This is Part 1 of a three part series providing the best practices when designing a new site or giving a new 'look' to an older site. In our mini-series we will show you how valuable an on-line presence really is as you attract and communicate with more customers, expand into more markets, take more orders, reduce training expenses, and spend less time exchanging documents through the mail or with couriers. And these are only a few of ways we at Foremost Media can help your company take advantage of the Web. As this is a lengthy subject, with many variables to scrutinize, we hope you'll stay tuned for subsequent issues publicizing Part 2 and Part 3 in upcoming Foremost Media newsletters.

Web Design Part 1:

"Give them what they want, what they really, really want!"

A. Stay Focused

Every page of the site should be targeted to helping your customer find what they need in the absolute quickest time possible. The most common mistake we see when we're asked to optimize a customer site is lack of customer focus. All too often companies are so excited to tell about their accomplishments, history, products and even personnel that they tend to lose sight of what their audience is truly looking for. The customer may have a problem and need a quick solution; they may not know exactly what product is best for them so you need clear definitions of your brands; or they may simply need an education on why your product will benefit them vs. the competition.

Provide a value or offer on every page of your web site. Though the offer itself doesn't relate to the overall look or design, it provides purposeful information which is more important. A good rule of thumb is to keep your editorial 75% of the page and your advertisement or product "hype" down to 25%. You don't want your site to be a TV commercial.

B. Use a Clean Background

Your web site quality reflects the images used on the site. Image backgrounds are a thing of the past and may even cheapen the look of your design. New contemporary "skins" (the themed look and feel of your site) are used to heighten the value of your message without a lengthy load time. Mesh your color schemes to coincide with your company logo, brand names and product visualizations. Although background images can be utilized if done professionally, we suggest using your photo gallery to place key images rather than your entire template.

C. Avoid Distractions

Pages should load quickly. Many people find blinking objects, pop-ups, quickly scrolling text, auto-sound or animated .gifs annoying. We suggest if you are going to use plug-ins on your site, make sure they're tactful, strategically placed and used in moderation. Visitors with slower connections may be offended by forcing them to load time-consuming pages. Make your content readable without interruption or readers may be likely to leave your site sooner than you would like.

D. Organize: Be Search Friendly

A Site Map will keep your Menu and sub-pages organized. There should be a methodology to the content and all information should be a minimum of one to two clicks from the original landing/home page. We would discourage a meaningless "splash" or "welcome" page, instead encouraging a more informative first engagement. Content rich information improves your status as a viable web source while increasing your SEO visibility. Try to imagine you're the end-user or viewer navigating through the site. Incorporate all variables your viewer needs to make an informed decision about your offerings. Simply put:

1. Make sure your menu bar is prominent on each page.

2. Always include a quick link back to your home page.

3. Link "like" products or information pages to each other within the site.

F. Limit Scrolling

If you decide to list a small library of articles on your site, give the reader a teaser headline with an overall statement about the article then launch them into a separate page directly related to that subject. If you attempt to put all of your articles on one page your viewer may have to scroll down several screens for information they seek. You could potentially lose that prospect in the frustration of scrolling. Bullet pointing the articles or headlines at the top of a page work flawlessly as well. General rule is 2 screens per page – and no more than 6 for lengthy articles.

G. Beware of Frames

The use of frame structured web sites was popular in the late 90's because they were "easy". However, this web design style was later doomed with many pitfalls that caused numerous problems and is now considered a thing of the past. The bad news with frames is they are not search engine friendly. They also have an inability to change the menu bar as you search from page to page within a site making it impossible for the viewer to bookmark or link to a specific targeted URL. There are ways to overcome frame technology with extensive upgrades by professionals that know Java tricks but they're lengthy and could be more cost prohibitive than an overall web update or redesign.

We look forward to bringing Part 2 and Part 3 of the web design process to you in future newsletters. In the meantime, please visit these helpful areas on the Foremost Media website for more information.

Web Development: http://www.foremostmedia.com/services/website-development