Posted Thursday, September 30, 2004
There are 5 elements that every page of every Web site must have. They are standard, and expected by Web users. When one of them is missing, it screams to a viewer that it's an amateur site. If a few or all of them are missing, don't expect anyone to linger for very long.
These 5 elements make site visitors' life easier and saves them time, two extremely important characteristics of an effective Web site.
1) Consistent colors, fonts, and look & feel.
This is a basic tenant of Web design. If you ran a traditional ad campaign that used three different creative ads, would each one look totally different? The answer is `no'. Using the same fonts, the same colors and keeping the general look & feel consistent is fundamental to presenting a unified, dependable, and congruent image. If your look & feel is all over the place, your potential customers may think you are all over the place.
Try for one main font throughout and maybe a secondary font. Two primary colors are best with a third as a secondary color. A shade of one of the two primary colors works well for the secondary color.
2) Consistent navigation and a `Home' link.
If you present a navigational scheme on your homepage, then your users immediately start to learn where to find all the ways to locate elements of your site the minute they arrive. If you then place the same links in different spots on other pages you are making it unnecessarily difficult for your viewers. It is unconsciously annoying to users, and gives the impression once again that you and your company are inconsistent and undependable. Don't make users work harder than they have to get information from your site.
Also, provide a way for a user to get back to your home page on every page of your site. Often this is the page a user is most familiar with so they may want to go back. If someone emails an associate a link to an inner page in your site and they click on it, it is a good idea to provide a way for that new user to get to your home page.
3) A search function.
This is another one of those standard features that most people expect now. If there is a specific bit of information that a person wants to find, don't make them wade through every page of your site. Implementing a search function is easy and free. You can get one at (http://www.atomz.com/search/trial_account.htm). This truly makes a site user's life a lot easier.
4) Text, not just images, and text links, not just buttons.
Advertising agencies who also make Web sites have a tendency to use too many graphics, often at the expense of text. A good rule of thumb is that if you have words in an image, take it out and replace it with html text. This is good for a number of reasons; including making the site more search engine friendly and loading faster. Search engines can only key off text, not words found in images. Also, graphic-intensive site take longer to load.
If you don't include text versions of your links, and only use buttons (which are images) then a number of popular search engines can't index your site because they can't read links embedded in images. So it's important always to include text links as well as buttons.
5) Phone number, logo, tag line.
Don't make your Web site an obstacle or wall for your prospects and customers by leaving off your phone number. Every page should have your phone number listed. It is very frustrating to go to a company's site and have no way to reach them except through a form or email.
Always include your logo and tag line on every page as well. If you don't have a tag line, start thinking about creating one, your site is a great place to repeatedly get your message out.
All of the above mentioned elements can be included on an html template that is used for every page in your site. Templates make it easy to include all of these and quickly update or change them too. Templates are for another discussion, but keep in mind they are very useful.
Most importantly, make sure every page of your site incorporates these top five elements; they are a very necessary foundation for any effective Web site.
About the Author
Jason OConnor is President of Oak Web Works The synthesis of Web marketing, design, and technology Jason is a Web expert, e-strategist, and e-marketer who builds sites and programs for the Web
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