Posted Thursday, June 24, 2004
So you have a product that you want to sell on the
Internet. What is the first thing you think about?
Some may be thinking, "I need to set up a link
directory, or maybe fork over some cash to overture
and get some traffic in here." Others may be
thinking, "I need a lot of great content to keep
those precious visitors here." "Catchy url,
that's what I need," may be on some people's minds.
But even if you do all those things; if you have bad
site design, you're going to have a hard time
Take a moment and think about the hundreds or maybe
thousands of sites that you've been to. Now think
about how many of them that you have actually bought
something from compared to how many were selling
something. I think it would be safe for me to say,
you didn't buy from Charlie's Bargain Basement that
is fashionably designed in orange with puke green
frames? Did you chance your hard earned money with
Guido's Lava Lamps with the mysql errors, just so you
could get a couple dollars off? What about Betty's
Fine Fishing Worms? It clearly states at the bottom
that it hasn't been updated since June 2000 and looks
best in Netscape 4.0. Did you still buy there?
Now why didn't you?
One of the largest problems on the Internet today is
Trust. I bet you've heard the saying, "Never judge a
book by it's cover", but that rule does not apply to
the web. Are you breaking any rules that may be
driving visitors away? Let's talk about a few things.
1st rule - Colors. I've heard this one a couple
times: "But this black background looks cool." Now
think of the top retailers on the Internet. What
color is their background? I wonder why they are all
white? The first thing you do when you go to a site
is look around to see if it's even worth your time.
Dark backgrounds are -10 points right off the top for
me. Studies show that people click a lot more links
when there is a white background. One reason is that
some people have a hard time reading white on black.
Personally I feel a headache come on in a hurry if I
stare at a site with a dark background for too long.
Others may feel claustrophobic or intimidated and next
thing you know poor design has frightened those
precious visitors away. Unless you're interested in
selling chokers and leashes to Goth teenagers, keep
your colors light.
2nd Rule - Errors. The king daddy of site design
taboos in my book. Have you ever had this one happen
to you?: You've found the perfect price for the
perfect gift. You went to check out and, poof: 404
error. You click the back button and try again;
still no dice. Do you call their customer service
number and take a chance of launching yourself into a
black hole? Personally, I will search for another
site that sells the same product. The error site
just lost a sale and possibly a repeat customer.
Limit your errors. Not just the 404's, but broken
graphics and even misspelled words. Complexity is a
big one here. The more complex your site design, the
higher the chances of an error occurring. Keep it
3rd Rule - Logos and Graphics. Another problem that
can make your site look very unprofessional. This is
a place to not skimp. Find yourself a good graphical
artist and invest in a good logo. Don't get some
huge, complicated logo that will take forever to
load. Forget about weird neon colors, animated
animals, flames, fonts, etc. Keep your graphics
simple, sharp and professional.
4th Rule - The little things. There are probably
hundreds of things that can scare traffic away from
your site. Here are a few:
Updated dates - Don't include them. Many people have
sites that will not need to be updated on a regular
basis. Including an updated date can only do one
thing: make your site look outdated.
Site Counters - Ugh. I still see these every now and
then on seemingly respectable sites. "Hmmm, they've
only had 3,000 visitors since August, 2001. There
must be something wrong with them." It may just be
that the counter is broken, but how are you going to
tell them that?
Too Many Ads - Link pages are great, but there is a
place for them, don't crowd your navigation or
product pages with too many ads. It's ok to sell a
few spaces but don't draw attention away from your
There are a lot of things to remember when designing
your web page, but most importantly you need to ask
yourself, "Would I buy there?".
About the Author
Jason D. Huhtala, is the Vice President
of Operations for Target Blaster, Inc., an Internet
Marketing firm specializing in targeted traffic.