1) Do you want to be FLASH?
Having a whole site developed using flash by a specialist design consultancy can result in an exciting and even exhilarating media experience for your customers, the main points to keep in mind as to whether to go ‘All Flash’, ‘No Flash’ or ‘Some Flash’ are as follows:
Is your customer base likely to view your website via a high-speed connection, for example are you in the B2B (business to business) space?
Who is your main target audience? If you are selling to mainly home users who may still have a slow dial up Internet connection then no flash or a very limited usage of carefully constructed flash will be the only real option.
If you are an established business who has already built a strong and loyal client base and do not need to worry about search engines to achieve your expected or projected revenue, then using Flash for your entire website can be an exciting choice, especially if the design consultancy are excellent at what they do. A Flash website can be a captivating online experience, one which can both engage your target audience and project interesting dimensions into your clients interaction with your business, something which cannot be achieved to quite the same degree on the usually more flat and less engaging standard non interactive websites.
You need to be mindful of the technology utilised by search engines to find your all important content, as the web is based upon different technology to Flash and as such, at this current moment in time for the majority of website designs it is worth restricting the usage of flash. Utilising Flash to provide your target audience with a more engaging user experience can be a fantastic choice as long as it is built around a solid html based architecture; this will ensure that using this great media tool does not spell disaster for your online organic marketing.
If you are looking to run a campaign or advertisement on your website or are looking to incorporate a few elements of flash it can be a powerful tool to engage your prospective target audience. It will not be long when the use of streaming media and flash media becomes an everyday part of the web, as Telco companies entice more and more people away from the chains of dial up Internet unleashing the true power of the web.
2) Do not do a ‘DIY’ website design
Generating the correct image for your organisation, whether small, medium or large is imperative in today’s business world, like no other time in history has it been more important for you to create the right image with your target audience, one that resonates with them, one that allows them to identify with you and conversely you with them.
People are now targeted every day with so much information and with so many choices it makes it imperative for you to communicate with your target audience so that they can recognise and differentiate you from the thronging masses, if you do not then how can you expect to gain their attention and ultimately their business? DIY web site creation at the outset may appear to be a cost effective strategy, and if you have the time and expertise to become an expert, (or at least produce expert quality work) whereby you utilise design tools to re-create the template into a unique custom looking design, then it may be a viable possibility. Though, for the majority who do not have the time, creative flare or technical skills to produce expert quality work you are more likely to produce low quality design that will be perceived as sloppy, unprofessional and third rate. For those who opt for a template design it will be a false economy as at first glance your business website may appear professional, though as with all template designs your business will have the look and feel of hundreds if not thousands and thousands of other business websites. Why create a whole business around the design, look and feel of a thousand of other websites when you can utilise the services of an affordable web design company who can create a unique masterpiece for you that will propel your business into a league of it’s own. In the crowded streets of this superhighway you want to make sure that you have another gear to be able to drop down into so that you can leverage full steam ahead leaving the opposition whirling around in confusion.
3) Navigational Design and Structural Architecture
Using a Design house that can look at these elements of your website and build them into the design as they map out and structure your site is a key component of successful website design. The vast majority of web designers miss the point completely in this area, either the design is weak or the navigational design and structural architecture is all wrong. If you utilise a professional company who use skilled expert designers that work along side other professionals with diverse backgrounds in areas such as corporate learning and development and/or marketing then you are sure to achieve a resounding and satisfactory result for your business. These companies are rare, though there are a few who do exist, unfortunately they tend to charge a small fortune for their services, however if you look in the right places there are still companies out there who offer this quality of work for an affordable and fair price. You need to partner with a graphic design agency that have a diverse and multi-skilled background, a team that understands and achieves great design whilst always adhering to core principles of navigational design and structural architecture. Your business deserves a team whose sole aim is your immediate and continued future satisfaction. When these core principles are adhered to then during the SEO phase of your website promotions the need to spend unnecessary time and money on the navigational redesign & architectural modifications to your website will be minimised, if not completely eradicated.
However if you are in the unfortunate position of owning or being responsible for one of the many websites that suffer from this very real and prevalent problem, then there are a few Expert SEO (SEM) companies out there, whose extensive skill set and expertise can provide you with SEO solutions to rectify and undo all the damage inflicted by a previous novice provider.
Even with a great looking design, poor navigation will ultimately lead to fewer returning visitors to your website, and consequently less sales for your business. One analogy that springs to mind, is the business that has a prime position, fantastic street frontage and a great fit out, though with absolutely no parking in the immediate vicinity of the business, undoubtedly creating another unwanted road block between the customer & the business. Roadblocks push your potential customers to another business that is easier to deal with, otherwise known as your competitor. If visitors cannot easily find the information they are looking for within your site, or they experience error pages, broken links, or pages with too many moving objects (animations, scrolling menus and text, motion driven flash, marquees) then they are likely to either completely leave your website, never to return, or will miss important information that you wanted them to see. Create an environment where the customer wants to stay, a place where they can find what they are looking for, and a place where buying from you is made hassle free and easy, after all that is the reason they are looking at your website in the first place.
Keep your navigation simple by creating clear links on all web pages, do not provide the visitor the reason to click elsewhere, or even leave your site altogether.
Ensure that you do not fall into the trap of having endless web pages that scroll down forever. Websites who utilise this adaptation of one endless page of information are thankfully set to become a thing of the past, a little piece of unimportant Internet history.
Another terrible and deadly design sin is the use of the horizontal Scroll bar; it is a little like the sales man who has a weak and feeble handshake and cannot even comfortably look you in the eye. It is the ultimate design sin and one you cannot allow under any circumstances. There will never be a justifiable requirement to employ such a terrible piece of navigational design within your website.
Another important and usually overlooked usability guideline for navigational design is the need to help users understand where they've been on your website, where they currently are, and also where they can go to – Try to think about it as Past, Present, and Future.
Take the necessary time out to ensure that your website includes a sitemap, this will ensure that advanced users have the ability to navigate your web pages easily, some more advanced users will often navigate a website this way, at the same time as creating a page that is easy for human users of your website to understand you will also ensure that your pages are presented in a format that is preferred by some of the main search engines, this will allow them to index your pages and follow the deep linking within your site so as to discover more of your websites all important content. There are other methods which can be utilised to govern the way search engines view your site, one of which is through your robots.txt file, again something else that is better placed in the hands of a expert SEO company
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