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"Good design is timeless, attractive and can turn a sheet of canvas into a work of art."
 


 

 

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Designing Your Website (Part 1) - Basic Considerations

Web site Design : Basic Considerations | Web Site Content | Search Engines | Our Services

The Factors which dictate website designThere are various issues which any business needs to address before plunging headfirst into the scary world of website design.  Adopt the correct strategy and you will soon have a booming business with many thousands of visitors per week and people recommending your site to all their friends.  On the other hand, adopt the wrong strategy and not only will you put customers off coming to your site, but they might lose confidence in your business even if you already have a strong off-line presence.

This guide aims to give you a basic understanding of where to start and what you need to consider before putting your business into the hands of website designers.

Understand Your Target Audience

Any business needs to understand their target audience including not only what information they need to provide to their customers, but what information people will actually seek.  For example, if your business is related to providing services to pensioners, you have to ask the question as to whether they will have internet access and if so, what forms of accessibility can you incorporate to suit their needs (for example larger clearer fonts and colours).  Studies tend to show that older people prefer to use a search tool to find what they want on a website rather than navigating around a website for example.

You can use website visitor statistics once your website is up and running to see where most of your visitors are coming from (are they from overseas or not) and also the type of search terms which are used to find your website.  However, this does not necessarily tell you what people will come to your website looking for.  Regular monitoring of search statistics and which pages it refers people to can help you adapt the content of your pages to ensure that you are catering for the people who are referred to your site or even just guide them in the right direction, by forming partnerships or affiliate advertising links with other sites which are more relevant to the search terms being used.

As a result, you need to create a web site which can be easily adapted to make it more user friendly and also invite feedback from your customers through tools such as guest books and forms to find out whether they are unable to navigate your website and find what they actually want, or whether you are attracting the wrong client base.  A customer survey is always a good point if you are looking to revamp an existing website.

It is your customers and target audience which should dictate the overall design of your web site and business, not your own opinions.  In this way, people will find your site much more user friendly and find the products and services which they are looking for.

Accessibility of Your Web Site

Tools such as screen readers and the ability to alter font size are now widely available and may be built into your browser already (Opera includes the Voice facility) and both Opera and Internet Explorer allows you to change the text size for example.  However, it is surprising how some sites belonging to design companies do not support the simple ability to resize the text and do not provide ALT tags for images, which are used by screen readers. 

Another problem faced by screen readers is the move by affiliate providers towards using JavaScript to provide image and text links to advertisers.  Screen readers and some browsers are unable to cope with the JavaScript or Flash and therefore you have lost another potential sale.  You will also need to consider people who cannot use a mouse, or who have a text only web browser.

Remember, disability legislation covers online businesses as much as any other business.  Here in the UK, that means that under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act , it is unlawful to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which you provide to members of the public.  A legally binding code of practice from the Disability Rights Commission states that in the terms of this Act, a web site is providing a service, even if it only provides information.

Google have now added to the importance of this, by releasing a version of their search engine for the visually impaired and blind, which rates web sites on the basis of accessibility as well as their normal page rank.  It tends to favour pages with few visual distractions and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off. The W3C publishes numerous guidelines including Web Content Access Guidelines that are helpful for Website owners and authors. Broad adherence to these guidelines is one way of ensuring that sites are universally accessible.

We are happy to provide an unbiased view on your website's ease of use, accessibility and appeal through our proof reading and site testing services.  We are also able to advise on simple changes which should be made to your website to make it more accessible to a wider range of internet users.

Business and Website Names

The name which you choose for your business is all important.  You want to create a brand which people will readily recognise and trust, whilst ensuring that you are not confused with any other business. 

You have to be careful of what is known as "passing off", whereby your company name or logo is so like another existing company's name or logo, providing a similar service, as to cause confusion to the average consumer (commonly described after a comment by the infamous Lord Denning as "the man on the Clapham Omnibus").  This may of course also be a problem for your business if someone else attempts to pass themselves off as your company (or part of it). 

If you need assistance with designing a logo for your Company, we have found that offer a very good high quality design service.


We have a separate page with advice on protecting your ideas, including trademarks and brands.

When deciding on the name for your business, you also need to bear in mind a catchy address for a website.  When you do this, you have to bear in mind the chances that someone will mistype your website address and whether this might lead to one of your competitors, or someone who has tried to clone your website.

It is also imperative that you check with your website hosting provider that the canonical name of your website will work as well as the name beginning www. (for example, people can access this website by typing either www.internetbusinessangels.com or internetbusinessangels.com into their browser).  It is amazing how many people try the shorter form.

