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SmartCompany Olympics 2012: Take a long jump into your website

feature-long-jump-200When Mitchell Watt competes in the long jump for Australia in London, he’s going to take a long run up, fly through the air, then jump straight into the sand pit at the Olympic stadium.

It’s a bit like working on your business’ website, you may have been putting it off for ages but take a deep breath and jump straight in there.

Too many business owners dismiss their website altogether, only thinking of it as a project they can work when they have some spare time. Or, perhaps, something to outsource.

This is wrong. Your website is just as important as any other part of the business, and deserves just as much attention. For many people, your website is the first time they’ll have any contact with your business.

So for today’s long jump event in the SmartCompany Olympics, you’re going to jump into taking a look at your website. Chances are, it may need a lot of work.

While it may seem complicated at first, it’s easy to tackle it piece by piece. Web experts say you just need to get a few basics right, and everything else should fall into place.

Navigation

Some recent research compiled by internet marketing firm Webreep found that out of every other annoyance, the thing that irks web users most is when websites make their information too hard to find.

As a result, the first thing you need to have a look at is navigation.

Mark Scarrott of Design Identity says your navigation trees need to be “clear and concise”. What exactly does that mean?

“It means you’re using a few different conventions, including drop-down banners to make everything clear.”

“You also need to use some nice, clear typography. Everything just needs to fall into place and make it easy to see where everything is.”

These menus don’t even need to be complicated – contact information, store hours, various product categories. They just need to be clear.

Branding

While some website developers may tell you there aren’t steadfast rules about how you design a good site, there are certainly conventions. And one of those is that you need to display your logo as prominently as possible, in the best way possible.

Scarrott says if you’re unsure, the top-left corner is always a good place to start. “Or at least, certainly somewhere in the top half of the page.”

Social media

You should of course already have a presence on various social media sites, but Scarrott says you need to make sure your site displays links to those sites proudly.

“You should always have those in a prominent position. You need to make sure people can search and find you via all your different social media avenues.”

Pictures

One web design expert recently told SmartCompany that good design enables trustworthiness in a user. If users see a well-made site, they’ll immediately feel more trusting towards that company.

One of the ways you can build trustworthiness is by using design conventions – and out of several, one of the most prominent of these is pictures.

Big, bright and bold photography can tell a message better than any of your descriptions can. As Scarrott says, replacing text with relevant pictures can often get the job done a lot more effectively.

“It’s very straight to the point,” Scarrott says. “Pictures can often tell information much better.”

Take a look around your website. Are there too many pieces of text? If so, it may be time to spruce it up with some high quality photography.

And, no, a phone camera won’t be good enough.

Layout

Less is more. The trend in website design has moved towards open spaces, bold writing, and a very sparse layout. Don’t clutter too much into one area, but instead make sure you have a quality navigation system and only keep the most essential information on the front.

Remember, “Just keep it simple” and jump straight into your website.

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