Design Matters: Successful Websites – What Style Should I Use?  In the previous article ( Design Matters: Successful Websites – Seven Essential Pointers ), I talked about compatibility issues, load speed, and usability. What else makes a website successful? Content and design style are very important, and to get this right you need to ask yourself: Who is my target audience? Who are your prospective website customers? What is their age bracket? Young people like ‘grungy’, busy sites with almost no white space. Videos and music snippets, and lots of action. Thirty to forty age bracket and you have a more settled audience, so still colourful but not so ‘loud” perhaps. Older site visitors are not so much looking to be entertained, they are looking for information, so less screen clutter is more their style. More senior viewers will be pleased to have quieter sites, with plenty of eye resting space so they can see what’s in the pages. What is my site about? Is the content you are proposing to include on your website very specific?, Such as art quilts? Or high end designer furniture? Or popular music? Or motor bike racing? These types of products dictate the look of the site. Classy designer goods need to be showcased in a simple elegant way, while motor bikes sites could be shiny and metallic style designs. Sites that sells baby goods can be bright, primary colours or soft pastels. Lawyers and accounting firms need websites which have a calm style, so visitors feel reassured that the owners of the business are very professional. Do I use my existing business image? Have you been in business for some time and have a logo and a corporate image that is already established in people’s minds? If your logo and business stationery are in green and gold with black and white accents, you certainly wouldn’t want your website to dressed in blue and red! Your logo can be a great starting point for a designer to kick start the layout of the pages. If you have spent time and effort in getting your name and image known, then you need to present that same image online, at least to begin with. A makeover could be appropriate after your site has been up and running for some time and then probably just make a few small changes at a time. Can you imagine the Coca-Cola™ site dressed in pink and green? It must be red and white! Where do I start with a style? Start by browsing other sites for ideas. When website clients come to me, one of my questions is which is your favourite website and why? Next I ask who is their competition and what is that site like to use. I give clients a questionnaire so they can decide what they are really looking for in the design. If you are going to ‘do-it-yourself’, then you can buy ready-made templates online, or download free ones that fit the style you are looking for. How do I know what information I need to include? Pencil and paper can be a great help here. Draw a ‘map’ of what the site is to contain. It is usual to have a Home page, an About page, a Contact page, and product or information pages. If you are selling then you need ‘how to buy’ and pricing/catalogue pages as well. Images are key, as the web is a visual medium. Pictures of products or diagrams to illustrate a point will make information that is available on your website more pleasurable to view. Don’t forget to optimise images for online viewing, for fast page loads. When will I have to update my site? I always tell clients that their domain/website is like a shopfront. Imagine if you never changed the window display in your real shop. People would stop looking, and coming in. A good rule of thumb is to add something at least monthly. Just a short piece of new information or another picture, or some news item on the front (Home) page. A good way to get returning visitors is to have short how-to articles about using your products, or some pertinent facts about something that you think they’d love to know about what you sell or related items. Happy designing!