Keep it simple

Ten tips for making your Website more user-friendly

If you build it, they will come. But will they keep coming back? The answer lies in just how attractive and user-friendly your Website is. These days, it doesn’t take much to build a Website. Even a solitary home-based entrepreneur can create a Website using Microsoft FrontPage(tm) (or Netscape Navigator Gold(tm) (or some other Web page-building program) and minimal knowledge of HTML. Still, many businesses-large and small alike-are missing out on sales because their sites are too hard to navigate, says Shel Holtz, author of Public Relations on the Net (AMACOM, $24.95). They are still missing out on the basic principles for having a site that works: it has to be informative, interactive and interesting.

Here are 10 simple tips for turning your mediocre site into a user-friendly one that brings in new customers and increases revenues:
1. Know your audience. It may be a cliché, but many sites fail to take into account how their audiences use the Web. Your Web pages should be designed so that a novice can easily navigate them. People want what they want when they want it. The average person will give you only 11 seconds to catch their attention before they move on to another site.
2. Keep paragraphs short and conversational. People scan the Web. The screen shows only 15 lines at a time. Therefore, sentences should be no longer than 12 to 15 words and paragraphs two to three sentences.
3. Include effective hypertext links. Make sure the links on your site have meaning and contain pertinent information. Use hypertext links to separate sections of information. Select words that are distinctive. Avoid confusion by putting links on separate lines.
4. Validate your site. Putting company logos and slogans (which should be trademarked) on your pages gives your site credibility. If your company has received positive exposure from print and television media, be sure to mention it on your home page.
5. Use graphics sparingly. Graphics look pretty, but if they distract attention from important messages or take 10 minutes to download, people won’t frequent your site.
6. Include contact information on your site. Many people will want to call or visit your business if you’re a retailer, so be sure to list store hours, locations and phone numbers.
7. Include surveys, coupons and question and answer sections. These are good ways to track visitors and get to know your customers. Ask for e-mail addresses to send people new product and promotion information, not just solicitations.
8. Avoid click-and-scroll syndrome. People do not like to scroll down through pages and pages of text. If they have to scroll down more than two or three times, they’re more likely to leave your site.
9. Make sure Web pages have clear messages. Many companies have multiple Web pages with different URLs that are connected by links so they can specialize information. This is a useful tool if you have more than one product or are venturing into a new area.
10. Have a crisis intervention plan. Consumers expect your Website to contain the latest

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