart of this medium.

    Just what constitutes useful content?

    When you first set out to create your website, you had to think about your target user. These vary with the kind of audience you wish to reach. Some target young people, others go for the yuppies, still there are others who wish to cater to household moms and dads. There is practically a market for everything. It’s simply a matter of identifying what to present to whom.

    Focus on Your Target Audience
    And this is where you need to do your homework: You need to focus on your target audience and determine what kind of information and content material will capture and sustain their interest.

    For example, if your target audience is women in their early retirement years, then you should probably be creating and posting content that has to do with hobbies taken up by your target market, which could be garden, golf, or maybe even both. The same applies to young teenagers if that is your target. You will most likely need to gather content about teenaged stars, fashion tips, sports news and / or the like.

    Identify Your Website’s Goals
    What should your target audience get out of visiting your website? This is the core question you need to ask to determine a website’s usability. Will it be able to answer or given solutions to problems commonly faced by your audience? The answer you should strive for that question is a big YES.

    Sourcing Your Materials
    Now that you have an idea what you want to give your website’s target audience, you need to find legitimate and reliable sources of the content you wish to present.

    Of course nothing beats writing and producing the material yourself, or hiring someone to do it, because you can claim the material is uniquely yours and you do not need to worry about copyright issues. However, should you be unable to spare the resources of producing your own website content, there are still solutions around that.

    The Internet is full of articles written by people of varied expertise, which very likely include your website’s line of interest. And the best part of it is that, very often, these articles can be published on other websites (including yours!) for free. The small trade-off is simply including the writer’s name and credentials before or after the article.

    Nifty Knick-knacks
    In addition to informative (and free) articles, there are all sorts of mini-programs (usually Java-based) that come in the form of games, quotation estimators, body fat counters, weather report update, etc.

    The idea is to give your target user more tools to use that will help them with what they need to accomplish on and with your website. Once again, you have the option of programming these yourself and making it available on your website, or you can copy a code from a third-party programmer and integrate it with your own website’s code. Very often the only trade off again is reference to the creator – which is only just right. Other more interactive elements such as surveys, quizzes and the like may be enjoyed and appreciated by your audience (especially if prizes are available afterwards).

    In providing useful content for your website’s target audience, you may not have to look very far or to pay prohibitive professional fees. All it takes is an attentive mind to what your audience wants and needs and the patience and resourcefulness of looking around and assessing what options are out there. Once you’ve got those down pat, it simply a matter of time when visitors will come by regularly and repeatedly because your site offers current and useful information.
    Making Useful Websites: Getting First-time Visitors to Come Back





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