Thursday, April 10, 2008

Help Guide #1: Helping Small Businesses improve their understanding of web design and Internet marketing!

Usability and design from a designers viewpoint ...

"Today we have an interview with Nathan Beck on what small business owners in the United Kingdom can do to improve their website and their understanding of internet marketing!

Nathan is based in the UK and you can view his design work at and SansDesign. He also runs the tech and design related blog RedSwish. Which I highly recommend!

Nathan is 18 and has been doing web design and search engine optimization for a little less than two years. He should serve as great inspiration for those new to internet marketing and design as he is self taught through books, online tutorials, and blogs!

The Interview

UK2: For a small business a website is growing increasingly important in the digital age and a lot of businesses create one without fully understanding this new medium, as a designer what do you feel are the most important three factors a business should consider when creating a web site?

It’s not just small businesses, you probably won’t be surprised how many huge companies pay no attention to their online presence. For example, check out the Primark website ( Primark is a massive chain of discount clothes stores throughout the UK, you wouldn’t guess from the site.

The typically ultimate aim of most sites is to provide a service to the user; whether that be general information, downloads, e-commerce, advice, a community etc. So the first important step is to actually ensure traffic to the site - cue search engine optimisation (SEO)!

Once you’ve got people to your site, it’s usually a good idea to keep them there. This is where usability plays it’s part. In a point-and-click market, it’s all too easy for your customers to go somewhere else if they can’t navigate your site easily. I’ve done it, I’m sure most people have. Tricky menus, ugly flash capable of giving you a seizure, ridiculous splash pages and bad formatting due to a lack of standards-aware design. A few clicks and the user can be on a competitor’s site, spending money.

My 3rd main factor would have to be content. The good old phrase ‘Content is King’ is around for a reason. Not just in terms of SEO but for the up-front benefit of the user. The majority of business sites are there to inform. So what good is a website, regardless of if it’s well optimised and designed if there’s nothing there to learn? This doesn’t necessarily mean pages of scrawl, but short and sweet, detailed content.

UK2: What is usability in terms of web design and why is this growing in importance for a small business website?

It’s kinda’ in the name. Usability and Accessibility are in many ways very similar, but are essentially different. Usability is ensuring your website is, for want of a better phrase, easy to use! In my eyes this relates more to the design. Ensuring the site is easy to navigate and understand. It sounds simple but it does cover a lot of areas, such as ensuring your menu is easy to find and that the links are appropriately named, content is easy to read and functionality like videos or dynamic forms well, work!

I don’t think usability is ‘growing in importance’, I think it’s ‘growing in acknowledgment and acceptance’. Usability is essential.
What if you went to a high-street shop and couldn’t open the door? Or went to a restaurant with no menus? I could churn these metaphors out for days, although I’m sure you get the idea. Once again, it’s not just an importance for small business sites but any website.

UK2: What are web standards and accessibility and why should business web sites follow them?

Web Standards aren’t a strict rule, but more of a persuasive suggestion as to how websites should be built to ensure they are accessible by everyone. It’s a massive subject and I’d surely bore you if I went in to it. In a nutshell, accessibility means that whether your visitor is looking at your site on a 19″ monitor on a windows computer through Firefox or Internet Explorer, a 28″ monitor on a Mac through Safari, through a PDA or mobile phone or even through a specialised screen reader or disability browser - everyone will be able to access and benefit from the site, even if it might not render exactly the same on either format.

Web Standards help to ensure this by promoting the use of valid XHTML and CSS, using semantic markup, table-less design, image ‘alt’ tags…
the list goes on.

Personally I feel standards are a discipline but should be expected from web developers. A friend once asked me why I often put ‘xhtml’
and ‘css’ links at the bottom of my sites. I said it was to show that the site used valid markup. To which he replied - but isn’t it your job to code your sites correctly? Which gave me food for thought.

Businesses need to acknowledge accessibility. If their site doesn’t render correctly in certain browsers - they are potentially locking out a huge portion of their user base. It doesn’t get simpler than that."    (Continued via UK2)    [Usability Resources]


Blogger henrry said...

Nice interview and conversation between Nathan and you. Nathan has greatly described about the internet marketing business which is emerging very fast and giving the better results for many websites.

12:22 PM  

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