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Your Website Design Sucks Because… Users Can’t Find Crap!

by on Mar.10, 2010, under Website Ecommerce

I know ayh! A great title to start of another year of C2.0 Web Design Blog! : -)

To kick off the new year in Web Design, I thought it would be best to go through a couple of my tell-tale signs that can help you gauge if and when your website’s design sucks. Obviously, “Website design” in this concept does not only include the graphical elements of the page, but of course the Information architecture, usability, accessibility, etc. So without further ado– Let’s get going with round one of “Your website design sucks because…” with Your website design sucks because users can’t find crap!
1. What the heck are you thinking?!

Whether or not you are running a corporate information site or a 15,000 page e-Commerce store- your content should be easy to find! The biggest problem is people think that you ALWAYS need a search box. Search on a website comes in many flavours, and sure; a search box would be awesome- as long as the results are easy to understand and filter to the right place. Having said that, not all great websites have search boxes or website search for that matter – but most if not all of them [great websites, that is] make the user experience worthwhile by making their content easy to find. Here are a few tips:

* If you are running a blog, make sure there is at least a way for the user to find an archive of all your content. After all, one of the main calling-cards, if you like – of a blog, is the fact that it is a chronological listing of posts or entries. Other important elements that help users searching for content is Tags and Categories. Try to make sure your posts only belong to one parent category. I.e. Not “Sydney Web Design” AND “Web Design” — after all, 99% of the time, one of the two (or more) categories makes the most sense. Tags help users by allowing to search for other posts which they might find interesting based on a common interest; i.e. Usability.

* If you are running a website; other than a web log , make sure that there is a common, geographical structure to your pages. I.e. there should always be the same header and footer on all pages – including any side-navigation or side elements. Doing this makes sure that users learn where things are and helps elevate any problems in looking for things all over your website.

2. Some conventional wisdom

Most webmasters and/or designers usually get search from a UI point of view under control. I mean come on! It’s basically three elements– A label “search for:”, a text box, usually pre-filled with “type query here” or something of the sort, and finally a “go/search/find” submit button… Easy, right? Wrong! Whilst the front-end features of site search are seen as simple, most websites/intranets (even the big players) crash and burn on the search results page.
3. A case study in Search Usability: Australia Post

Ahh, good old Australia Post! I love the fact that they deliver to anywhere in the world and the prices are not too bad — and I haven’t had anything major get lost whilst sending out *so far*. However, one thing that drives me insane about Australia Post is their website; http://www.austpost.com.au — not only is this website in need of a “major” overhaul. Let’s start with the essentials of this particular topic; Search.

The search on AustPost is located at: http://search.auspost.com.au. Nothing wrong with that so far- In fact, it’s smart to have search on either a sub-domain or a sub-folder at search.domain.com or domain.com/search. Moving right along. Oh wait! That domain does not work (Under Construction!!) unless you append the following to it: “/cse/auspost/” making the FULL-URI http://search.auspost.com.au/cse/auspost/ – Tsk, tsk AP!

If you type “test” in the search box and click the search button of the main page you get diverted to a search results page; which is okay so far– However, the diverted results page is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT website (in terms of overall look and feel). Check it out for yourself.
Australia Post Search Box – Main Page

Australia Post Search Box – Main Page

All good so far… Let’s see what happens when we get diverted to the ‘actual’ search page.
Australia Post Search Results Page – Search.austpost.com.au

Australia Post Search Results Page – Search.austpost.com.au

Oops! Something went completely wrong. Did I, as the user kill the site? Or is it meant to be a completely different site followed by a completely different user experience? [Both valid questions you don't need a visitor to your website, especially your search page asking!].

As Homer Simpson would say in a time of crisis; Doh! Different Logo, Different colour scheme, Different tab system, Different IA… Well, at least the logo is generally in the same place as before. Granted, I don’t know the reasoning behind this– Maybe they are in the process of moving sites across to a newer(?) design – but nonetheless, I think being a government corporation, this is pretty bad usability!
Anyway, let’s move right along… As if that first problem wasn’t bad enough, let’s see the search results form. Below is a screenshot of the “general” search form. By general search form I’m referring to the non-advanced variety!
Search Results Box

Search Results Box

Wow, okay — where to start, where to start. Let’s rattle off some of the issues with this search box/form.

