Web Design for Business Owners

In my day job, I deal with massive databases of business listing information. Occasionally, I am required to go through those listings to review the sites attached to the listings. And for the love of god, people you’re making my eyes bleed. In hopes that some of you out there find this blog post and are willing to fix your site, here’s a few tips.

Give your homepage the title of your company.

When you build your site, make sure your company’s name is the title of your home page. It should not be things like: “Welcome!”, “email”, “under construction” or “index”. This makes your site both more professional and easier for search engines to properly index your site.

Do not use massive amounts of Macromedia Flash/Javascript/Animated Gifs.

Some truly amazing things can be done with Flash. Using it to animate your navigation is not one of them. Flash is best used sparingly as it limits your audience, blocking the blind for your site and users of mobile internet devices (e.g. cellphones).

Likewise, javascript should be sparingly and the site should degrade gracefully when a user without javascript visits. Which is to say if your navigation or other major site features break without javascript; then you’ve done something wrong. So go back and fix it!

The occasional animated gif can add impact and interest to your site; while dozens are annoying and look amateurish.

Color is important, but try not to blind your site visitors.

When you blind your site visitors with odd bad color choices; they will move on to your competitors. Along the same lines if you have overly complicated background images behind the text of your website; you are marking it harder for people to read what you have to say. Keep it simple for maximum impact.

Make sure all your links have logical names.

Naming your various pages as: “Page 1”, “Page 2”, etc… might seem simple and easy, but it makes those links useless to your visitors. How can anyone other than you know that “Page 1” is the page where you sell dildos or whether it is the page where you’re selling balloons? They can only find out by clicking the link.

Avoid Comic Sans MS

While Comic Sans MS may seem like a fun, cheery sort of font to you; it’s been greatly overused and most people find it annoying/unprofessional.

So faithful readers that’s my list of big tips for the small business owner who wants a web presense. Did I miss one of your hot button issues? If so, please add it in a comment!

Updated: 2007-03-19

Kind readers have added some extremely good tips that I should have remembered in the comments on this post!

4 Comments

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My personal pet peeve: All business sites for brick-and-mortar stores should have a physical address and phone number someplace easy to find. Hours of business are a close second, and sometimes really hard to find. There’s nothing worse than being dumped at a site from Google or some other link, and being completely unable to figure out where the actual place of business is located.

I suppose this is a bit more rare, nowadays, but do NOT have as your site:

“site under construction, come back soon” or “site is down three weeks for maintenance”

as an indefinite placeholder. Only give the impression that there will be content soon if you have a plan to add content, soon. I used to see many company sites which had a “temporarily down, return soon”-type site. For over three months, in Air France’s case.

Both of those are good tips!

A couple more tips just occurred to me.

1. Do not require your visitors to fill in any information before browsing your site. For example, if you have an outlet in New York and in California; do not require your visitor to submit their zipcode before they can browse your catalog. This tends to turn people off on your site and prevents them from seeing what you have to order. Instead you can check their zipcode when the visitor goes to place an order, or you can have a link or a form on your catalog pages asking for that info to verify product availability.

2. Requiring javascript, Flash or cookies to use advanced features on your website is one thing. Requiring them to even view the website is another and is something to be avoided.

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