Successful selling online requires a website that is visually attractive as well as easy to use. Here are some tips for developing a website that looks good and is easy to read by visitors.

Make it readable

Visual appeal is nice, but readability must be a top design priority. In order for your content to communicate effectively you need to consider how colours and fonts work on a webpage.
  • The text/type should sit comfortably on the background colour. It's more than an issue of high contrast. White type on a black background is readable on screen, but printed pages will simply appear blank!

  • Refrain from choosing busy, loud backgrounds, for example, marble or pattern backgrounds. They detract from content and often make text illegible.

  • Too many colours or fonts can also be distracting and give the site a cluttered feel. A few colours are all that is necessary.

  • Consider breaking up longer pieces of text with subheadings and bullet points. They encourage continued reading by separating the text into short, bite-sized chunks.

  • Use one design throughout the site. It's confusing if pages within a site are not consistent in design.

Make the pages easy to view

Visitors do not like to scroll from left to right to see the entirety of a webpage so build it to fit the standard monitor size of 640 by 480 pixels. Larger screens are growing in popularity but unless you are certain that your target audience is likely to be using them, stick with a smaller page size. Also check how your pages display in different web browsers - displaying properly in the popular Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers is a minimum requirement. Long pages that require scrolling down … and down … and down are also poor practice. It's better to create a number of pages than have this toilet roll effect.


Provide alternate text for images

If you use graphics for navigation (such as buttons) or rely on images to display products, provide an alternative text (ALT text) description in the HTML code. ALT text provides a text equivalent of the image. There are a number of reasons for including a text description:

  • People with low bandwidth connections may opt not to load graphics

  • It is helpful to visitors using assistive technology (the ALT text is read out for the hearing impaired for instance), and

  • It can contribute to a better ranking in search results since most search engines interpret the meaning of objects by analysing their ALT attribute

But be warned - there's a real art to constructing and using ALT text. The text need not be a literal description of what the image represents. There's not much point in using the ALT text 'microwave oven' if the image is meant to display the product's most attractive selling features. The ALT text will be better used describing those features.

Keep download time to a minimum

Visitors resent waiting for slow downloading pages. Decrease loading time by paying attention to the size of the webpage. Website developers suggest a maximum of 30K for a webpage overall. Thus, if you have three 6K images on the page, you should not add more than 12K of HTML and text. It's preferable to increase the number of pages rather than overload a single page.