Ante Meridiem Design Blog

• Your potential clients need to be reassured that your company is a legitimate business. Even if you are a start-up company, your website must look professional. Most of the time, your website is the first and only interaction with your brand, so if the website looks like your cousin did it in his spare time, customers will probably not want to hire you. Professional designers and programmers are paid for a reason.

• If users can’t figure out what your business/services are and where are you located right away, they will leave. Research shows that, on average, users only spend 4 seconds deciding if they want to explore your site beyond the home page.

• Splash pages, Flash intros and pointless animations get in the way of your visitors. People have very short attention spans and if they have to click and click and click to find out about your product or services, they will simply not bother.

• Talk less about yourself or your company and more about what you can do for your client.

9 Aug 2009

SEO: who needs it

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a marketing tool. It is a set of techniques and procedures that act on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) and make them show your website rather sooner than later in their list of results produced in response to search words/phrases that are relevant to the website’s purpose.

Some websites do not need SEO at all, others need a certain dose of it, while, for some, SEO is more important than the website itself.

Let’s look at some potential scenarios:

A. You make some project that is aimed at big film studios. Your business does not depend on random people finding your website because you contact your perspective clients yourself and the website is a convenient way of showing them who you are and what you do. You shouldn’t spend a dime on SEO.

B. Your company builds medieval castles. The purpose of your website is to make you “findable” by all those who are interested in building one. Only, there are not that many castle builders left in the world. Just by having a website that describes what you do and how and shows your work will be sufficient to get you among the first 10-30 search results.

C. You sell clothes or food or good advice or cheap website design — i.e. something that makes you one of tens of thousands. In this case, the website alone, without a professionally organized SEO campaign, is a waste of money. And the amount you have to be ready to spend on SEO is directly proportional to the field of your competition.

This part of our blog is directed at the last category of our potential clients. Step by step, we will dissect the art and the science of SEO to help you understand what it is, how it works, and what you have to expect in terms of effort and money.

Some people consider including a Flash intro in their site because they assume that a Flash animation will entice their potential customers.

That, however, is not the case. Customer surveys show that users overwhelmingly hate Flash intros and up to 90% click the “skip” button anyway. The animations gets in the way of reaching the core of the website—the content.

Theresa Cunnington, senior usability consultant with the services firm iFocus, reports that “users have a short fuse when they are browsing the Web. It doesn’t matter how cool a Web site looks, if users find it impractical they will head to your competitor’s site, which is only a click away.”
Flash intros were, perhaps, acceptable 7 years ago. In 2009, not so much.

HTML website: The Fruit Source
Flash website: Viki Music
HTML website with some Flash elements: Rune Steiro

Flash websites are great for:
• gaming
• entertainment purposes (music bands or movies sites)
• obscure concept sites

Some of the disadvantages of a Flash website:
• they take longer to develop and, therefore, are more expensive
• they are harder to update
• they do not rank well with Search Engines
• users can’t bookmark specific pages or copy text
• they take a longer time to load

Most users prefer websites that get to the point straight away. These sites are simple and eye-catching and they load fast. No one will wait for your site to load and even the coolest animations are annoying if the user is forced to watch them repeatedly. Brands like Nike can have a full Flash website because they are a household name already and don’t care much about their Google rank.
Should you build an all Flash site? Probably not. I would rather recommend using Flash features within a regular html/css site.

More in-depth analysis : The Serious Drawbacks to Using FLASH for Web Design

Do not:

• assume that a professional-looking website can be done by a non-professional

• regard your website as an expense rather than a business investment

• neglect the textual content

• ignore the latest web design trends (please see my list of the best of web)

• fail to have a marketing plan

• expect that your website will acquire good rankings on the search engines (Google, Yahoo!, etc.) by itself, without an extra effort on your part. Recommended reading:

• ask for the cost of a website without providing the details: number of pages, interactive forms, e-commerce, number of products, etc.

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