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Design Your Online Success

By Michel Fortin
Posted Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Web site design has always been a fascinating area for me -- not entirely in the realm of graphics but also of flow, navigation, appearance, and content. I love to surf the web almost exclusively to learn about different feels and flavors. In the process of doing so, it amazes me to see how some sites appear smooth, professional, and refined, while others smack of being put together horrendously quick -- even when the company is reputably of high quality.

But web site design is, in and of itself, a powerful marketing process. Many people tend to forget that people make UPAs -- or unconscious paralleled assumptions -- in general and especially in business. In other words, when they visit a web site they will unconsciously assume that a parallel exists between the web site's design and the business behind it -- not to mention the products and/or services it promotes. So, if the design is poor, unprofessional, or unclear, people will unconsciously assume that the product or company is just the same.

Regard for the human inclination to "judge books by their covers" is of utmost importance on the web, for the appearance of your site (that thing that appears on a person's computer monitor) is the only thing that separates you from your customer and thus is representative of the whole. Therefore, your site can either emphasize, support, or contradict your marketing message -- and do so almost effortlessly, even inconspicuously, and sometimes dramatically.

A large airline company recently conducted a survey among its passengers in order to perform some marketing research. The following question was asked: "If your food trays were dirty, would you assume that the airline also does poor maintenance on its engines?" And the answer was, as illogical as it sounds, "yes" for an overwhelming majority of participants.

In the "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout made what I believe to be the most powerful notion ever conceived in the world of business, in that marketing is not a battle of products but a battle of perceptions. My mentor used to say that "perceived truth is more powerful than truth itself." Marketing is all about perception.

A web site design can often project greater perceived value. If you place your web site side-by-side with a competitor, and both of you offer the same product in the same way at the same price, the company that will win the customer over will be the one that, through its design, communicates to the customer that there is an implied added value in their choice.

In my seminars, I teach what I call the "ketchup principle." Let's say you've just met a salesperson. He is dressed absolutely impeccably, gave a compelling spiel, is knowledgeable about his product, was thoroughly interested in your needs, and conducted a perfect meeting with you. But all throughout the encounter, you couldn't stop but notice that he had a little ketchup stain on his tie. Now, if I ask you two weeks later what you remember the most about your meeting, more than likely the first thing that would pop into mind is the ketchup stain!

As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!" This applies even to the simplest of things. On the Internet, it includes your site's design and the image it projects. Therefore, pay close attention to your web site's overall appearance, its appeal, its colors, its layout, its ease-of-navigation, and most important its content.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is an author, speaker and Internet marketing consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. Visit ( He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 100,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at (


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