In part two of my “How to Succeed Online” series, we’re going to discuss our habits as website owners to “help” too much and how to make the right decisions when it comes to your website’s design and usability.  In this article, we’re going to cover some ways that you can both help and hurt your website’s design process by becoming too involved and not taking the advice of your designers.

Leave Your Crayons at Home

As website owners we have a tendency to become too involved in the design of our websites. We let our personal feelings and things we like ooze into our website’s design.  Some website owners are wise enough to leave website design and usability to the professionals, but far too many of us make our websites blue or pink because it’s our favorite color, use flash or other animations on our sites because we think it looks cool, or want to be “different” then everyone else.

Am I saying that your website has to be uncreative?  No!  But websites are designed, structured and built the way that we build them for a reason.  Several reasons in fact.  Here are some examples:

  • Flash, silverlight and excessive javascript animations look cool but they are not SEO friendly (javascript can be if used correctly and no matter what people try to tell you, flash is not crawlable by search engines.), they increase page load time  (users will typically leave your site after four seconds of total load time), they are not accessible (generally not mobile friendly, unaccessible/readable to some people with handicaps), they typically cost more to develop, maintain and change in the future.  We do not use flash or silverlight here, except in very minor instances, for the reasons above.
  • Your favorite color is pink and you like elephants?  Great!  You want to put 900 products on your homepage?  Great!  What do your customers want? Look at your big competitors websites.  Do you think that their website looks like it does by coincidence?  Did they possibly spend a lot more money than you to do some research and find out what works?
  • You don’t want a standard navigation like all the other websites have because it’s “typical”.  Navigation, content and site structure are generally placed where they are for a reason.  One, it is what people are used to using when they surf the web..having cool images or icons, fashioned in some random place on your page might seem like a good idea to you, but can your website visitors easily navigate your website?  If they can’t find their way around, they’re going to leave with a quickness.

It’s important for you to understand design and usability to a certain extent so you know when your agency or developer is steering you wrong.  Work with an agency that isn’t afraid to tell you “no” and explain to you how your decisions could impact your website’s usability and conversion rates.  Most importantly, trust the professionals and leave your crayons at home…let the architects design your house and let the mechanics fix your car.  True web professionals are always willing to educate you and help you make good decisions, let them.

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