Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Surprisingly, the most important part of good web site design has really nothing to do with graphics, fonts, scripts, colors and so on. It is nonetheless true that they all play a big part:
- Minimal yet tasteful graphics,
- Plain, readable font,
- A solid contrast between text and background and
- A nice blend of colors based on a uniform color scheme.
Together, they do make a web site look professional and credible.
But why are professional looks so important on the web? First, just like its opportunities and benefits the limitations of ecommerce are just as many. For example, one of them is surely the Internet's lack of tangibility. An Internet shopper can not touch, feel, smell or taste a potential online purchase. The second is the lack of familiarity. An online business may be totally unknown and therefore untrustworthy to the new online consumer.
Since scams and snake oils are common these days and particularly on the web, it has become difficult for anyone to accept anything at face value -- at least, to a degree. People have a natural tendency to make what I call UPAs -- or "unconscious paralleled assumptions." In other words, when they see only one part of the whole they unconsciously assume that a parallel exists between it and the whole. It's just human nature.
For example, you enter a store that offers quality products -- such as one focused on kitchenware. But as you enter the store you notice that the shelves are unorganized and dusty, and that posters are placed all over its walls (such as one promoting the latest blockbuster movie, one announcing the latest car widget to hit the market and one marketing the latest political party to run for office). Now, what will be your initial perception?
Even if the store purportedly offers great products and provides good customer service you will have a natural inclination to assume that their products (let alone their customer service) will be just as disorganized, unprofessional and lackluster -- and more than likely you will do this simply based on your initial, unsubstantiated perception. Therefore, if you wouldn't buy from such a store then why would you buy from a web site that is totally disorganized, plastered with banners and affiliate programs, and terribly inconsistent from page to page?
Consistency breeds consistency.
Stated differently, consistent looks lead to consistent sales. I am however astounded to still see so many online businesses -- even reputable businesses that sell quality products and offer good customer service -- on web sites that smack of being put together horrendously quick. In these cases, inconsistency will preclude any sign of professionalism.
A question was posed in one of my favorite Internet marketing discussion groups, Nicholas Schmidt's (http://ProfitTalk.com), which asked: "Would you buy from a web site hosted on a free server?" It sparked a really interesting discussion to say the least. To elaborate, in here the poster meant those free web sites like freeyellow.com or hotyellow98.com -- or as Schmidt put it, "The ones with those annoying advertising frames popping up left and right, making it completely obvious that the [company] behind the site is a one-man operation."
While only one answer was positive -- provided that the free site was a referral from a trusted source -- the majority ruled otherwise. I agree with the majority. Professionalism is not limited to the looks of a web site. For example, if an online business' domain name is excessively long, such as in the case of (http://www.geocities.com/eureka/concourse/7990/), the natural presumption will be that the business is not making any money. In turn, this will consequently lead to the conclusion that the business is not successful or genuine. Not good.
(By the way, I'm not saying this lightly as I speak from personal experience. In fact, if you click on the Geocities link above you will understand what I mean.)
Nevertheless, in addition being consistent includes your marketing activities. As Monique Harris of (http://www.sellyourbrainfood.com) once noted, "Try to become a regular." If you frequent discussion forums in which your target market congregates, try to post on a regular basis -- over time you'll be recognized as an expert in your field. For example, time permitting I actively participate in Internet marketing discussion groups. Some of my favorite ones include the following (I also strongly encourage you to visit them):
Also, some sites feature their own lists of Internet marketing discussion boards and forums. Visit (http://www.netagency.com/forumlinks/marketing.html) and (http://www.mcpromotions.com/discussi.htm).
Nevertheless, consistency breeds consistency. It is the most important element of web site design -- or of online marketing in general, for that matter. Project an aura of expertise and professionalism, and you will see a big improvement in results.
About the Author
Michel Fortin is an author, speaker and Internet marketing consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Visit (http://SuccessDoctor.com). He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 100,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at (http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/).