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Ten Steps to a More User Friendly Website

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Building a website that is both functional and user friendly is no easy task. Bigger companies sometimes hire both graphic designers and developers to build their website but most little guys cannot afford that.

So let s take a look at the things you should pay attention to when building and maintaining your website, especially if you cannot afford to have a team of graphic designers, developers and layout consultants working on your website.

Flash

A lot of times your designer will want to get fancy and offer to design your website in flash. Although it looks great as a portfolio, in reality there are numerous problems with flash websites. First of all, flash animations (in essence that s what your website is going to be) are very large in size. Even though many people nowadays use broadband for browsing the Web, it would be unwise to dismiss a prospect who still uses dial-up and for whom it will take forever to load your website. Second of all, flash websites are not crawlable by search engine spiders, which means you loose any chance of getting free traffic from search engines.

Page Loading Time

Even if you decide not to use flash, your pages still can get very large once you add a lot of text and graphics to them. If your website takes more then 8-15 seconds to load most visitors will probably leave before accessing the actual content. Later in the article we will discuss how to improve loading time by compressing the images.

Reduce the Size of Your Graphics

As mentioned previously, keeping your website s pages as small as possible is very important. Reducing the size of your graphics is one way of getting pages to load faster. Talk to your developer about the way he is optimizing the images to make them as small as possible.

Broken Links

Broken links can tremendously hurt your business image. Having broken links on your website makes you look unprofessional. Imagine your visitor looking for something on your website and once he finds it and clicks on the link, it doesn t work. There are plenty of tools out there that help check for broken links. If you update your website often you should check for broken links on a regular basis.

HTML Validation

Validating your HTML is an important part of building a website. HTML validation services like W3C Markup Validation Service will check your pages for errors in the code and give you suggestions on how to fix them. This will eliminate any problems visitors might experience with your website.

Browser Compatibility

Browser compatibility was always an issue with many websites. There are a lot of alternative browsers besides Internet Explorer including Netscape, Mozilla, Firefox and Opera. Although majority of your visitors will be using Internet Explorer, you cannot afford to lose customers that are accessing your website with a different browser. Many website designs will look great in one browser but will look ridiculous in another. Talk to your developer about the ways he is working on making your website browser compatible.

Customer Support

Easy access to customer support options and ways of contacting you are especially crucial for ecommerce businesses. If you are running a web store of any kind there is no way for your visitors to verify whether there is a legitimate company behind your site. You will need to gain their trust in order to get their business. Placing any contact information including toll-free number, live support, etc. on every page of your website is a great way of building the trust between you and your visitors.

Navigation

How you design your navigation will decide whether your customers will easily be able to access all parts of your website or be lost and leave your site without finding what he is looking for. Make it easy for prospective buyers to find what they are looking for. Provide plenty of links on your home page, giving visitors an overview of your website s content and choices. Provide links to your home page and main sections such as order form, contact page, products, and articles on every page. Visitors may not visit your pages in the sequence you would like them to. Provide a site map (table of contents). Avoid using JavaScript drop downs or fancy flash navigation. Clearly label each section and if possible, use text links because they are small in size and are also crawlable by search engines.

Easy to Read

Make sure your website is readable. An easy-to-read, professionally-designed website can maximize your sales. Dark text on a light background is easy to read. Avoid text on dark and busy backgrounds. Break up your sales copy into short sections and use subheadings to highlight benefits. Split up long pages into several pages. Use key phrases and punch lines instead of long explanations on why your service, product is better then the rest.

Spell Check

Last but not least, check your spelling. No one likes to read a page filled with spelling errors. For the most part, your designer won t double check your content, especially if he is from a different country, so it s your responsibility.

David Cooper has been developing websites since early 1999. Currently
he runs http://www.Spaiz.net and working on a new Content Management System at http://www.AzureSites.com

Ten Steps to a More User Friendly Website
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