Every website needs a coherent and consistent network of pages that are easy for the visitor to understand and simple to navigate. The menu system should remain in the same place and be visible from every page. The button text should indicate to the visitor what they are likely to find in each area. Common page structures include:
The very first page a new visitor will most likely see, in effect your ‘shop window’ to the world. It will be designed to show snapshot of visual imagery and text that provides concise details of the company’s offerings. The design will reflect your brand or corporate identity (if applicable) and use your company colour schemes and logo.
Products / Services
The detailed product or service pages are instrumental in building customer confidence. You can have individual pages or one long page with page anchors. Page Anchors are used with active headings – you click on the heading and jump straight to the relevant area of the page (you can jump back to the top afterwards). Individual pages per subject are far better for search engines.
The About Us page should display your company overview and should include any standards,accreditations or awards you may have. You might want to include key staff photos / positions, pictures of your building, vans etc, to create a personal connection with the reader. With so many faceless entities and frauds on the Internet it’s good to show you are real people with a human aspect to your business.
FAQ?s (frequently asked questions)
FAQ?s show people that you have lots of visitors and allow you to create questions and answers that will be useful. You can also highlight key sales points you wish to push e.g. “Where do your products come from?” or “Is your product guaranteed?” etc.
The testimonials page is your chance to reassure potential new customers that you are a good supplier or provider of services. Testimonials need to be as genuine as possible to be effective. “Bob from Hull” is not very believable! Ask us to provide you with a simple method of obtaining fantastic testimonials from your customers and explain the crucial information you need to include, once your project is under way.
Useful links that are relevant to your business such as trade bodies, authorities, accreditation sites, associated products or services (non competing) etc, will all help drive traffic to your site and are good for page rankings. Ensure you ask for reciprocating links wherever possible as you want to drive traffic to your site and not just away from it. Most companies have a web policy and will link to suppliers and customers on request. Inbound links are the most beneficial, hence why people pay to be listed in certain portals and directories. Linking to authoritative sites like Government, Council or trade associations are also good for Google – it shows Google you are serious about your business.
Contact / Address Page
The contact form will detail your address and contact numbers and will be routed to your designated e-mail address. Auto responders can also be created so that the visitor is reassured with an automated response after filling in the form. Contact Pages are better if they use a predefined form that does not allow attachments (rather than just opening the visitors application software e.g. MS outlook to send an email). It stops people inadvertently sending viruses to you and can prevent spam robots from finding your e-mail address.
Directions & Map
You can have written directions and a map linked with Multimap / Streetmap or Googlemaps, which provides a graphical map that people can manipulate (zoom in/out, print etc).
A visible site map helps visitors who want to quickly find specific pages and see the whole site in a nutshell. XML sitemaps are installed to help search engines crawl your site and discover content.
Special Offers / News Flashes
Special Offers or News Flashes can be added to an area of the home page where the reader can see the offer heading or news headlines and click to get the full story. The content is controlled from a user administration area. The owner of the website can login to the administration area and update the headlines and main story – editing, deleting, creating new or suspending any of the items. They are best placed on the right hand side of the page.
News sections can be labour intensive to maintain, RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndicate) can be the answer supplying your website with fresh new stories with no work for you to do. The best example of this is the BBC News syndication. The news headlines change automatically on your website – reader can just click the link whenever a story catches their eye. It’s not just the BBC that offers RSS feeds there are many for all sorts of industry types. The downside is people will leave your site to visit the news story site.
Public Download Areas
You may want a specific area for downloadable files such as technical data or ‘how-to’ guides or you may wish to have downloadable documents littered throughout the site! Having one area keeps it simple for updates. You can have links to the download page from anywhere in the site that will always remain current.
If you want an administration login to update /add new files whenever you want – you can. However from a cost perspective if you want to have user control of news and links, you are a short step from a full CMS (content management system – see CMS below).
File downloads can be in many formats such as, JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, MPEG, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, CSV or PDF etc. If your changes are infrequent it may be more cost effective for Nineteen to the Dozen to complete minor upgrades on your behalf.
The search box facility can be an extremely useful feature. It allows the visitor to quickly find the item they are looking for. This is particularly useful for database sites where there are a large number of products or information available. Typical applications include on-line shops, data reference library etc. Search facilities let you search by any word in the product title or the description as well. Most shopping cart and CMS have a Search feature inherent in the software.
Private Members Area
Using a secure login your members can have access to a private area of the website. You may wish to allow access information that isn’t available to the general public. Members can be self-registering or you can have an application form and only grant approval after they qualify or on receipt of payment.
Forum / Blogs
Forums can be a great way to attract visitors to your site. A good forum will attract visitors from far and wide and it will take on a life of its own. But you do need to ensure you moderate it properly and have rules for bad language or offensive behaviour. You also need a reporting mechanism that you must react to. Once a forum visitor has registered and logged-in, they can respond to other visitors discussions and can add to the subject matter or post new questions or topics for others to answer. If you have a topical subject related to your site, then placing adverts around the forum login area can be a good way to attract sales. Beware though – spammers love forums and you need time to check postings for spam.
Blogs (Web logs)
Similar to Forums but Blogs are aimed at people who want to tell the world about their own subject matter, readers can comment on what is being written by the Blog owner but they cannot start new subjects or topics or be the initiator of an article.
It can be useful for visitors to have a help button in some circumstances. If you are asking them to fill in forms on-line or have a complex structure or a game that requires guidance, then a help button is a good way to achieve this.
Flash allows you to create slide shows and transition effects with images. This can be very effective at displaying a wide range of imagery in a short space of time, it allows you to show a range of products with the visitor having to delve into the pages to get an idea of what?s contained. You can also create Flash movies and cartoon animations. Click here to see examples of Flash
Flash 360 degree video tours: virtual tours allow the visitor to see a 360 panoramic tour. They are produced by taking a series of photographs using a wide angle lens and then ?stitching? the images together and loading them into some software that allows the website visitor to control the image ? ie they can move left or right, up or down and zoom in and out. Commonly used by property developers and even car show rooms.Click here to see Virtual Tours in Flash
Flash is invisible to search engines so pages need text too. Some designers like to create an entire website using flash with flash menus and all text produced in flash. This is not good if you want good search engine optimisation.