There are lots of things to consider when designing any webpage: color scheme, typography, layout, etc. But there is much more than that when designing a site for a business. The goal of a good business site is to have a presence, raise awareness, and of course, achieve a good conversion rate. In order to do that, you have a lot to consider on the landing page. You want to make it attractive and draw the user in further without overwhelming them. Here are a few tips to think about when designing a landing page:

Make the page obvious and self explanatory. You don’t want users to get confused and ultimately bored enough to leave your site. Making navigation and information easy to understand and as intuitive as possible.

Prevent users from being overwhelmed and locked in choice paralysis. Having too much information and options can leave the user confused and frustrated and deter them from going any further on the page. It’s okay to give options, but help steer them towards the most popular product. Or, you might help them differentiate through visuals as much as possible.

Show the product in some form or capacity. If it’s a service and you can show off a screenshot, it will go a long way. I personally wouldn’t purchase something that I couldn’t see or demo, software included. If I can’t see the interface of a piece of software, how would I have any idea whether it is a good fit for me or not? I would not even consider looking any further at the page if this were the case.

Provide clear and directions/guidance and next actions. Show the user where you want them to go with arrows, buttons, etc. Draw their attention to where you want them to go. Once they are there, use a easily recognizable, obvious next step action whether it be a button or whatever. Don’t make the user hunt for it, make it readily available and easy to find.

These are just a few tips to consider. There are others of course, but these seem like a good place to start. Next time you land on a business’ landing page, take a look around and assess whether they make it easy for you to navigate and take an action.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, chances are you’ve at least heard the chatter about HTML5 & CSS3. Although they aren’t supported by all browsers yet, they have been the web buzzwords of the year no doubt. So you’ve heard the buzz, but what is so great about these two technologies anyway? What is so different about them and what are they capable of?

Both HTML5 & CSS3 will help make the web experience better and pages more semantic. This makes it a lot easier for search engines to navigate pages, and improves the web experience for everyone. Also, HTML 5 includes new APIs for drawing graphics on screen, storing data offline, dragging and dropping, and much more. We’ll look at a few more elements more in depth.

HTML5 has been getting a great deal of attention thanks in large part to the video feature. The video is built right into the page rather than having to rely on other technologies like Flash or Silverlight that require plugins and possibly bog down your computer. The video feature gained a good bit of attention earlier this year when Apple basically said that it will support HTML5 and not Flash on the iPhone.

HTML5 and CSS3 also helps make for more attractive sites. HTML5 has new features which make building web apps much easier and more tailored. Some examples are more color and gradient support, rounded corners, and shadowing. Also, there are several new capabilities included in HTML5 forms that are pretty impressive including new input types, autocomplete, and more.

When designing the for the web, another important aspect to consider is accessibility. Making websites that are able to be accessed by all people, including those with disabilities is good practice. Making an accessible site is not difficult to do, but is often overlooked by designers and developers.

If you already have a site up and didn’t consider accessibility in the design and development, there are a few things that you can do right off the bat that will go along way towards making it available to all users.

When using images, be sure to include alt tags to describe the visual function. Otherwise, the visually impaired would have no way of knowing what the image is supposed to be.

Also related to visual impairment, when hyperlinking, using text that makes sense when read out of context is good practice. For example, avoid “click here” and provide a description of what the link actually is for.

When including audio and video in a site, consider the hearing impaired. Providing captioning and transcripts of audio, and descriptions of video will make it more accessible for all.

Those are just a few simple things that can be done. There are plenty of resources available on the web regarding accessibility and what you should do to make your sites and designs accessible. One of the best places to start is the W3C site. Another handy resource is Six Revisionspost about tools for evaluating web design accessibility.

Up until fairly recently web typography was pretty limited for web designers. There weren’t a lot of options to choose from. However, with third party font services growing, such as Typekit and Typotheque, there are wide range of fonts available for designers to choose from. With more browsers supporting these fonts, typography has become an increasingly important aspect of website design.

Besides just choosing a hot new font, there are some fundamentals to keep in mind when considering your options for typography and colors in the design of a site. First, keep enough white space in your site so that the user is not overwhelmed with content. It helps focus attention on the text and what is important. Right in line with that is having smaller blocks of text so users can scan and read it quickly.

