A Well Designed Website Can Convert Browsers Into Customers

or Keep Your Members or Visitors Informed and Entertained And Keep Them Coming Back For More Time After Time.


Hi, My Name is Donna and since I'm a webmaster, I have a pretty good idea of what makes a site work and what will drive visitors away. Here are my suggestions for creating a well designed website.

Design Dos and Don'ts

Grammar and Spelling - Design the site to gently lead the client through the learning and sales process. Your sales text must be grammatically sound and spelled correctly. Poor spelling immediately loses credibility points. Provide sufficient text to tell your visitors what the features of the product are. Better yet, tell them why they need to buy your product.

Browser Type - Contrary to popular belief (at least at Microsoft) Internet Explorer is not the only web browser. There are at least 100 different web browsers available. The three most commonly used browsers are Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and Opera although the new Foxfire seems to be gaining in popularity. Since the main three browsers represent over 85% of all users, design your site to look good and work properly in all of these browsers.

Graphics and Photos - Images are a wonderful to assist in the online sale of your products or services. All images used should clearly depict the product or service. Use original photography or scanned images. Studies show that most people will "click away" if a website takes longer than 10 seconds to load. Optimize your images for rapid download. Also, always use the alt HTML tag so that users with devices that have graphic download disabled (such as slow connections or PDAs) know what was supposed to be on the page.

Multimedia - As a webmaster, I don't recommend using multimedia on an most business websites designed to sell products or services. By multimedia I mean flash presentations, video clips and background sound. Recently audio streaming has become a popular website tool. Only time will tell how successful it is for business websites. Only use streaming multimedia and use that only where it's essential. Of course, some sites such as a video or music store must have multimedia. But only use multimedia where it makes business sense.

Additionally, the user should have the ability to start and stop all multimedia manually. That way, users with slow connections can ignore it. Make sure to put the same information contained in the multimedia in text format for those who can't or won't use the multimedia. Also, put a link to the download page for any browser plug ins your multi-media requires. Click Here for an example. Always remember the 10-second rule for site loading when deciding to use multimedia.

Site Navigation - Site navigation should be simple and intuitive. All the questions a visitor might ask should be answered along the way. Where possible, adhere to the "three click rule" - that is, a visitor should be able to access any information regarding your product or service within 3 clicks of any other area of your web site. Make sure to check out whatever navigation method you decide to use in all three of the major web browsers for compatibility. The only exception to this rule are product sales pages particularly on mini-sites. They normally only allow you to signup for something or purchase the product.

Frames - Avoid using frames. You want visitors to become customers. According to the marketing experts, a visitor may view your website as many as seven times before they buy anything from you. therefore, they need to be able to find your website again so they can come back later. Frames make it difficult, if not impossible, to bookmark individual pages on your web site.

Recommended Web Site Pages

As a webmaster who has designed and setup several business websites, I recommend that you eventually include all of the following pages on your website.

Home Page - The home page should contain your company logo and an introduction to your company and/or your products or services. It is also a good idea to have your company logo and a link to your contact information on all pages. For a direct marketing mini-site the home page usually is your sales page.

About Us or Company Profile Page - This page provides a summary of the business, your commitments and company goals and is crucial to boosting consumer confidence. An online business is no different than a traditional business. Most people like to put a face to the name. When purchasing goods online form a new web site, I always go to the About Us or Company Profile pages to get a "feel" for the company before parting with my hard earned money. For a direct marketing mini-site this information can also included in your sales page.

Contact Page - Your customers need to know how to get in touch with you. They need your legal business name (if different from your web site name), physical address, customer service contact information and an email address for comments and questions and telephone number if you provide telephone support. For a direct marketing mini-site this information should be included at the bottom of your sales page.

Sales Pages or Catalogue - These pages will contain the basic information about your products. Catalogue pages frequently link to pages containing more detailed information on a specific product or service. Both kinds of pages link to a shopping cart or payment processor.

Terms of Use or Terms of Service Agreement - This page should be linked to all product pages. This should be a policy about the use of your website. It may vary depending on what kind of website it is. (Check out our Terms of Use policy for an example.)

Privacy Policy Page - "What are you going to do with my information?" is a question asked by many online shoppers. A privacy policy is essential to building consumer trust and required by law by many governmental jurisdictions. Putting together a privacy policy doesn't necessarily require hiring a lawyer. (Check out our Privacy Policy for an example.)

Disclaimer - Provides the information needed to limit your company from unnecessary lawsuits. (Check out or Disclaimer policy for an example.)

For more information about the legal needs of your website, see Internet Law.

Optional Web Site Pages

Shopping Cart - This contains the payment processing software and a temporary storage area for displaying the products or services the customer has decided to purchase and links to the check out page for actually purchasing products and services. Click Here for more information on shopping carts.

Thank You Pages - Good customer service requires that you thank your customers for purchasing from you or opting into to your email list. Normally a thank you page can be specified in your payment processing or autoresponder software setup to send your customer to after they complete their purchase or registration.

Refund Policy Page - A refund policy must be placed on your web site to avoid all kinds of unnecessary legal problems. This page should also be liked to from all sales pages. Alternately, you can add a guarantee to the sales page itself.

Sign Up Page - You want to keep your visitors long enough for them to become customers. Having visitors sign up for a mailing list, a free offer or an e-zine is one way to get permission to send them email.

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) - Many product questions will be repetitive and you'll want to add their answers to your FAQ page to both promote customer confidence and save you valuable time. Since, an unanswered question may translate into a lost sale, a well constructed FAQ page can coax a hesitant customer into purchasing. You can link to the FAQ's through the main navigation system as well as after every "buy me" type statement. The FAQ's should be accessible within one click of any other area of your web site that is dedicated to selling your products or services.

Testimonials Page - Customer testimonials are some of the best promotional copy around. Elicit feedback from your current customers and ask their permission to publish their comments on your site. Testimonials can be implemented on a page of their own, or interspersed between your own statements regarding the product. If you do implement a Testimonials page, make sure that it can be reached with one click from any other page on the site. For a direct marketing website customer testimonials are usually included on the sales page.

Other Site Design Suggestions

Offering excellent customer support is the best way to gain new customers and keep your existing customers. therefore, you might want to consider offering the following:

Provide Downloadable Product Information Sheets - Your visitor may just still be comparison shopping. Since I do 85% of all my non-grocery shopping online, I do a lot of comparison shopping on the internet. One method that has gotten me to return to a web site for purchasing has been when they provided valuable information about product or service with contact information downloadable in PDF format. As a result, when I was ready to buy, I went back to where I had gotten good customer service in the form of free valuable information.

Provide Pre-Sales Email Support - Offering to answer pre-sales questions should be encouraged and clearly labeled. Just make sure that the emails are responded to in a timely manner. The ideal window is within 24 hours. Longer response time can be an indication of poor online product support. When responding to customer enquiries, be sure your messages are well thought out. Address the question asked thoroughly and offer further support. Keep in mind that poor spelling and grammar can lose a sale. When the same question has been asked several times, add it to the FAQ page.

Click Here to read the website design frequently asked questions.

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