By:Mark Angeletti, Published:2003-9-25

1. Know Your Target Audience

Before any development can take place you must know your viewers browsing habits. It is critical to your website’s success that it reflect the values of your viewers. If your target market is the affluent business professional then it should reflect that with a clean easy to navigate and read design. If your website’s viewers are younger adults then a more relaxed and informal look may be acceptable. The key is to know your market and build accordingly. It’s your target audience that dictates the design of your site- not you.

2. What’s the Theme of Your Site

Your website should have a clear and decisive theme. A viewer should know exactly what your website is all about after reading the first paragraph of the index page. If you are selling a product or service it should be evident within the first
30 seconds what that product or service is. If your business offers multiple products, it’s best to dedicate a unique page for each product rather than try to sell them all from a single page. For more information on search engines and themes see the article, ‘Google and Themes

3. The Need for Speed

Let’s face it – people are in a hurry. Nobody likes to wait for anything and the Internet is no exception. No matter how much faster the Internet connections are today compared to years gone by it still just doesn’t seem fast enough. In fact, many studies show that the faster technology advances, the faster people expect things to be.

With this in mind, how is your websites speed? Viewers should be reading your sites content within 10 to 15 seconds and as noted should know exactly what they will get by spending their precious time at your site.

4. K.I.S.S

No I’m not talking about the old rock band from the 80’s with all the makeup. I’m talking about that old saying, Keep It Simple Stupid. If your website’s navigation is not intuitive allowing viewers to easily navigate and find what they’re looking for, well then perhaps your competitions is.

It’s been said that a user should not have to drill-down or click more than 3 times to get to what they are looking for. Coincidently they can also get to your competition within 3 clicks.

5. Consistency

You will often times hear a golfer tell you the most important part of a golf swing is ‘consistency’. You would be wise to also strive for consistency. Your site should have a consistent look, feel, and design across all pages. It can be quite distracting and confusing to the viewer if each page in your site has a different look or navigation to it. It is wise to keep colors, themes, navigation and design consistent throughout the entire site.

6. Are You Credible

If your customers don’t believe you to be a credible then all the time, effort and money spent in design and development of your site will be for not. Because of the impersonal nature of the Internet it tends to breed a certain level of mistrust. It’s up to you to set the minds of your viewers at ease and create a level of trust.

Two ways that this can be achieved is through the use of a clear and prominently displayed privacy statement as well as your contact information. If you are unwilling to provide this information to your customers, how can they trust you enough to make a purchase?

7. Money Back Guarantee

There is no better way to put your customers at ease then to offer a no exceptions money back guarantee. It shows that you believe in your product or service enough to assume all the risk.

8. Make Payment Easy

This is perhaps one of the single biggest reasons why Amazon.com has become as successful as they have. Make sure your payment process is clear, easy to access and intuitive to use. Eliminate as many steps as possible. Do not ask for more information that is necessary to complete the transaction.

Be sure to monitor your web logs to see if there is a trend of your customers getting to the payment screen and then bailing out. If this is a trend then you need to rethink your payment process.

9. Search Engine Optimization

According to a study by Jupiter Media Matrix over 55% of all Internet purchases begin with a search engine. But 93% of these consumers do not look past the first two pages of search engine results.

To ensure that your website is ranked high in the search engine listings you need to make sure that your site is correctly optimized. You’ve come to the right place.

10. Accessibility

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” — Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web.

While Berners-Lee made this statement over a decade ago it still rings true today. By having an accessible website for all viewers you are reaching as much as the market as possible.

You can learn more about accessibility at the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) by W3C.

11. Compatibility

While Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser still dominates the lion’s share of the market the competition is thickening and will likely continue to do so. It’s important that you develop your website to be as cross-browser friendly as possible.

Compatibility will become even more important in time – when people start surfing the web from alternative sources other than a desktop computer, such as a PDA, mobile phone, car display or wrist-watch.

To help you achieve a cross-browser design – refer to the W3C’s HTML standards validity check.

12. Content

You will often hear the statement, “Content is King.” While this may or may not be true, one thing is for certain, if you want a high search engine listing you need to feed the spiders well. That means serving well tagged content that is keyword loaded. Each page should focus on 2 to 3 keywords and have enough content for the spiders to get the gist of the page.

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