Essential Web, Part 1
When it comes to having a website that will hold peoples attention nothing works better than good, usable information. Visitors are asking themselves "What can I learn here?" or "How will this site help me?". Providing good content is essential to running a good, frequently visited website. With that in mind you should also have content that is updated regularly. If you are going to provide content through a content provider, a weekly update is the LEAST, you should sign up for. Unless you have mix of content (daily, weekly and monthly). If a vistor comes to your site and sees the same content for two or three weeks straight with absolutely no change, they will quikly lose interest. You want to hold on to your visitors attention.
Using a client of mine as an example, Crossway Community Church is not only my client, but where I worship. The website I created for them (www.crosswayicc.org) provides daily devotionals, a "Bible in a Year" area that is updated daily, a daily "bible in sixty seconds" area, and a monthly article update from a well known Christian actor. The daily content keeps our vistors coming back and the anticipation of the new monthly content also drives traffic to our site.
You will also notice that the Crossway site is very "clean". It is not cluttered or too flashy. It provides the visitor easy navigation, this is also essential in development of an effective website. Users can get to the information they need or desire in one or two clicks at the most. The menu is on the left hand side of the site for a reason. People read left to right and top to bottom. Therefore, they tend to look for menus to be on the left or on the top of a website. Don't get cute, put it where the readers eyes will follow or you will lose visitors. People like consistancy.
The site loads quickly. There are not a lot of slow loading graphics that can ruin the visitors experience. The graphics are simple, lively and appropriate to the content. Don't clutter your site with needless graphics. That said, I am a huge proponent of flash. I love flash, but don't go crazy with flash. Flash, when used appropriately, can add functionality and "wow" to your site without slowing it down. Remember, All things in moderation.
In my next article, I'll cover tools that every good website should provide for its visitors.
You can find the rest of the series at my website at www.ymcdonald.com.
Yolanda McDonald is Business Systems Analyst in Baltimore, MD. She has 15 years of experience in programming, design and analysis on several platforms including Midrange, Client/Server and the Internet. You can find more of her articles at http://www.ymcdonald.com
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