Once you've attracted visitors to your site, you don't want them to be put off by a boring appearance or poor functionality. 'Sticky' sites - ones that have interesting content and are easy to use - are the ones that will keep visitors coming back.
Less is more. Avoid great slabs of text, they won't be read. People view the monitor screen for different reasons than they do books or magazines; if it were not so, the printed page would have died years ago. Leave plenty of white space around text and pictures. Use a white or pale background to aid legibility. Text should not fill more than twice the width of the screen: look at guardianunlimited.com as an example for the brilliant way they handle text and pictures.
The home page is the first impression the visitor gets, so 'click here to enter' is best avoided. Design throughout should be simple and look easy and intuitive to navigate. Full contact details should be placed on the home page.
Many sites I see do not make it obvious what you do next: add a 'go', or 'log-on' or 'submit'. A 'search the site' facility is also useful to track information as the site gets bigger. Avoid long questionnaires asking for masses of detail that will only irritate. You want only the basic contact information so you can e-mail later with special offers. In the early days, banner ads were all the rage but some now find them irritating. Unless you have a very big site, the response will be minute. Avoid large graphic files and animations that take ages to download: customers won't wait. A menu index on each page is helpful so that users can navigate through the site.
Build in an interactive forum or notice board where visitors can comment on their problems and ask for advice. Letters pages in newspapers are often the most read part, so imitate the concept. Order and enquiry forms need as much thought as the rest of the site. A heading to the page saying 'We never release names to third parties' helps overcome resistance. Put an 'add me to your newsletter' box on the page to which you most want visitors to respond. Use an opt-in e-mail request and use it frequently.
Links are important both to and from your site. Look for compatible but non-competitive sites and e-mail with a request. Make it obvious that it is a link. Possible sites could be your local tourist board or council, trade association, buying group, club or special interest lobby. Like the rest of your printed material, the brand image must be carried through to your website. With ever vaster numbers of websites appearing, it is more important than ever to try to get yours to stand out.
RSS feeds can be a useful addition to your own website as a way of rapidly and automatically disseminating information to your captive and attentive audience. In essence RSS is a news feed that alerts subscribers to when websites have added new content. The feeds themselves are simply web pages but programmed to be read by computers rather than people. Your subscribers need to download free software that checks the feeds and alerts you to any new articles. RSS will link to your mobile, PDA or any computer like Hotmail, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc.
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Note: This article was sent to us by: Peter Ailey at 07152010
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