The Details Rule in Web Design

    May 21, 2004

When it comes to websites, the details matter. Although many site owners believe the important thing is merely to get a website up, that’s only a small part of the job. Efffective sites take a lot of planning–and a lot of concentration on the details.

Of course, there are some site owners who obsess over details that really aren’t going to matter to visitors–such as crafting the perfect logo, deciding whether Verdana or Arial is the ideal font face, or deciding whether the background of the left column should be navy or burgundy.

In certain cases, each of those issues could be important considerations. But generally speaking, those aren’t the kind of questions to worry about.

There are plenty of details, however, that do deserve much attention. For example:

Is it crystal clear to visitors what they are supposed to do on your site? It’s critical to ensure that you’ve provided straight-forward directions to visitors as to what they should do on your site. Also, make sure your calls to action are properly emphasized (visually) and properly placed. In other words, don’t let them be overshadowed.

Have you answered all the objections visitors might raise? Visitors will have questions and hesitations at various points throughout the process of making a decision to buy. Are you answering those concerns at the points where they are likely to come up? It doesn’t count to just have the information on the site somewhere; it needs to be in the right place at the right time.

Have you emphasized the benefits of your services, not just the features?

Is your site organization clear and straightforward, and is it oriented around visitors’ needs and priorities? This is one question site owners continually fail to consider. The details of how you choose to organize the pages and information on your site will be very significant to your visitors’ experiences. Consider things from a visitor’s point of view, and organize around your visitors’ priorities–not your internal company structure. The same goes for individual page layouts, not just the site organization as a whole.

Do the graphics on your site visually emphasize the most important items on each page? Take a long hard look at your pages and figure out which elements really stand out. Are you visually drawing attention to the important stuff?

Does your site draw along a path to an end goal? Every website should be a process geared toward getting visitors to take certain actions. It’s your responsibility as a site owner to figure out the details of how that process should work and which steps happen where. Have you specifically designed your site so that everything–including all the small details–leads to your end goal?

Do you prod visitors along at appropriate points to motivate them to take the next step? Have you provided compelling calls to action at the points where visitors need to do something?

Have you made sure your copy is simple and engaging all the way through? This is an area where you should focus on details relentlessly. Make every word count.

Have you considered everything from a visitor’s point of view, not just a site owner’s point of view?

If you want to create an effective website, get intimately acquainted with your visitors’ mindset. Learn to identify with your visitors’ feelings all the way through from the very beginning of the process to the very end. Understand their specific needs, their concerns, and the benefits that speak to their hearts. Learn to tell when they have enough information and when they need more. Anticipate the points at which questions and objections are going to be raised–and understand which questions and objections are going to occur when.

After you’ve done that, analyze the details of your site. The answers you’ve determined for the above questions will affect the fine points of your graphic design, of your page layouts, and of your overall site organization. Purposely evaluate why each element of the page is placed the way it is and identify what purpose every item serves.

It’s not enough to just launch a website. You have to make the details count!

Does your site have the essential ingredients that make customers buy? Jamie Kiley can help you find out exactly how your site needs to be improved. Sign up for a site review today at

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