When designing your website, remember to avoid useless and confusing features, however “cool” they may seem to be. Usually, keeping things simple and consistent are the best way to go. Here are five easy ways to improve your website and make it more appealing to your visitors.
Put your logo on every page of your site, and in the same location. Usually, the best place to put it is in the upper left corner of the page. Remember to make your logo clickable, linking to the main page of your site (an exception is the logo of the main page itself, since you are already there). The benefit of doing so is that if your visitors get lost they can always come back to a familiar location.
Don’t use a splash screen. Splash screens are seen in many websites before they give you access to the main page. They are usually slow- loading Flash animations that only delay and frustrate users. Remember, when your users want animation, they can turn on the TV. When they go to your website, they usually want information, and they want it fast. Some sites that use splash screens now provide a “Skip the Introduction” link, which most users click anyway, further validating the uselessness of flash screens.
Avoid using heavy pictures. They unnecessarily delay the page upload process. It is OK to use graphics, but they have to be optimized for the web. Use only .gif and .jpg formats. If the pictures are too heavy, try using some of the on-line graphic optimizing tools. They can reduce the weight of your pictures by more than 50% with no noticeable decrease in quality. Another thing you can do is to use thumbnails (clickable miniature versions of a picture). If a user is interested in the picture, he can click on the thumbnail and wait until the full size picture is displayed.
Try not to use animated banners or fancy icons. Just because you can is not a good reason to load up your site with neon-colored, flashing- and-popping, Vegas-style graphics. They usually take away from the content of your site and distract users. Plus, it has been demonstrated that less and less users click on banners every day.
Don’t make your pages too long. People don’t like to read from a screen. Instead, try to use the advantages of hyperlinks to present a summary of the topic or article, with a link to the full article in another page (similar to what newspapers do in their main page, with the added benefit for web users that it is easier to click on a link than to turn a page). If what you have to say is too long, break the discussion in several parts, each of them with a link to where your visitor can continue reading.
Remember, the goal is to give your visitors fast access to your information, through an interface (website) that is visually appealing and easy to use.