Having spent years trying to figure out what makes a commercial Web site successful, I've come to the conclusion that it can all be summed up in two words: Simple sells. This principle applies to both the user experience (what I call "human factors") and the site's internal coding and structure ("machine factors").
When designing a site for a local business, it's important to keep in mind that people shopping for goods and services aren't looking to be entertained. They're looking for information. Anything on a site gets in the way of their finding that information (or that is otherwise unrelated to the company's business) is a distraction.
What people want when shopping for goods and services on the Internet are:
- pages that load quickly
- a clean, relaxed, uncluttered style that doesn't assault the senses
- intuitive, easy-to-follow navigation links
- informative, concise, clearly written content
- freedom from excessive moving images, sounds, pop-ups, or other distractions
Sites that are designed with these human factors in mind are more likely to convert visits to sales, to be bookmarked, and to be visited again in the future when the visitor has similar purchase intentions. I believe that a Web site should complement and enhance a client's existing marketing strategy, not redefine or distract from it.
Web sites should be designed for humans, but a smart Web designer also keeps the needs of machines in mind when developing a site. Sites whose code is efficient and conforms to Web standards perform more predictably than do sites that rely excessively on scripting technologies or "novel" coding techniques. This is especially true nowadays, when so many computers are infected with spyware that may interfere with proper script execution.
Simple, standards-compliant coding is also much easier for search engine robots to crawl. I've taken over a few sites whose visual designs and content were perfectly fine, but whose code was so convoluted that search engine robots couldn't follow the links. As a result, these otherwise well-designed sites barely showed up under their own URL's in search engine results. Their pages were invisible because search engine robots couldn't find them.
Properly-coded sites that follow conventions and contain well-written content stand a better chance of getting good search placement. For example, take a look at these search results for one of my clients, Sparkles Wireless, a cell phone store in College Point, New York:
Efficient, standardized coding helped Sparkles Wireless get noticed — and it can help you, too!