Building your site on good foundations

This thought struck me the other day when I was auditing a clients website. They are a specialist retailer – yet when I looked at their site it was really hard to find the products.

 Building your site on good foundations

The site was pretty and well branded – but it was so pretty and well branded what you saw on the first screen was big logo, a bit of top navigation, a really, really large image with a bit of sub navigation stuck over on the right. They managed to get one product in above the fold.

Think of your page as a room

Now imagine if this was a physical shop – anyone would know that it is madness to have a huge logo on all the walls, followed by a lovely picture underneath – a plan of what books are where – with one item on the shelf close to the floor and that you need to go down to the basement to see the rest of the stock.

Now think of those websites that have "cool" flash animations before you can get in to them – would you subject your clients and customers to a floorshow before you even let them walk into your reception? Before they even opened the door? Would your customers even bother?

Lead them through the maze

Now, on the other hand, if you have got a page that is just text – what you would be looking at here is just a brick wall. It would have no distinguishing features – everything looks the same – nothing to pick out or notice. Very unmemorable. And if you've not got links that act as doors and windows to other places for them to visit, they'll leave altogether. You're not being helpful, and your customer will be off to look at something more interesting or useful elsewhere.

Think about structure

Now, while we agree that well-designed sites make it easier for customers in terms of usability, design should never be there just to pretty up the page at the expense of functionality. Words on the other hand – you can't do without them – but like design they have to earn their place. Put in place good architecture – windows, doors, skirting boards, picture rails, cornicing, architrave and the room comes together.

So it is with a web page – headlines, sub heads, bullet points and bold together with helpful descriptive links to act as your doors, windows and signs and the page suddenly becomes easier to understand.