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Many people fail to understand just how important the design of a web site is to your online image. Some simply assume that because they have a great product they will be automatically successful.

But in order to achieve online success, one must have both a wonderful product or service and a great design. This is because people assume that if the web design is unprofessional, the product is inferior. Just as humans have a tendency to “judge a book by its cover,” they also tend to make an association between a business’s web site and product.

So, in order to make sure that your web site doesn’t express your business inappropriately, here are 10 things you can do:

  1. Lose those banner programs. Using banner “exchange” programs is like saying to the world, “I’m a newbie.” When people start a web site, they seem to be automatically drawn to sites like LinkExchange or SmartAge. Perhaps it’s the promise of traffic for free that does it, but know the truth: banner programs, for the most part, are worthless when you’re just starting out. Avoid the temptation to plaster your pages with every banner program you can think of, because it’s not going to help you.
  2. Keep your site clean and organized, not “busy!” Do not, I repeat, do not make your site overwhelmingly “busy.” Have you ever visited a site where there were thousands of animated pictures, fluorescent text and colors, crowded pictures, and huge text? Me too. And every time I visit one, I head for the “back” button in my browser. Don’t run off your visitors without letting them read what you’ve got to say, or they’ll never buy!
  3. Avoid “clip-art” type graphics like the plague. They are totally unprofessional, and scream “don’t buy!” Take the time to learn how to make your own graphics using whatever program you can get your hands on.
  4. Don’t talk about yourself! Sorry, but no one really wants to hear about you. They want to hear about how you can help them and the benefits your product or service will provide. Focus on them!
  5. TEST, TEST, TEST with the major browsers! Take a look at your site in Internet Explorer and Firefox, the two main browsers on the web today. Without testing, you might never discover that you’re running off a large percentage of your visitors just because your site looks terrible in their browser.
  6. Proofread your ENTIRE site. Poor grammar or spelling is the end-all, be-all of presenting yourself unprofessionally online. After all, if you can’t spell correctly, you probably won’t pay attention to details or those “small things” that make a product or service great, right? Well, that’s what your visitors will think. So run your pages through a spell check once or twice, and have someone else proofread them.
  7. Keep your design consistent. Ever visit a site that changes designs, backgrounds, and navigation systems completely whenever you click a link? Kind of makes you feel lost, doesn’t it? You feel as though you’re at another site. So, keep your web site’s design consistent, and make it clear to the visitor where they are on the Internet and on your site. (Note: Consistent does NOT have to mean boring!)
  8. Stay away from backgrounds, for the most part. Backgrounds have a tendency to make a site feel very unprofessional. If you don’t know what you’re doing, stick with a plain white background with contrasting text. It’s simple, and it’s very clean and easy to read.
  9. Use small images. I don’t mean that you should use visually small images. I mean that you should use images that are small in terms of file size. The best way to go about doing this is to compress your images to a more reasonable size.
  10. Be Careful With Your Fonts. Perhaps the biggest indicator of someone who doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing online is a web site with lots of different (and conflicting) font types, colors, and sizes. Keep your fonts consistent, and only use one or two, or, if you really have to, three. And please, keep the size down, will ya?

This Web Marketing article was written by Micah D. Cranman on 3/21/2005

Micah D. Cranman owns and operates Sybren Design, a web design firm specializing in helping small businesses build effective and attractive websites. Visit Sybren today at