For today's time-strapped middle and high income households, the home page of your web site has to convey the nature and essence of your business instantly and at first glance.
And you have 6 to 8 seconds to do it - and this at 28.8 kps, which is still the most common modem 'out there'. Any longer than this and people become impatient, then annoyed - and then go elsewhere, with a click of the mouse. Dozens and dozens of marketing studies have proven this over and over again.
I am not making this up. Download time has proven so crucially important to the success of web sites that it is being tracked daily by Keynote.com, the top Web analysis company.
Internet Performance Index
Please note that "Best Performance" stops at just under 8 seconds!
the performance numbers above are in seconds at 28.8 kps. The number in parenthesis after the web site name is the number in consecutive weeks that the web site has appeared in the top 5.
Quick downloading must be your absolutely first and foremost priority. You may have a stunningly beautiful web site of exquisite artistry, with fabulously easy navigation and usability, and wonderful products at fabulous prices - but if it takes too long to download all this won't mean a thing, for hardly anyone will ever bother to look at it.
Next, your web site has to be aesthetically pleasing. It has to be pleasant looking, attractive, inviting, clear, simple and uncluttered. When you have a pleasant looking web site, you have the instant good will of your visitors - and visitors who will also gladly return to your web site again, and again.
This should be a 'no brainer'. But there is a vast multitude of downright ugly and clutter-crammed web sites out there. Nothing turns visitors off more than 'assaulting' them by throwing everything at them at once, and 'yelling' at them with big, bold, and worse, flashing text. This evokes an instant distrust of your business in your visitors, and you will be automatically lumped with the fly-by-night used car sales people. Such web sites hurt their companies far more than they help.
Your web site also has to give your visitors plenty of 'room' - open spaces which give your visitors the all important sense of freedom, of not being 'caged' or 'trapped' in your web site. For this reason web site "frames" are an absolute no-no. A convenience only for web designers, frames literally trap visitors, and people hate that, and get to hate them very quickly when they can't get out of the "frame" of the last visited web page, and have to shut down their browser and start over. And they transfer their dislike to the business.
All this boils down to clean, simple, informative, aesthetically pleasing, roomy and cheerful web pages - for nothing attracts people more than beauty, and if at all possible, a sense of joy. And even a logo, when well designed, can be joyful (ahem).
Your web site must also appeal to women, for female surfers now outnumber male surfers, and women still make 80% of all household expenditure decisions, and in almost all cases, based entirely upon their female sensibilities.
An effective web site is therefore inviting, appealing, clean, simple, informative, aesthetically pleasing, even 'pretty', with few and simple graphics (the download time! - 90% of all Internet users are still on slow dial-up connections - Internet stats, Aug. 2001), in cheerful colours, and carefully chosen fonts. And if it can be imbued with a sense of joy, so much the better.
Finally, it has to have clear and simple, consistent, and absolutely easy navigation throughout your web site. Any visitor must be able to go easily to any other page on your web site from any page.
In short, if your web site is a pleasure to visit, to use, and to move around in - then you have a winner, and it will substantially benefit your business. If it is not, it will only hurt your business.
Next, a "Tale of Two Stores" - and whether to "Flash, or not to Flash".