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How Experts Review Websites

Posted on 4.02.2008

I'm fortunate to be able to review hundreds of websites each day. Learning from the successes and failures of others is important to the success of my own current and future endeavors and equally important to readers of Website Magazine. But on what criteria should a website be judged? While there are no hard and fast rules to what makes one website "better" than another, when you look at professional and novice websites day in and day out, you end up getting a pretty good handle on what is going to work and what's not.

Never one to cast the first virtual stone at the hard work of designers and web professionals, here are a few guidelines that I personally use each and every day to assess the overal design of a Web presence:

- Is the Design "pleasing?"
This is completely subjective, but most of us know when a design is pleasing. Mismatched colors and a variety of fonts only cause many to simply back away and perhaps never come back. Not only ugly, such sites look unprofessional and cause feelings of mistrust. How do you know if your website design is pleasing? Ask someone without a vested interest in you business or whom you trust and chances are good you'll get a honest answer.

- Is the website "innovative?"
I am a proponent of using publically available templates for website design, whether they are from sources like OSWD or those that are found individually and used for WordPress blogs. When experts look at thousands of websites and notice that 10 or 20 feature the exact the same design, there is simply no way you'll appear innovative, regardless of how innovative the idea or content being presented.

- Is the content "appealing?"
Here's another tricky one. Content is typically appealing only to specific groups. Some of us are interested in benefits, others are interested in features. How does a designer satisfy both goals? Images assist greatly in developing "appeal." If you know the audience, you'll be able to find an image that reflects their demographic.

- Is the website "easy-to-use?"
There's nothing more discouraging than website features that don't work. Actually, scratch that - in fact there is. It's the complicated, endless stream of navigation that turns off users (who will never return) more than it is broken links. The reason is that Web experts, just like consumers, are forgiving - but only to a certain point. Fail to explain how something works on the site or force detailed registration to access information and you'll elicit some negative feelings with your potential customers. You need to identify your audience and give them what they want with as few clicks and hassles as possible.

- Does the website "meet it's own goals?"
This is perhaps the most important point to consider when assessing a website. Often Web professional think more is better when, in reality, less is more. Not forcing users to make multiple decisions will benefit your bottom line. Have 10 goals for your website's landing page? Cut it down to three and the conversion rate on all will be much better and earnings much higher. Don't make users think - they won't, they'll just leave.

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