Monday, February 18, 2008

10 Things That are Wrong with Most Websites

Dennis McCarthy, one of our lead Web marketing consultants offers the following words of wisdom on Web success. Here are ten things that are wrong with most Websites:

1. It's not clear what the Website is about.

2. The Website lacks a keyword focus.

3. It does not have a solid offer.

4. The link and button titles on the navigation menu are jargon.

5. It lacks a sales funnel, users don't know what to do to create a relationship.

6. It could be more attractive (sometimes LOTs more!).

7. It doesn't include a blog, podcast or webinar.

8. It doesn't include an email program.

9. The tagline is nuanced. It doesn't make it clear EXACTLY what the company does.

10. It uses too much text.

Pay Attention to Website Content

Website content can easily be the lost step child of Website development. In working with hundreds of clients over the past 10 years, this is the area most neglected in Web marketing.

There are several reasons for this. Budgets are not developed properly for content development and most people do not have good writing skills. When you combine this with the fact that even good writers do not know how to write content for the Web, you get bad Website content. The content either reads like brochure content, talks too much about the company, is too flowery sounding, is made up of large blocks of text or just poorly written.

For these reasons, most Web content is not read and we see this repeatedly in usability testing. Here are a few tips to get your content read:

1. Use fewer words to say the same thing.

2. Avoid blocks of text.

3. Make use of well-written headers and bullet points.

4. Focus on benefits, not features and learn the difference.

5. Write in a language understood by visitors, not internal speak.

6. Go to and read books on how to write Web content.

If you ask users to read your content and give you feedback, they are likely to say that it looks fine. It is better to have them perform a task on your site or look for something, this will give you a better idea of how users scan your Website.

Content is in many cases the most important part of your Website and deserves a solid budget, proper Web writing and feedback from user testing.

Online Branding

In this podcast we study online branding.

Everything on your Website is branding: Logo, Graphics, Colors, Font, Content, Usability, Navigation, Photographs.

The Web has created a new impression of branding, much more personal and internally focused. How does a business owner know if their Website is branding correctly? Listen to this podcast for timely tips and strategies.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Interface Standards and Design Creativity (Alertbox Aug. 1999)

Interface Standards Stifle Design Creativity? Again, Jacob Nielsen raises the question aboutthe gap between the (desired) standards and creativity. But he is talking about a sort of "arty" creativity that leads the reader to some Rules for Design Standards - that doesnt¥t really help for any serious designer.

Three Quick Tips

Web usability can be complex. So, if you are busy and trying to get a handle on how to get things done on your Website, think about these very simple, yet powerful three things.

1. What do you want visitors to do on the page they are on?

2. Use large fonts and very few messages that direct them to that thing.

3. Do not give them many other things to do that may confuse visitors and take them off the page.

Avoid clutter and embrace simplicity to get more results from each page of your Website.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Website Blue Ocean Strategy

I just finished reading a great book called “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Cahn Kim and Renee Mauborgne. I highly recommend this book for marketing professionals.

The major premise of the book is how to avoid the red ocean of highly competitive company’s struggling to survive and move into the blue ocean of unlimited market space and business success. Few companies can make this leap. The book outlines how some have done it and the steps to make it happen. Examples of red ocean companies would be Ford and GM or United and American airlines. These corporations are fighting for market share and offer very little unique benefit for customers. Examples of blue ocean strategies include Apple’s iPod or Cirque du Soleil. They have very little competition and dominate their market spaces with unique offerings.

The Internet has tremendous blue ocean potential as most Websites swim around in a red ocean competing against each other in the wrong areas! Here are a few examples of red ocean versus blue ocean strategies on the Web.

Red Ocean - Competing on who has the best graphic design.

Blue Ocean - Making it simple for users with clean, professional and basic designs.

Red Ocean - Using marketing speak and sales content in an attempt to impress visitors.

Blue Ocean - Communicating directly, with bullet points and avoiding marketing-speak.

Red Ocean - Adding bells and whistles to the Website for flash and sizzle.

Blue Ocean - Understanding user needs and giving them what they want.

Red Ocean - Using photos as design elements, branding and placeholders.

Blue Ocean- Using meaningful photos with captions that tell a story and benefit visitors.

The list can go on and on.

The good news is that your Website can easily move into a blue ocean by meeting the needs of users, keeping it simple and communicating directly. This is such a powerful step it can provide a competitive advantage for your business and get you one step closer to a blue ocean strategy.

Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability

Homepages are the most valuable real estate in the world. Each year, companies and individuals funnel millions of dollars through a space that's not even a square foot in size. For good reason. A homepage's impact on a company’s bottom line is far greater than simple measures of e-commerce revenues: The homepage is your company's face to the world. Increasingly, potential customers will look at your company's online presence before doing business with you -- regardless of whether they plan to close the actual sale online. (Update: our studies of B2B usability found that this is the predominant behavior of business users.)

