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An Easy Website Makeover to Boost Your Image and Increase Clickthroughs

by Karri Flatla

Looks aren't everything, even on the web. However, appearances are a definite liability if they are unduly neglected, no matter how solid your website's content is or how well your pages rank with the search engines. A harsh color scheme or sloppy layout offends the senses and hinders credibility. And in an environment where prospects can literally shop multiple sites in a matter of minutes, first impressions (read: looks) count.

While usability and accessibility certainly present a designer with additional challenges in enhancing the user experience, these things need not trump appearance. In fact, a site with clean lines complimentary colors, and important graphics like nav buttons that are easy to find, is inherently more usable than its uglier counterparts. Give the following tips a try and see if you notice a difference in both traffic volumes and click through patterns. You might be pleasantly surprised.

 

 
1. Because information gathering drives user behavior on the web, easy to read navigation ensures visitors are getting the most out of your site. Resist the urge to use fancy graphics or wacky fonts for your primary navigation. And keep the number of primary nav buttons down to seven or eight--anything more is simply overwhelming and clunky, especially on a home page. If your site contains various subcategories and sub pages, use flyouts or dropdown menus where appropriate.

2. People read differently on the web than they do print. While your local newspaper is probably written in a "serif" font (e.g. Times New Roman), reading print on a monitor is much easier if it is written in a "sans serif" font (e.g. Arial). Serifs are simply the extra little bits of type that hang or dangle from the ends of printed letters. On paper, serifs lead the eye smoothly from one letter to the next. This is why most headlines in print are in sans serif as these visually jolt the eye and ask us to take notice.

3. One of the most poorly executed aspects of web design is color. A nasty color scheme is usually the result of too many colors being used at once and/or the designer did not conduct browser testing (not all colors are "web safe"). All colors are "complimented" by other colors (and often insulted by others). Go to your local craft or paint store and pick up a color wheel for about ten bucks. On the color wheel you will find countless suggestions for attractive looking color schemes, many of which you had not thought of. Or, check out www.colorschemer.com/online.html. The main thing is to keep your website's color scheme simple, no more than three for sure with the third color used very sparingly as an accent.

4. Your website will automatically be more visually pleasing to its visitors if your chosen color scheme speaks to the needs and perceptions of your target market. For example, a more conservative audience will appreciate muted or traditional color themes while a trend-oriented or entrepreneurial audience might enjoy colors that are bold and crisp. While there remains debate around the true impact of color on our moods and perceptions, one cannot deny its impact when used judiciously on the web. Here is a great rundown of the alleged effects of color: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/colors1.html.

5. Keep an eye on margins and text justification. Nothing screams "amateur" like a webmaster that has neglected the details. Make sure text does not appear squished up against borders and graphics and left justify large blocks of text for readability. Also be generous with white space around text and graphics, imparting a more organized, intentional feel to your pages. If you have a lot of important information to convey about a particular topic, "more info" links or printer friendly pages are a nice touch.

6. Tempting as it may be to go overboard, be judicious with your use of graphics, photos, and other multimedia. Remember, for most business sites, the overarching purpose is to provide useful information; graphics must compliment this purpose, not drown it out.

Implementing the above suggestions is relatively easy and quick to do, even if you are not a web design professional. And your hard earned traffic will no doubt appreciate the added effort and polish when they arrive at your site.
 

Karri Flatla is a business graduate of the University of Lethbridge and principal of snap! virtual assistance inc., a small business consulting firm providing business communications and online marketing services to solo professionals. Karri also produces Outsmart, the email newsletter for small business with big purpose. Visit http://www.snap-va.com for more information.
 

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