Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to Design Web Pages that Sell

by Christopher Cuellar

I was recently asked by a prospective client how he "might go about achieving a beautifully simple and effective web presentation for his business" that he had tried multiple designers and still been unable to communicate his vision. It's ironic to me as design professional how successful business owners run their businesses well by essentially communicating their business principals and vision to their clients. However, when it comes translating their ideas to the web they have difficulty achieving their online goals.

The secret to designing great websites

Successfully, developing a compelling web design and running an online business is really about communication. Great websites are designed to communicate a concept or vision to prospective users of a web site and not about web design.

You see, as a professional web designer I am really not supposed to be interested in myself or showing you my prospective clients how much I know about elegant or flashy graphic presentations. The truth is the only way to successfully craft a visual presentation that engages user-participation is to sit down with a client and listen, listen as they describe their business, goals and why their clients value their product or service. Elegant web design is a combination of a valuable product or service and a well prepared design professional who truly seeks to understand his clients business and vision.

I have a website that just doesn't sell...

As I began articulating this article I couldn't help but sense that some might be hoping I'd reveal some magic formula for growing website traffic exponentially or perhaps I might hint at an ingredient or two that would make the difference for their site moving from mediocrity to stardom online. After all, how did the big guys get big? It's good to be interested in that question, as it can mean that you're searching for answers. But ask yourself, Just why I am interested? Is it because you truly believe your product or service is the best thing since chocolate cake? For a website to be successful online it must have a solid foundation. This requires not a flashy or elegant design but a properly written website and all that that includes, properly written html markup that is unique to each page to appropriate utilization of webmaster tools. You see I've seen many nicely designed web sites that employ the proper design principals of psychology, physiology, and sociology ...that have little or no traffic. When someone truly believes their product or service is the best thing since chocolate cake. They're invested in their business, or in this case their site.

The following are fundamentals each site owner should periodically consider with regard to their web site. If your websites is not selling these are some important areas to review:

Is my design outdated or has my designer not understood the principals of user interaction? Do I have a unique page for each of my products or services? Do I thoroughly describe my product or service on each of those pages? Does each of my product pages have appropriate marketing copy? Do potential or existing clients have difficulty finding how to reach me? Is my business location or phone number clearly visible on each page of my site? Do I clearly spell out the benefits of buying or using my product or service? Have I ignored the basics of Search Engine Optimization? Have I had an annual review of my websites fundamentals by search engine professional?

Which platform is best for me?

Today there are many emerging technologies and many existing ecommerce standards that can be considered when designing an ecommerce site. Some existing technologies are free and others require a provider to design and configure the engine. However there are some basics things that should not be discounted when selecting an ecommerce engine. For example;

Does the engine am I considering have an easily manageable product page environment? Does the standard I am choosing allow for live updates to the existing site? Is the engine am considering flexible enough for me add html pages where needed? Will the standard I am considering be easily crawled by search engine spiders? Can the product provider demonstrate this easily? (If it is he should be able to demonstrate that right in front of you, if he can't move on.) Can the engine I am considering be easily manipulated by a professional web designer? Including all sub pages? How many products will the database hold? Can I easily manage the database without the help of a developer on staff? How well does the site FTP update the search engines? Can I custom program those settings? These are just a few of the important questions to consider whether evaluating your current site or considering a new one.

User interaction - the most critical element

User interaction refers to how we perceive the information presented on a given web page or how we react and thereby interact with design presented. You see the success of the design is measured not by how cool it looks, or by how slick the design tools used display graphics or images. Actually the success of a properly done design equates to how well the website sells your product or service. Ask yourself does my website clearly communicate my business ideas and principals? Does it make it easy for new or existing clients to learn about and find information about my products or service? If you have an ecommerce site, you can ask how simple is my checkout process? Does my checkout process involve more than two pages? At the product page level, is it easy for my users to see how to quickly purchase their products and checkout. At the product page level, is the design simple, clear and compelling? Does my checkout process engage a user with a call to action?

To Sum it up

I could go on and try to explain many of the concepts and services we provide to clients. However in the end there are just some basics I'd like for you to remember. A well designed website that clearly communicates your vision is what every business owner needs. Your ecommerce engine is critical scaling your online store. Lastly you'll find improved success with your existing site by simply hiring a search engine professional to evaluate your existing site and recommend areas that need attention. Remember search engine give priority to sites that provide useful and beneficial information for their users.

About the Author

Chris Cuellar is the founder Apples 2 Apples Web Design and Web Development. He is highly trained in the field of organic search engine optimization. He often writes articles mentoring small business owners on how they can achieve strong sales growth online. He shares his experience and insight in running a multi million dollar ecommerce store.