Keep contrast in mind. You want to make sure that there is a good contrast between your font color with the background. If your beautiful font is legible, then you’ve defeated the purpose.

Font size kind of goes right along with that. Choosing a size that is legible and easy for the user to read should be considered when determining your typography. When in doubt, go for the larger size!

Finally, varying the font size helps break up and helps the user differentiate content. It gives them an idea of what’s important and can help them scan and pick up little tidbits. Instead of varying size, another strategy might be to apply different styles like italics, bold, or varying the font style.

Last week we had a great guest speaker, Mr. John Allsopp, stop by our class . He came to discuss web technologies and developing and designing with web standards. You can check out his site here. In honor of his visit to speak to us, I thought I’d take a look at Web Standards and why they are so important to consider when designing for the web.

Web Standards are guidance created by the W3C designed to help ensure that everyone has access to the information being provided, and also making the web.

Complying with web standards can give your web pages greater visibility in web searches. The structural information present in documents that adhere to standards makes it easy for search engines to access and scan the information in those documents. Thus, they get indexed more accurately and potentially rank higher.

Standards are designed so that old browsers will still understand the structure of your documents. Even if they don’t recognize or understand some of the newer elements, they’ll still be able to display your site’s content. Even if you are using old versions of the standards, it will continue to work in new browsers, and data using new versions of the standards will “gracefully degrade” to produce an acceptable result in older browsers.

Finally, documents that comply with Web Standards can be easily converted to other formats. This allows for more versatile use of the information within documents on the web and simplified integration and migration to new systems.

Information architecture. You’ve probably heard the term, but have you ever really thought about what it is? It is a discipline focused on the designing and organizing information for the digital space. The idea is to figure out what users need and make it easy for them to achieve their objectives.

It is great to design a beautiful cutting edge site, but if it’s not usable then it’s not successful. I’m sure you’ve been on a site like this – you know, the kind with a beautiful interactive, animated landing page. But once the novelty wears off and you try to figure out where to go next, you have no idea what to click. That is a site that misses the mark in my mind. The goal should be to combine both the pop of the design with a highly usable and navigable site.

The only way to have a successful and usable site, is to draft up a blueprint and plan out the site well before you lay the first brick. There needs to be a planning and analysis process in place from the start. Once you have thought about and planned for most scenarios, then you can begin building. As opposed to trying to create a Jackson Pollack version of a website that looks interesting, but once the user snaps out of their haze, they have no idea what to do next.

You aren’t always going to have all of the answers before you undertake a project. New requirements come up and curveballs are thrown all the time out of no where. Having a solid plan provides a good foundation and will help you better adapt to the changing environment versus building a site by the seat of your pants and going with what feels good.

If you have ever written for the web, you know that it’s a different animal than writing for print. Why? Isn’t writing, writing? Not necessarily. There are a number of factors that you have to consider when crafting copy for the web. You really need to understand the user behavior and experience to be successful.

There are a number of factors that should be considered related to online user experience. Let’s look at just a few:

When users read on the web, generally speaking, they aren’t doing it at the kitchen table over their morning cup of joe. They are scanning at best, trying to get to the meat of the content. Keeping relevant information at the beginning of the content is very important.

Websites are not linear. You have no idea where a user is going to go once they hit your site. You can’t define a beginning, middle, and end. You have to make sure that the user can figure out what they are looking at and how to navigate the site.

Websites should strike a balance between user goals and business objectives. In other words, you need to provide, clear, concise information and direction to satisfy the user needs. On the other hand, you have to get across what the company wants customers to know and do. Finding that happy medium is the challenge.

You’ve surely come across sites that you thought had terrible writing and content organization. Likewise you’ve probably also encountered sites with great content and writing. So what makes it good anyway? Providing the user with clear, useful, findable information is key. You want your reader to be engaged and get out of the site what they were looking for.

Of course, it’s all easier said than done. But, next time you are surfing the web, pay attention to the content and notice what you like and what you don’t. Those audits can help you the next time you are charged with writing content for the web. Until next time!

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