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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

Create a Website Your Customers Love

Last week, FEI marketing guru Marka went over the four key elements of an effective website. This week, she teaches the tribe how to create accessible, user-friendly websites. Remember, fire = print.

Zoot walked into FEI’s conference room, just in time for the morning marketing meeting. He immediately dropped his watch into the trash can.

“Why’d you do that?” Numo asked. “That’s a beautiful watch.”

“I know,” Zoot said, “but it’s always running fast. It doesn’t work as it should, so who cares how it looks?”

“You could say the same thing about our O-site,” Marka interjected. “Attractive design matters, but it means zilch if our O-site isn’t easy to use, load and navigate. If our O-site is easy to use, our customers will love it—and they’ll keep coming back. To make this happen, we must ensure we can answer ‘yes’ to these four questions…” [Marka started scribbling on the whiteboard.]

Does it load quickly?

“Few things are more frustrating to our O-site visitors than having to wait while an O-site loads,” Marka said. “Here are a few tips to help us minimize our O-site’s load time:
  • As a rule-of-thumb, O-pages should be no larger than 200 Kilobytes to ensure speedy loading. Like any rule-of-thumb, this one has exceptions. For instance, if you know your audience is tech-savvy and will be viewing your O-site on faster O-puters, it’s probably fine to go over this size.
  • Big image files cause O-pages to load slower. When placing images on your O-site, be sure to use compressed GIF formats for graphics and JPGs for photographs.
  • Use external Javascript and CSS files for your O-pages. Placing Javascript and CSS within O-pages increases their size and makes them load slower.

• Is it easy to read and understand?

“Our O-site must be clear and accessible to O-web viewers,” Marka explained. “Many best practices from our discussion on landing pages apply here. Here are some tips:
  • Copy: Write clearly and concisely. Write in short paragraphs. Include lots of headings and bullets.
  • Formatting: Follow the ‘F’ pattern. Include most of our O-page’s information ‘above the fold’—a.k.a., the part of a webpage that can be read without scrolling down. http
  • Images: Include relevant images, photos, charts, graphs, etc. on O-pages whenever possible, to improve O-page’s readability and support copy.

• Is it easy to navigate?

“We must make it easy—extremely easy—for users to navigate to and between vital information on our O-site,” Marka said. “An effective navigation structure will contain these components:
  • Navigation bar(s) that are easily identifiable, and in the same spot on every page.
  • Navigation bar labels that are clear and concise (e.g. Fire Solutions, not FEI’s Firelighting Solutions for Hearths and Businesses).
  • Navigation bar(s) with a reasonable number of links.

“One way to ensure our navigation is user-friendly is by simply asking friends or family members—or anyone not in the fire business—to navigate through our O-site, letting us know if and when they get confused,” Marka suggested. “Then, we’ll make structural changes as appropriate.”

• Is it free of errors or problems?

“This one’s practically self explanatory,” Marka noted, “yet also vitally important. Before launching our O-site, let’s go through it with a fine-toothed comb. Here’s a list—not necessarily all-inclusive—of what we should check for:
  • Everything is spelled correctly.
  • Every link works.
  • Every image shows up.
  • Design consistency—e.g. logos, navigation links, headers, footer with contact info in same spot on every O-page.

“Boy,” Zoot sighed. “I wish Olympus Brothers Watchmakers had put this much thought into making my watch.”

FIRE! Point
Attractive design means little if your website isn’t easy to use, load and navigate. When designing your site, make sure you can answer “yes” to four key questions about its usability. Does it load quickly? Is it easy to read and understand? Is it easy to navigate? Is it free of errors or problems?

FIRE! in Action: Diesel Concepts Improves Online Sales with Better Web Presence
The diesel engine parts manufacturer redesigned its website to focus on usability and conversion. The results? Online sales increased by 400 percent.

Next week: More tips on creating a website that looks good.

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