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Ross Johnson co-founder of 3.7 Web Designs, looks at things YOU should know about web design and the internet before starting your web project. Designed around providing information to companies who want a webpage but know little about it.

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Your Web Page's Goal


Your Web Page's Goal

By Ross Johnson

Believe it or not, many websites out there don't have any real purpose. Companies by the thousands are throwing up sites simply because "you should" and everyone else has one. However, this really is a waste of money. If you don't have a reason to have a website, people will not have a reason to read it.

At the heart of it all, companies want a website to help increase business and sales. However, 10 pages of drab information isn't going to attract any users. At best, it is a place for people searching through google to pick up the phone number instead of finding it in the yellowpages.

This is why it is important to have a goal for a website, because then you can highlight the information that you want your users to leave the site knowing, and you can give them a reason for visiting the site period.

Lets think about a general website for a plumber. Someone stumbling across the website will doubtfully read about how you strive to always be on time, and have ten years of experience. They want your number, thats it.

How can we turn this into an incentive? What is our goal?

Lets expand on the simple goal stated earlier of trying to increase sales; We want to establish the plumber as an expert in his field, and give people a reason for accessing the site.

The front page should draw users in, three bullet points that state:

  • Poor plumbing repair caused over a million dollars with of damages in the last year!
  • We us, plumbing call-backs while rare, are 100% free!
  • We provide do it yourself repairs for handy men!

This achives several goals. Bullet points are easy to scan, so we can rest assured that the user will probably at least get the just of what we are trying to communicate. The first two bullet points establish that a plumber is not just a plumber, and that you can be sure if you hire our plumber that it will be done right or it is free. Any plumber can say they never mess up, but that is not putting your money where your mouth is, and no one will believe it. The last bullet provides reason to come back, and to keep reading.

By providing basic DIY articles, you will get return visitors to your site, new visitors looking for DIY information, and it shows that the plumber really knows what he is talking about.

We could take the goal a step further, and add a tag that says "View our Testimonials page for free printable coupons!" Then add the testimonial onto the coupon itself. This not only gets viewers reading your customers rant and rave, but it is further incentive for them to go with you rather than Joe Plumber with 10 pages of "We strive to make you happy!" type copy.

posted by Ross Johnson at 12:18 PM | 1 comments

Is flash really just hated by designers?


While reading over a thread on Sitepoint that discussed favorite web designers, I came across a post stating that the only people who really dislike heavy flash sites are web designers. I dismissed it quickly at first, as an obviously false statement. However as I thought about it more, I wondered if that really was the case. My conclusion, is that lots of people find poorly designed flash sites to be obnoxious. The obvious benifits of flash over HTML based sites is the ability to make incredibly complex and eye catching animation and functionality. It truely does produce a notable multimedia experience that is hard to replicate with HTML. The catch is simply that heavy flash sites are using the wrong medium. A eye catching and stunning flash only site can be very impressive... The first time you see it. However, upon returning, or even trying to find the information you are at the website to achive, it becomes an unbelievable frustration. You have to wait for the intro page, the loader, the increased time for the "trick" animation of content flying into the site, etc Heavy flash usage is perfect for interactive CD's, where the user access' the content expecting to spend more time than simply browsing through. Those in charge of developing websites often want to lay on the flash, hoping that people will view the site and be wowed by the incredible animation and multimedia. Figuring you can really set the mood with music, video, etc Sure, a flash heavy site might accomplish that for some of the potential audience. However, they often forget why people are viewing the website to begin with. If the people were going to the site to see cool flash multimedia, they would go to a site showcasing the capabilities of flash. The fact of the matter is that people view the web to obtain information. No one goes to a plumbers site to see a 3D plunger fixing a clogged drain. They go to find out about the company, pricing, etc Sure it might be impressive on some level, but majority of people who have gotten past the point of "Flash can be sweet" will simply be annoyed. Further, that will be the first message as a company that you deliver to your potential customer. Hi, I am a plumber, and I am obnoxious and slow...

posted by Ross Johnson at 11:00 PM | 0 comments

Usability Testing Soon


I plan to do some usability testing, with a random sample of people ranging from young internet savy adults, to "mostly use email" elders. My goal in this, is to develop a report that sends a clear message to the importance of proper structure, information architecture, and usability. Stay posted for the free report soon.

posted by Ross Johnson at 9:27 AM | 0 comments

The industry viewed from outside...


Lately I have been thinking a lot about how web design, and web pages are viewed by people outside of the industry. It seems depending on how you are interacting with the industry, your view-point changes. To further complicate the situation, there is a lot of misinformation and conceptions as a result. Because of my position, the two things that stand out the most is the time and money involved in developing and designing a "quality" website. Because of tools out there such as online web building applications, template sites, many people are given the impression that designing and building a website is not only a cheap comodity, but it can be done in an impossibly short period of time. What they fail to realize, is that by short changing the budget of their website and making unreasonable deadlines they are effecting the outcome and success of the website itself. Paul Boag recently did a postcast in which he detailed his method of designing information architecture, which involved user studies and post cards. An obviously effective idea, however rarely does a company want to pay for such testing nor wait for it to be done. They would rather shove the content into what ever title/catagories they see fit. The other major trend/misinformation I often come across is what people use the web for. While a very nice looking design is going to be attractive and memorable, often times companies focus too much on the appearance and too little on the content. Think about the websites you visit, how often do you take notice of the website design vs how much time do you spend searching for the information you want? I do a lot of work with Real Estate Developers, and while creating the right mood for your site is important to sell to the right demographic; people going to the website are interested in the details of the housing they might be buying. This means floor-plans, amenities, upgrades, etc. The "classic" aproach to these styles of website is stuffing the pages with smiling faces of trendy people, and paragraphs of obvious marketing copy. People don't read through the copy, they are looking for information, not to be sold. So what through all my rambling am I trying to say? Unfortunetly, due to the young age of the internet - companies are still trying too hard to figure out how to use web pages. Many seem to just try and wing it based on what others do, or based on other forms of media promotion. However, you wouldn't try and promote a product on TV the same as you would in a brochure, so why would you for the web? Find a company willing to break the mold, drop the standard copy, and offer the users what they want, and I will show you a website that gets peoples attention instead of turns them away.

posted by Ross Johnson at 12:53 AM | 0 comments