Andrew Harmon




by Rhonda Alexander

Whether it’s for your business, a hobby, your favorite cause, or even your church, there are certain rules you should follow when creating your “web presence”. The most important thing is: You must stand out. There are millions and millions of websites that could be just like yours. What will make people stop, take notice, and select yours? There are lots of things you can, and even should, do but the most important things to remember are what NOT to do. The last thing you want to do is turn off a prospect. The five items listed below are surefire ways to run your visitors away quickly.

MUSIC. Lots of website owners think it’s great to have their favorite song strike up as soon as a visitor lands on the site. That’s a mistake! How can you be sure that your site’s visitor has the same musical tastes as you do? What if the person is at work and doesn’t want –or can’t have– music blaring in the office? What if your visitor just doesn’t want to hear music?

You can’t guess the tastes of your visitor; even if you pick the most serene, most relaxing sonata, it will turn some of your visitors away. So, when it comes to web- sites, a good rule of thumb is: “Silence Is Golden”.

ANIMATION/FLASH/LANDING PAGES. Be careful about setting up your introductory page as one huge flash animation. At the first occurrence, your visitors might find this clever and interesting; but if they want, or need, to come back again and again, they could easily tire of being made to sit through your animation just so they can get to the content they’re seeking.

The alternative? Use flash and animation wisely and sparingly. A header or sidebar that scrolls information, or fades interesting pictures and concepts, will probably go over better with your visitors. Should you decide to use a landing page, employ a “skip” button or “enter site” link that will allow the visitor to bypass the show and get right to the information.

CRAZY BACKGROUND COLORS. Ok, so chocolate and mint green go great together; so do blue and red, and purple and yellow —for clothes, logos, and team jerseys, perhaps— but they may not be your best choices of color for the background and text of your website. An important factor to remember when creating your site is contrast. You want your text to be read easily by anyone who stops by; not just those who happen to be wearing shades or using magnifying glasses at the time.

To make sure that the text of your site can be easily read, first, be sure to use a large font size. Depending on the font you choose, 10- or 12-point may be sufficient. Secondly, you should select background and text colors that are easy on the eyes when viewed on a bright computer screen. Loud, neon colors make the eyes tired, and text that is very close in color to the background can strain the eyes and give your reader a headache. When it comes to your text area, white text on a very dark background, or a very dark colored text on a white background will give you optimal contrast.

TOO MUCH CONTENT. So… you have a lot you want your visitors to know; the history of your company since 1825; a detailed description of every service your church offers; all forty-two of the ways that your network marketing company pays… In every case, the information may be interesting, but is it integral to your ultimate message? Does it compel the reader to “visit us”, “buy from us” or “donate to our cause”? That’s the whole point of the site! Don’t lose focus.

When writing text for your site, keep extraneous content to a minimum—only include what is absolutely integral to your message and purpose for the site. Most internet surfers have short attention spans. Anything beyond 500-700 words may get ignored and the visitor will move on to the next page or to the next site. Keep your writing concise and compelling. Give your readers a REASON to pick up the phone, send you an e-mail or stop by to find out more about your company or organization.

CONTACT INFORMATION. The last thing you want a prospective client, donor, member or reader to wonder is, “Where are these people located?” One of the most annoying things that can happen to a visitor is for them to want to contact a company about their services and not know how to make contact. An online form just isn’t personal enough for most people; they think that no one will reply or, if they do reply, it will be days later.

The best thing you can do for your site is to make sure that your contact information is accurate and located in a prominent place on your site-- preferably on each page so that visitors don’t have to hunt for the information. What a disappointment it would be to discover that someone was ready to shake hands with you, but moved on to the next provider because they couldn’t figure out how to get in touch with you!

When all is said and done, it is important to remember just how crucial websites are to any cause or organization. Many times, before you even see or hear from prospects, they have already looked you up, checked you out, and judged you based on what they’ve seen online. By creating a site that is welcoming, professional-looking and easy to read, you dramatically increase your chances for being the organization that internet surfers choose.

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