What is your web site doing for you?

“Everybody” has a web site—but how many of them have an effective one? Does their site work for or against them; does their web site lend credibility to their purpose?

I could write for hours proposing what points are most important to a web site, but never come to a conclusion because each web site is unique in its purpose and function. I can however, discuss common points that affect all web sites and the credibility they provide (or damage).

Credibility in a web site is generated by various factors working together to form a final impression in the user’s mind. Design elements, layout, navigation/ease of use, content, and code performance are all critical components of a successful and credible web site. A high impact design is worthless without quality content, and neither is of any use if the user has difficulty navigating through the site.

Successful and credible web sites are the result of effectively bringing together site design, code and content.

The design

Tantamount to person to person communications—your web site will either benefit or impair your business based on its appearance. The Stanford Web Credibility Research team lists the design of a web site as one of the top 10 factors influencing site credibility.

“We find that people quickly evaluate a site by visual design alone. When designing your site, pay attention to layout, typography, images, consistency issues, and more. Of course, not all sites gain credibility by looking like IBM.com. The visual design should match the site’s purpose.”

An effective web site design integrates brand, color, images, placement and web typography with the backend code to create an on-line presence that will instill confidence in your product and services.

The code

How frustrated are you when you click the “click here for action” button and nothing happens? Or maybe you finally found a bit of information you have been searching for, only to have the text shooting off to the side of the browser where you cannot read it? These issues and many more, are the results of various aspects of site coding. The only way to ensure that the code of your web site actually works is to first work with a qualified developer—ask them about web standards and how they can utilize current technology to create an effective site for your business, and review their past and current work before making the commitment to contract with them to produce your site.

The content

Site content encompasses not only the text the user reads, but the organization of the text and the types of information available to the user.

In addition to specific needs based on the site’s purpose, a standard set of requirements has emerged defining the user’s expectations regarding site content. Users expect to find information about the company, their services and/or products, methods of contact, and some interactive element if suitable to the site’s purpose. As new technologies emerge (i.e. streaming video, interactive navigation menus, and personalized web experiences) the content structure or site architecture becomes ever more critical to the site’s credibility. Site architecture has become an integral part of the initial site development and design as well as the final site performance.

The merge

Each aspect of a web site—the design, code and content—work together to form a final user opinion of a site. If each aspect is developed in conjunction with the others, your site will take its first steps to becoming a successful and credible asset to your company.

Make sure you work with a web team consisting of a designer who can “talk shop” with the developers and create a user interface compatible with your content; developers who uphold the design standards, and can develop the backend requirements; and content architects who can work with the developers to ensure a site structure that your users will actually use.

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