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Effective small business web site on a budget

by Kevin Nunley

As more and more of the world's business starts taking place online, we're left to wonder how our own web pages will stand up and out among the jumble of everybody else's.

Small businesses don't always have the option to buy expensive graphics or to hire a great web designer. Or even if they do, they have to take into account whether their potential customer's browser will support a high tech page. On the other hand, we all want our web site to look as great as our competitors. So what do you do? Here are a few tips to help you decide which type of site is best for you.

As browsers get more sophisticated and modems download faster, web sites are getting fancier. My old advice about put a logo at the top of your web page and keep the rest "text" is looking outdated.

On the other hand, MANY of your web site visitors have slow phone lines with no improvement in the near future. With web design expectations higher but lines still slow, it puts many of us between a rock and a hard place.

Some ways to jazz up the look of your pages without making them slow loading:

1. Use one to three SMALL gif or jpeg graphics on a page, but don't go overboard. Try to repeat graphics when you can from one page to the next. Once a graphic has loaded into the visitor's computer, it doesn't have to load again.

2. Create an interesting page by formatting your text into headlines, bold, indented blocks, and limited colored text. You can also set off important points with small graphic balls or arrows. These don't take much time to load and can add interest to your page.

3. Put parts of your page in a cell and give it a different background from the rest of your page.

4. When you find a logo you like, email the owner and ask who created it. I find that many site owners create their logo themselves and don't mind making one for you at low cost. A great place to get a cheap logo is at GotLogos.com-- they'll design your logo for only $25.

Some time back I beefed that too many web sites didn't have enough words to explain their offers. "Some sites are all pictures with very little copy. It's hard to figure out what the site is selling and why you should buy it," I complained.

Now it looks like a lot of sites have gone the other direction. In an effort to maximize sales, they put dense copy about all their offers on the opening page of their site. Did we over do it?

The latest thinking among advertising experts is a page filled with lots and lots of copy is jarring. People click to the page and think "Gee! I don't have time to read all this."

It's often better to trim your opening page offers down to just your most essential elements. Plenty of white space is good. Rather than having a batch of graphics on the opening page, you might focus on one larger more powerful graphic that unifies the page.

Some big corporate sites are moving to this philosophy of "less is more." See http://Apple.com for an almost extreme example.

Bottom line is customers are pressed for time. Many are surfing the Net while on their lunch break or between office chores. If they can't figure out your offer quickly, they may click elsewhere.

Web site frames have always been controversial. In the beginning, this method of splitting a web page into two or three smaller pages didn't work on older browsers.

Later someone pointed out search engines have a hard time reading pages with frames. Web designers who really want to get listed high on search engines avoid frames.

Still, there are times when frames would be a good choice for a web site:

1. You don't care if your site gets listed high on search engines. You may have other ways of promoting your site that work well for you. Your site might be one of a great many sites in your industry and it is almost impossible to get listed as one of the top ones.

2. Your site has lots of information. You want customers to be able to quickly switch back and forth between pages. Frames can make this easier.

3. You want to save money or time designing your site. You can have a razzle-dazzle opening page and menu bar while all the many inner pages are simple text on a page. That kind of site is quick and easy to design.

No matter what type of business you run, or how much money you have to pour into web design, there is bound to be a combination of ideas that will work for you.

About the author
Kevin Nunley provides marketing advice and copywriting. See his 10,000 marketing ideas and popular promotion packages at
http://DrNunley.com Reach Kevin at kevin@drnunley.com or 603-249-9519.

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