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Guidelines for Developing a Web Site

Four words summarize the qualities of a successful web site:

CLEAR             FAST            SIMPLE            ATTRACTIVE  

1.  A web site must be easy to follow.  The home page (the first page the viewer sees) is attractive and clear, not too "busy".  Menus - lists of links organized thematically - lead visitors through the Site.  Menus should be clear and easy to read, and menu items should consist of short words or phrases.

2.  The web site and each of its pages should download quickly.    A slow site loses the majority of its visitors.  When someone visits your site, you want the site and each of its pages to appear on-screen as quickly as possible.  Elaborate graphics or videos slow a site.  Keep graphics simple and do not clutter up the site with unnecessary graphics.

3.  Each page should contain important information as opposed to marketing tricks and glitz, or excessive information.  Consider the site from the perspective of visitors:  other businesses, customers, investors, and so forth.

Consider:  What interests visitors most?  What text or image will likely capture the eye of someone who does not know your company?  How do you express important ideas and information in a phrase or picture?

4.  Focus on key information.  Go beyond "brochure thinking".  What information will sell visitors on your product or company?  What will sell them on your site.  You must entice visitors to travel further into your site.

5.  The most important information and links appear in the first window that appears on-screen.  The most important information is accessed by the most prominent links.  When visitors first arrive at your site, they do not want to see a "title page" or marketing blurbs.  They want content and movement – links – as soon as they arrive at your home page.

6.  Provide clear signposts to direct visitors further into your site.  The information closest to the "surface" of a site is the material most important to the customer.  Material that can be buried more deeply may include extensive product descriptions, special features, company history, etc.

A Web Site is different from a book.  Information is not presented in sequence.   Visitors can access any page of the site while bypassing others.  Thus, content is organized differently from content in paper-based media.  The best sites balance creativity and structure in designing the links necessary to navigate the site.

7.  Provide links to a contact page or home page on every page of the site.  If transactions will occur on-site, provide links to the transaction pages on every page of the Site.  On-line registration and order forms must be easy to fill out.  Offer complete product descriptions and one-click access to a "shopping basket" or "check-out".

8.  Unless you can improve on what's already on the Net, make your company's ordering process similar to the best sites on the web.  This avoids confusion because customers will be used to your system.  Include a page for confirming orders and presenting customers with the final payment amount, including shipping.

9.  A customer-registration form with 10-15 items to fill out should be sufficient.  Once the customer has a password, the fewer clicks it takes to order, the better.  You may add optional questions that enable you to collect useful marketing information about your customers.

10.  Credibility is a major concern for Web users.  The Web Site provides potential partners or customers with:

  • Information about your company

  • Clear explanations of how you assure the security of transactions

  • References, including quotes from former customers, and

  • Directions for finding out more about your company

E-Commerce's success depends upon trust, and it is the Web Site that convinces people that your e-Business is legitimate.

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