The homepage is the most important page on most websites, and gets more page views than any other page. Of course, users don't always enter a website from the homepage. A website is like a house in which every window is also a door: People can follow links from search engines and other websites that reach deep inside your site. However, one of the first things these users do after arriving at a new site is go to the homepage. Deep linking is very useful, but it doesn't give users the site overview a homepage offers -- if the homepage design follows strong usability guidelines, that is.

Following are ten things you can do to increase the usability of your homepage and thus enhance your website's business value.

Make the Site's Purpose Clear: Explain Who You Are and What You Do

1. Include a One-Sentence Tagline

Start the page with a tagline that summarizes what the site or company does, especially if you're new or less than famous. Even well-known companies presumably hope to attract new customers and should tell first-time visitors about the site's purpose. It is especially important to have a good tagline if your company's general marketing slogan is bland and fails to tell users what they'll gain from visiting the site.

2. Write a Window Title with Good Visibility in Search Engines and Bookmark Lists

Begin the TITLE tag with the company name, followed by a brief description of the site. Don't start with words like "The" or "Welcome to" unless you want to be alphabetized under "T" or "W."

3. Group all Corporate Information in One Distinct Area

Finding out about the company is rarely a user's first task, but sometimes people do need details about who you are. Good corporate information is especially important if the site hopes to support recruiting, investor relations, or PR, but it can also serve to increase a new or lesser-known company's credibility. An "About " section is the best way to link users to more in-depth information than can be presented on the homepage. (See also my report with 50 guidelines for the design of "about us" areas of corporate websites.)

Help Users Find What They Need

4. Emphasize the Site's Top High-Priority Tasks

Your homepage should offer users a clear starting point for the main one to four tasks they'll undertake when visiting your site.

5. Include a Search Input Box

Search is an important part of any big website. When users want to search, they typically scan the homepage looking for "the little box where I can type," so your search should be a box. Make your search box at least 25 characters wide, so it can accommodate multiple words without obscuring parts of the user's query.

(Update: Based on more recent findings, my recommendation is now to make the search box 27 characters wide. This and other new guidelines are covered in my tutorial on Fundamental Guidelines for Web Usability at the Usability Week 2008 conference in New York, San Francisco, London, and Melbourne.)

Reveal Site Content

6. Show Examples of Real Site Content

Don't just describe what lies beneath the homepage. Specifics beat abstractions, and you have good stuff. Show some of your best or most recent content.

7. Begin Link Names with the Most Important Keyword

Users scan down the page, trying to find the area that will serve their current goal. Links are the action items on a homepage, and when you start each link with a relevant word, you make it easier for scanning eyes to differentiate it from other links on the page. A common violation of this guideline is to start all links with the company name, which adds little value and impairs users' ability to quickly find what they need.

8. Offer Easy Access to Recent Homepage Features

Users will often remember articles, products, or promotions that were featured prominently on the homepage, but they won't know how to find them once you move the features inside the site. To help users locate key items, keep a short list of recent features on the homepage, and supplement it with a link to a permanent archive of all other homepage features.

Use Visual Design to Enhance, not Define, Interaction Design

9. Don't Over-Format Critical Content, Such as Navigation Areas

You might think that important homepage items require elaborate illustrations, boxes, and colors. However, users often dismiss graphics as ads, and focus on the parts of the homepage that look more likely to be useful.

10. Use Meaningful Graphics

Don't just decorate the page with stock art. Images are powerful communicators when they show items of interest to users, but will backfire if they seem frivolous or irrelevant. For example, it's almost always best to show photos of real people actually connected to the topic, rather than pictures of models.

Additional Homepage Guidelines

My recent book, Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed, contains the full list of 113 usability guidelines for homepage design, as well as recommendations for how to best design 40 common homepage elements to meet users' expectations.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Multi column in CSS

I post this because it could be useful to a lot of web designers trying to implement a multi column page on their web application.
In the CSS 3 proposal draft, a new CSS property let you dividing a block in multiple columns. The property manage itself the balance between the columns.
Of course CSS 3 is far way from our current development shores, so few solutions exist using Javascript.
This one works well for me and has the advantage to implement the property as defined by CSS 3 so the future migration should be quite straightforward.

DHTML Utopia: Modern Web Design Using JavaScript & DOM

I read online few chapters of the excellent book by Stuart Langridge DHTML Utopia published by SitePoint and just wow!It's a great refresh of everything you assume as right regarding websites construction. This is really a great start for Web 2.0 applications, Ajax techniques are also covered by the author, and one methodolgy I really like to develop now is unobtrusive Javascript, which let your users have a better experience with a web application.

Website Usability Help

The simple meaning of Usability is easy to use. How easily a person can perform a task with a product like a website. Usability insures the quality of a system, software or any applications that makes it easy to use and user can perform the required task with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction.Importance of usability: Take a real life example, In this scenario a user comes to an informative website that have lot of information, he trying to find out some relevant information but he not able to find out information even the site have the same information. Ultimately user leave that website, due to lack of website usability. Now a days people don't want to wait. In that case it's really important for any ecommerce, entertainment and other website to make the website easy to use.Usability ensures ease of learning, memorability, efficiency, error frequency and satisfaction.