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Aesthetics and Web Marketing
For four years I worked in the editorial department of a major Internet directory. My job required me to search for and review thousands upon thousands of Web sites. Oh, the horror!
I could tell you about the company that misspelled its own name. I could rhyme off a list of sites that had no contact information. I could even show you the university site that had a navigation button reading "Course Summery." But I won't. Instead, I want to address the less obvious and the overlooked: Web site aesthetics.
With more and more people searching and using the Internet to find products and services, a strong visual literacy has developed. Little animated GIFs that depict a construction worker with the words "Under Construction" blinking underneath have gone by the wayside. Well, in most cases. These are signifiers of "old school" design, when the Web was young. Today, a certain design standard is expected.
What many companies fail to understand is this: the site visitor is not a passive viewer, but an active user of the site, forming opinions about the site and the company it represents. The company image is not what the company thinks it is, but rather what the public perceives it to be. This encompasses the textual and visual cues the company provides the prospective client. Surveys have shown that Internet users base Web site credibility on two primary factors - design look and information/design structure. If companies really understood this, one would hope that there would be less horrific design on the Web.
Web site aesthetics support the company's marketing strategy. Proper aesthetic design can add value to a page by reinforcing a company's image, strengthening brand identification and creating a positive image in the public eye.
It is impossible to appeal to every visitor's individual taste, but it is possible to create a site that reflects the company's image and elicits a positive response from viewers. Good layout, colour, style and font type can influence the site user's assumptions about the company, or its products and services.
Businesses must understand their demographic and appeal to that visual sensibility. Too often companies are convinced by design firms try to be something they aren't. Why an accounting firm would need a Flash intro is beyond me. Invest in simple, clean design that reflects the spirit and guiding principles of the company.
Site attractiveness also aids navigation and usability as well as adding to the enjoyment and overall site experience for the user. One of the main reasons that a user will leave a site quickly is not being able to find relevant content. When the aesthetics are good, the navigation buttons are easy to read, clearly labeled and, lastly, quickly found and identified.
Aesthetics are not frivolous or wasteful. To ensure a successful site, companies must not only consider the nuts and bolts of the technical side of the site, but the visual appeal that the site holds for the user. A well-designed site will be cost-effective as it will last longer, create value for the client and help market the company in the most professional way. Good design aesthetics add tangible benefits such as improved client response to the Web site and a memorable and solid company image.
Copyright: A.C. Riley 2004
A. Charlotte Riley has worked as an Internet editor, content producer, marketing writer and researcher. She has a BFA from Concordia University, majoring in Photography. In her spare time she can be found cooking, working on crossword puzzles or hanging out with her daughter, Kate. Contact: http://www.acriley.com
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