eSites Network Website Design


Is My Website is Effective Enough?

Does it sometimes feel like you are shouting very loudly about your company and its products or services, but no one can actually hear? Is there a gap between laying out your vision clearly in your website, and actually getting visitors to stay long enough to read and understand what you’re trying to say?

You’re probably thinking this can’t be right – you’ve taken a lot of trouble to explain everything, and even a casual browser can’t fail to be curious or captivated. Think again.

There Is No Such Thing as a ‘Casual Browser’

Users today see the web as a repository for specific pieces of information. High bandwidth and always–on connections encourage "information snacking". This practice produces countless short online visits to get specific answers.

It’s the Age of Information Snacking!

The annual report into web habits by usability guru Jakob Nielson as early as 2008 showed that people are becoming much less patient. Instead of dawdling on websites many users want simply to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.

So how do you know when your current website is letting you and your company down? When you’re losing potential customers because of faults in design or lack of special features? It’s time to ask a few tough questions of your website to see if it is really effective.

Ten Tips on What Makes a Website Effective:

  1. Identify your target audience: What are their needs or points of interest? How can they be served? Is your current website targeting these people effectively? There are clear answers to all these questions and ways of analyzing patterns of use.

  2. Think about an overall theme for your website: Decide on the overall theme of the site based on the message and target audience. For example: humorous, professional, academic, family-based, or technical. Make the most of crucial first impressions. It's like the interior design of your place of business. It's what sets the first impression and mood for the visitor. It should be discrete and non-distracting but effective.

  3. Make sure the content is crisp: This is probably why most people come to your site – to read your content. Make sure the quality of content is uniformly high. It needs to be clear, up-to-date, and simple, and communicate what it needs to. Don't put in too much jargon and non-committal matter, be straight forward.

  4. Keep Search Engines in Mind: After all, the whole point is to direct people looking for a particular product or service to you first! Make sure your content is optimized for Search Engines so your visitors can find you easily. Be listed in as many business directories as possible.

  5. Build Trust and Credibility: A well-designed site that is free of careless errors is the first step to building trust. Adding customer testimonials, Press reviews, or news updates is important too. Avoid lies or half-truth's at all costs.

  6. Make Navigation Easy: Ease of navigation is as important as the content as that is how the visitor will find what he is looking for on your site. As a first generation site grows it often outgrows its navigation. A good redesign will help. The new design needs careful thought so that the visitor will not get lost or be more than two clicks away from what he/she needs.

  7. Keep It Fresh: Do your visitors feel they are visiting an active site? Sitting in a business’s waiting room with old newspapers, pealing paint and a 10 year old calendar might make you wonder about the competence of the business. In the same way, visiting a site that was last updated in 1996 is a sure way to lose visitor trust.

  8. Make Doing Business Easy: Are you making it easy for your customers to do business with you? Can they find what they need quickly? Can they respond easily? Product and Service information is essential, but complicated procedures put people off. Make use of the web technology to make your business as "self-service" as possible.

  9. Build In Interactions with your Customers: To keep your visitors returning it is important to think of how you can serve them rather than just what your company can get from them. Tools that allow you to exchange information, respond quickly, and answer questions add value for the customer. Even new informative content is a good way to make people re-visit.

  10. Hire the Right Team to do the Website Design: It is widely recognized today that a multitude of skills are required to create a good website. Gone are the days when a guy who could write HTML could sit down with your Product Brochure and turn out a website. Increasingly, tech-savvy customers expect your website to be at the cutting edge of design and technology, whatever the size of your business.
So that’s all it is, really – clarity of thought, detailed planning, and direct, honest communication are what make your website buzz, and drive customers to come back again and again. You wouldn’t settle for second best on your shop floor, corporate office or retail outlet – make sure you don’t do just that when it comes to your website!

Contrast and Meaning

If you’re a designer, you work to communicate and convey meaning. So it’s important that you understand the mechanisms by which things and ideas acquire meaning; more than any other factor, your grasp of these fundamentals determines your ability to communicate effectively. Without fundamentals, you will flounder when faced with complex design challenges or constraints. Today, as always, issues of style and popular convention occupy the attention of many, and may distract us from the essentials of our craft.


