Web Site Design Dos and Don'ts

E-tailers have more options than ever when it comes to designing elements and adding features to their Web stores. We offer tips for deciding what to add now and when to wait.
Online video. User-generated content. Virtual assistants. Search engine optimization. Mobile phone accessibility. If you feel like the bar for an effective e-commerce site keeps getting raised, you're not alone.

E-tailers have more options than ever for gussying up their sites, said Kim Tyburski, owner/chief designer of skyhand design, a Seattle-based firm that creates Web sites (including e-commerce) for small businesses. Nonetheless, Tyburski believes the basics for a successful e-commerce site haven't changed: Keep it simple, clean and well-organized.

Tyburski offers dos and don'ts for maintaining a strong e-commerce presence on the increasingly sophisticated Web.

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Don't Add Video Just to Add It
Online video—via YouTube and other sites— is wildly popular. In fact, according to comScore, 75 percent of all U.S. Internet users watch online video during a typical month.

Does this mean your e-commerce site should have video? Perhaps-but only if the videos truly help your visitors understand the value of your product. "If you're selling books or homemade soaps, video isn't going to be that helpful," says Tyburski.

Your target customers are also a chief consideration in whether you add video. If your products are popular with the YouTube generation, video may be a worthy addition. If your customers are largely older, video may not be appropriate. Either way, think it through carefully. "Small business owners are already wearing so many hats," Tyburski says, and video producer is yet one more to add to the pile.

Don't Use Flash Animations Unless They Serve a Purpose
The landing pages of some sites require visitors to wait for a Flash animation to load before they can access the site's content. But Tyburski believes it's important to make the user experience as fast and simple as possible. Anything that gets in the shopper's way should be seriously reconsidered.

"Flash animation can slow your site down and can be expensive to add to your site's design," Tyburski says. "People get impatient on the Web, and if you make them wait, they'll go somewhere else."

If a Flash animation is essential to conveying your business's style or products and services, fine. But don't make the visitor wait more than, say, 10 seconds for an animation to load — particularly if it must be viewed before proceeding to your site's content.

Do Add Web 2.0 Components If You Have the Resources
Blogs, user forums and reviews, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools give visitors more reasons to visit your site. They can also help increase your site's ranking in search results. If nothing else, consumers appreciate the opportunity to leave feedback about the products or services they use, said Tyburski.

But creating and maintaining Web 2.0 elements on your site can eat into your time. After all, a blog isn't going to update itself twice a week. And Web 2.0 elements can add to your site's costs. "If money and time are issues for you," said Tyburski, "you might want to hold off on the Web 2.0 components, at least for now."

(Continue to Page 2 for More Design Tips)

Tags: IT, Internet, OS

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