To compete online, a product Web site needs to be uniform, fast, and consistent. When you're marketing a product online, it's essential to make each dollar count. Untold numbers of great ideas and great businesses went nowhere simply because the online marketing, programming, and design budget ate them alive. Costs can get out of control very quickly and very easily. Don't let that happen to you.
Fortunately, just three words, "keep it simple," are your keys to success.
- Keep it simple= Fast.
- Keep it simple= Happy customers that aren't confused.
- Keep it simple= Higher search engine optimization and ranking in organic search.
- Keep it simple= Fewer dollars spent on design, hosting, hard printing and code.
A product Web site is one of the most difficult sites to build simply because of its size. By making "keep it simple" your mantra, it's possible to get a great Web site up and optimized without having the Web site eat your budget alive.
The Power of Simple Design
It's tempting to branch off into flashy graphics, animation, and backgrounds designed to look like bamboo forests. But if your home page doesn't load quickly, viewers aren't going wait around. They'll simply click away and you have lost the sale.
Simple designs use a consistent color scheme throughout the Web site. Clean or even "dull" design helps users identify with a site and lets them concentrate on the products for sale.
In this article, I use a promotional products Web site http://www.gopromotional.com to demonstrate the power of simple design.
It's a good idea to stick to just two Web-safe colors. These colors apply to the logo design as well. Two-color graphics are visually powerful and they have the added bonus of letting you use GIF vs. the large and slower JPG format for your graphics.
With a product Web site, the actual site framework needs to be simple because the number of products and the information the customer needs to see can take up a lot of space and cause your site to slow down.
For example, Gopromotional has chosen to stick with one major color accent throughout most of the site: lime green. Their other color is purple and it is used sparingly. For the rest of the site, Gopromotional has used grey and white instead of adding more colors into the design.
Using a color scheme like this keeps the site fast and it helps draw the viewer's eye to the products rather than to the Web site design itself. Gopromotional's design is quick, casual and keeps the visitor focused on the products. Moreover, every page that follows this first page is designed almost exactly the same way.
The viewer never questions what site he/she is on and it is possible to quickly look in another category. So if a customer wants to see hats after looking at pens, she knows what to do.
Sneak a Peek at the Code
Any time you want to see the code for a Web site, you can choose View|Source in your Web browser. Checking out the code from other Web sites can be helpful because when you see a site or feature you like you can simply see what they are doing or the code they are using for a feature.
If you look at the code for Gopromotional.com, you'll see that the site is actually fairly complex, but it is repetitive and uses smart shortcuts to save the business money. For example, the Web designer has chosen to use Google Web Fonts API and CSS for the structure. Codes like these are explained in detail and are available through Google Web Fonts API.
The designer also has taken the design feature of the flexible drop down menus from Dynamic Drive. The menu code is smooth and easy to implement, which means the business owner isn't paying for extra hours to design custom menus.
Drop-down menus can be great navigational tool, since when done well, they save visitors time and help them navigate more quickly. For marketing products online, speed is critical. The sooner customers find exactly what they want, the more quickly they will close the sale.
Speed relates to proper use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), site structure, source code, graphics, and your Web site hosting. If you own a Web site and are concerned about speed, you also should know about two tools: Google's Page Speed Online Tool and Google's new Page Speed Service.
Google's Page Speed Online Tool lets anyone test any Web site. This tool is free and it can be informative for diagnosing problems on your own Web site and analyzing the competition. Fast Web sites are usually also well designed. Almost without fail, fast Web sites outrank slower ones in Google's organic rankings.
Page Speed Service is in beta testing and the entire premise is just a wee bit Big Brother. Webmasters can sign up now free of charge and then Google will fetch Web site content, optimize it for you, and turn around and send it to their servers all over the globe.
It's a good thing Page Speed Service is currently free because it has caused some major problems with the Web sites that have signed up for it. This isn't the really interesting thing about the tool. In the future, if they can make it work, small business owners could basically pay Google instead of a Web designer to constantly keep Web sites updated.
With technology moving at lightning speed, this service has the power to save small businesses a bundle of money. It also gives Google unprecedented all-powerful control. As you might imagine, Web sites that are optimized by Google are also likely to rank well on Google search.
When it comes to designing product Web sites, don't forget those three key words: "keep it simple." You'll be rewarded with a fast, easy-to-use site that makes you money.
Guest post by Jen Thames (read more about Jen)