Design is largely an exercise in creating or suggesting contrasts, which are used to define hierarchy, manipulate certain widely understood relationships, and exploit context to enhance or redefine those relationships…all in an effort to convey meaning. Contrast is important because the meaningful essence of any thing is defined by its value, properties, or quality relative to something else. That’s right: nothing has much meaning by itself, which is one reason why design is important.

The function of contrast in defining meaning can be explained by comparing fundamental opposites: dark/light, soft/hard, fast/slow. Examples like these are useful because everyone understands the extremes they imply, but while there are extremes, there are no absolutes. The values are merely relative.

For instance, a cheetah is generally considered to be fast. But a cheetah is quite slow compared to a jet airplane. So saying “a cheetah is fast” is only meaningful when some relevant context is also communicated or assumed. Likewise, stating that “element X in the page layout is important” is only meaningful when the relative importance of that and all other elements has been established. In other words, every element on the page you’re designing has to be positioned, styled, sized, or otherwise distinguished in accordance with its specific importance and place in the overall communicative objective. If you neglect even one component, it may work to subvert your entire effort.

In addition to defining meaning and relationships, contrast is closely tied to human perception and survival instincts, as we’ll examine later, and this makes contrast a powerful and essential tool for designers. Simply put, contrast is at the root of almost everything you’ll accomplish with design.

There are several primary forms of contrast that designers typically use, including the following:

The primary forms of contrast include size, position, color, texture, shape, and orientation.

In a layout, contrast helps lead the reader’s eye into and through your layout. Each component of the page—graphic, textual, or interactive—has a job to do, and each of those jobs falls within a hierarchy that’s specific to the project at hand. Furthermore, each component is but a piece of the overall project message and objective. With creative uses of contrast, you can influence user choices and compel specific actions.

Page elements must not, of course, be designed or organized haphazardly. Content must be intelligently composed, and composition is defined by the information hierarchy—which is defined with, you guessed it: contrast.

For instance, let’s say that you’re designing a simple web page for which the main purposes are to 1) briefly describe what the company/service does, and 2) ask visitors to create an account and start using the service. Setting visual concerns aside, let’s look at the initial copy we’re presented with for each of these information components.


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It’s immediately apparent that there’s virtually no stylistic contrast between these two sections of copy. But in order for this page to work, there must be a great deal of difference between them! One is information copy and the other is supposed to be action copy. Let’s try and inspire some action by making the action section’s communication style contrast with that of the information copy.


Optimizr analyzes your web page or entire website and then transforms convoluted table structures and tagless content into lightweight, CSS positioned div layouts and semantic markup. It’s 2.0-licious!
One-click Optimizing! Optimizr’s functions are automatic and require no knowledge of html or css.


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Now, let’s use some graphic contrast to further define the hierarchy of information and elements on the page.

Now, informational content and actionable content have been more appropriately defined and contrasted.

Now there is a clear hierarchy of importance among the page elements and a more compelling call-to-action area. Important information is contrasted by size, color, or decoration and actionable elements have a common color to communicate that they’re related in some way or have a common purpose. Now that we’ve increased the contrast between elements, page visitors don’t have to read everything to know what’s most important. With a quick scan, they can grasp which information is vital and how to “get started” once they’re convinced that they need this service.

Of course, this sort of contrast can only define the likely order of what readers will “see.” Getting them to actually read the content depends on other factors, such as how compelling the headline is and how engaging and interesting the story is—and in this realm, too, there is ample room for intelligent contrast.

In closing

The information and examples presented here barely scratch the surface of this subject. Contrast is everywhere and a part of everything we see, do, experience, and understand. Look for it in your own work and beyond. Get into the habit of finding contrast in everything you see, and of calculating the information hierarchy of things in your daily experience. In other words, look deeply. This sort of habit can pay healthy dividends in your design work.

Contrast is just one component of design fundamentals. Get cozy with all of them and apply them to your work first before you move on to the non-fundamentals. Your work will be better for it.