Customer Confidence

If you are going to attract new customers and retain existing ones, you need to reassure your visitors that you offer a reputable and reliable service.  It is all too easy to create a nice flashy website without too much expense, and many people who browse the internet regularly are aware of this and tend to look for well known brands and companies. 

It is therefore important to promote any brands by which you are known, as well as considering forming partnerships with other well known companies or trade bodies.  This may be through the form of adding a link to their website to check your status, or through the use of an affiliate program

This can also prove a useful source of additional revenue if you pick partners who will be of interest to your website visitors (for example, a website advertising the services of a carpenter would be well advised to include a link to B&Q using their affiliate program).

It is also imperative that you provide full contact details.  People tend to steer away from sites which only have a contact form, a PO Box address or an email contact as it can be difficult to trace current contact details for the actual owner of a website.  There are legal regulations which dictate what information you must provide when detailing your company on letterheads and invoices - we have always recommended that the same information should appear on websites. 

In fact, this has now been incorporated into the UK's Companies Act 1985 with effect from 1st January 2007 in respect of websites. Basically the information required for a trading company is:

  • Full Company name, and Registered Office Address if a limited company (even if the trading name is different)
  • If the website is owned by a limited Company which is exempt from having to use the word "Limited" in its name, then the contact details must specify that the company is Limited.
  • Company registration number and where registered (eg. "Registered in England and Wales")
  • If a sole trader, then stipulate "Joe Bloggs trading as ABC"
  • If an investment company, then the website must state this
  • If a partnership, then use the full partnership trading name (including if it is a Limited Liability Partnership - LLP).
  • A contact postal address
  • If you list one partner's name in a partnership, then you need to list ALL partners
  • The VAT registration number if you are VAT registered

Also recommended are:

  • A landline telephone contact number
  • An email address for orders and another for customer services or queries
  • The country in which you are registered or where you trade in the main
  • Which county's laws are applicable to any sales contracts
  • Terms and conditions of trading and return of items

Business Link includes some tips for complying with the E-commerce regulations and you may also wish to visit the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) website for Frequently Asked Questions on the Companies Act.

It can also be useful to include a short précis of the history of your trading, particularly if you have been established for a number of years.  A site guestbook can also be useful, for previous customers to leave comments (good or bad), although do not expect many people to complete entries on this.

Terms and conditions of any orders should be clearly stated somewhere on your website (with a clear link from your home page, order page and contact page).  You may be able to get a set of standard terms and conditions for your type of business from any representative trade organisation, although these need to be read over carefully in the light of your personal circumstances.  If you cannot find a set of standard terms and conditions, have a look at those offered by your competitors and seek legal advice on adapting these to suit.

You should also consider some form of guarantee - take a look at the industry standard for returns and ensure that your policy is clearly stipulated on the contact and order pages. Also, talking of ordering, you should carefully consider how you are to accept payments.  It is imperative that you include a method of payment either by direct bank transfer or cheque, as well as credit card payment, as many people are still averse to making credit card payments over the internet.

Other Considerations

When it comes to designing your website, the main considerations are how it looks to general users, how easy it is to navigate (find what you are looking for) and how search engine friendly it is.  There are many people who offer a website design service, but before you embark on such a project, you need to consider the sites those companies have created in the past and how long they promise to maintain the site for after the initial design is published. 

You also need to consider whether any advertising which appears on your website is pertinent to the website content, and whether it merges with your site, or overwhelms the visitor so that they quickly lose interest in your own content.  For this reason, it is usually inadvisable to use free web space (which generally adds its own advertising content over which you have no control).  However, you may wish to explore all of the various options available under affiliate advertising schemes and particularly programmes such as Google Adsense which can be incorporated into your website without being too obvious or imposing.

 

Top Tips

  • Consider your target audience and compare this against the types of visitors attracted to your website.
  • Simple and various forms of navigation can help users find what they are looking for.
  • Ensure you provide legal information about your business / company, including contact details and a privacy statement to reassure your customers.
  • Use a secure form of ordering / placing credit card orders.
  • Take steps to protect your business name, logo and products
  • Ensure your website is accessible for people who may have a disability
  • Get your website proof read and thoroughly tested on a range of internet browsers
  • Avoid too much flashy content - concentrate on your main themes and products
  • Consider SEO - Search Engine Optimisation and how to ensure that your site attracts customers
  • Above all, ensure that your website is current and can easily be updated to correct errors, add new content and remove content that is out of date.  You may wish to consider using a Content Management System for this, but typically these will not produce output which is optimised for search engines to drive visitors to your website.

The next page is devoted to what you should consider when looking at the Website Content.  



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