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How to design a web site for Success!

Thousands of companies joined the exodus to the Web during the past year, drawn by the promise of a new and growing consumer base. For some, the move was successful, but for most, a disappointment.

The Web is a relatively new medium where success is not necessarily bestowed on companies that are well organized and efficiently run. Traditional strengths in the normal business world often prove to be irrelevant in the world of cyberspace. The main reason for this is that the Web is primarily a visual medium, similiar in some respects to television but with an audience that has millions of selection options and a short attention span. Content is important, but presentation is the key to holding attention. Web site design, layout and navigational ease play a crucial role in converting the casual surfer to a customer. Companies with unattractive web sites fail to grasp this simple concept and often try to compensate with expensive promotional schemes.

Successful web page design is a mix of common sense, skill and knowledge. One of the most important factors in basic web design is ensuring that a web site is optimized for the most commonly used web browsers and for different screen resolutions. The design and layout of a site should hold true regardless of the web browser or screen resolution used by visitors to the site.

Page loading time is another important element in site design but somewhat contingent upon target audience. If your potential clients are the corporate crowd with T1 connections, then special effects and large graphics are an option. On the other hand, if you are targeting the average surfer with a 28.8 modem connection, then page and graphic file sizes should be kept as small as possible. Pages of 40k or less should keep most visitors from succumbing to mouse click syndrome.

Finally, there is the element of uniqueness, that special look and feel that some web sites have and that most don't. Unique web sites aren't created by using templates and mass produced graphics. A cookie cutter approach to web design is one of the reasons that so many corporate web sites look alike. Hire a designer with the graphical talent to create a special look for your business. Branding is as important on the Web as it is in the normal business world and "images" are retained in the public mind far longer than words.

Web page design is important to a site's success but appearance alone is not enough. Studies have shown that visitors are drawn to sites that offer them the means to interact or participate. Newsletters, guestbooks and feedback forms are just some of the many ways that you can communicate with visitors and potential clients and provide them with a vehicle for contacting you. Supplement interaction with regular site updates. An "alive" web site keeps people coming back to check on whats happenned since their last visit. Give your visitors a reason to call your site "home" and word of mouth (think email, chat & newsgroup postings) can increase your traffic tenfold.

On a final note, keep in mind that there are definite advantages to using the services of a professional web designer. Anyone can learn HTML with a little application, but the combination of graphics, color and layout into a unique web page design generally requires the talents of a skilled professional and is worth the investment to ensure long term benefit!

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