Looks Do Matter

Website isn't attracting customers? Maybe it's time to call an expert.

Bad websites do happen to good businesses. And online, as in art, beauty is often truth. So if your Website looks like a loser, chances are, visitors will think your business is, too. BLACK ENTERPRISE challenged companies to submit their sites to the test in our first Website makeover contest. The competition was fierce since, quite frankly, many of the sites were, well, bad. We received dozens of submissions, but selected CDP Consultants Inc. (www.cdpconsultants.com), a Dublin, California-based firm specializing in project management for businesses and the government.

“We did [the site] ourselves without the benefit of professional designers,” says company CEO Cecil Plummer. The site had been up for 18 months, as of January, and the company had received only three requests for information.

BE consulted Web design expert Nechelle Feaster of New York-based Feast New Media Inc. (www.feast newmedia.com) to help Plummer create a winning Website. Feaster created CDP’s new look under the Feast Web Biz packages for small businesses and entrepreneurs, which start at $499.

“The main problem with the site was the aesthetics,” says Feaster. “There is an obvious lack of professional design.” She concentrated on three basics: establishing a brand identity for CDP with a new logo; using inviting colors and images; and making the site easier to use.
So is Plummer happy? “Absolutely,” he enthuses.

Aesthetics
Use Web-friendly fonts.
Make sure all text is legible.
Incorporate photos into the design, which adds the human touch and helps users feel connected.

Brand Identity
Create a simple logo and establish obvious corporate colors. Carry the new logo identification throughout the site at the top of every page.

Navigation
The order of the menu items was presented in terms of importance to CDP; yet it’s easy for visitors to follow. The goal is to create an architecture that allows users to reach the content they seek in three clicks or less.

TIPS FOR SITE SUCCESS
Want to get repeat business for your Website? Follow Nechelle Feaster’s six tips for an effective and attractive Web presence.
1. Maintain Brand Consistency
Your site should be consistent with the rest of your company’s materials, such as brochures, marketing materials, business cards, or letterhead.

2. Reduce Load Time
There is no ideal goal for how long your Website should take to load, but conventional wisdom holds that if it takes longer than 15 seconds, you’ve already lost potential customers. Avoid slow-loading graphics, sounds, and unnecessary bells and whistles.

3. Provide Functionality
Provide tools that offer smooth interaction between visitors and customers. Basic forms on a site are sufficient to serve the target audience of a small firm, but as the company grows, consider adding a password-protected area for clients to manage their accounts.

4. Keep Content Concise
Surfers want to find information fast, and move on. Consider breaking up your content into smaller bites, then adding “Next” or “Page 1, 2, 3″ links. Readers will appreciate clicking versus scrolling — and they just might read all the information.

5. Build In Scalability
As your company grows, so must your Website. Plan for growth, so your Website developer can take this into consideration — and you can

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