1. Why have a “Show search options >>” as well as “‘Advanced Search”. That is not only confusing, but a waste of visual space/real estate. Why not make general search easy to use with no extra-ordinary features, and leave advanced search for those people that need to dig deeper into the data mine. Ahhh, I slowly started to realise why, and you will see why soon!

2. See the “Select All” and “Clear All” check boxes? They only select/deselect one option — and that is the “Australia Post Website” check box. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AUSTPOST DESIGNERS/DEVELOPERS!!! Give me three good reasons why this is necessary on this page (in its current format) and I will stop using Facebook for a month… Okay, a week! :) Not only is this stupid from a usability/IA point of view, but it’s NOT needed here. Why?, you ask?

1. When you actually decide to click on “Search” you really DON’T end up having a choice in the matter, because the “Australia Post Website” check box is auto-ticked when the page has reloaded with the search results! Oh Oh!

2. It’s a waste of a control to begin with! The same thing could be easily achieved with one button which toggles through the selections. I.e. starts off as “Select all options” then changes to “De-select all options” upon click… However…

3. There is NO need for the control at all since there is NO other option/area to search from. I.e. If there was “Australia Post Website” and “Australia Post PO Box Search”, etc., then it would make sense — however, there is no other option!

3. The “Exact Phrase” check box control is USELESS in all formats of the word! In theory, the “Exact phrase” should let you search for the term “test” instead of the term test. What this ultimately means is that in reality, “Exact Phrase” should only find the search query if it exists EXACTLY in that format, and not part of other words, or as part of a phrase, etc. The only problem with this is that selecting “Exact Phrase” does NOT change the result set; in essence, returning the SAME number of results as well as in the same order! Yay for happy searching — Not!

4. Clicking “Show search options >>” reveals two fields/controls which are apparently meant to help the user whilst searching but not be enough to warrant the name “Advanced Search”. When you click this link, two new fields pop down; a) Format, and b) Modified. Fair enough, you say. They are letting the user choose what type of file format to search; i.e. PDF, Word, etc. as well as the ‘age’ of the document(s) in question or when they were last updated. So what’s the problem here? Let’s take a peek!
Search Results – Modified drop-down

Search Results – Modified drop-down

Wow! That’s probably the best word to describe this drop-down. Sure, Australia Post must feel great giving thier users so many options to choose from, but on what planet would you be from if you need THAT many options in sorting last modified periods? Surely, a) “Anytime”, b) Past 24 hours, c) Past week, d) Past month, and e) Past year – would suffice? No? Granularity of options is something worth your time as an Information architect or Website designer/developer investing in! The more options you give the user that they don’t necessarily need or will never use, the more they have to think. The experience should not make them think! Just give them results, and quick!

5. Don’t even get me started on the “Advanced Search” link! Let’s just say that it’s a little more advanced than what an “advanced search” needs to be. So much so that a PhD in Comp. Science would definitely help! I mean for Pete’s sake, there is a field called “Custom query” which lets you, quote “Create a query using search operators (and, or, not, near, quotes and parenthesis) and system fields.” unquote! WHAT THA?!?! Sure, I may get it, hell you might even get it as a developer or designer, but your average Joe who might need just that little bit more input into his or her search would most likely freak out! Take it off PLEASE! I’m not searching the CIA Central Repository here, people!

3. In conclusion…

Okay, so I must admit at this point in time that I’m getting a little bit more critical and more importantly a touch “harsher” in my blogging and reviews — but I think it’s important to look at problems like these that normal web browsers would AND DO encounter on a day-to-day basis surfing the Interweb! So hopefully you have picked up a few pointers from this blog post that will help you with your upcoming search page design/re-design. Remember, these are above all just some ideas of what not to do, but the field is huge! Make sure you get people with limited Internet experience to trial all software you create (if possible!) but more importantly, keep in mind some of these ideas for next time and I’m sure your users will thank you!

Thanks for comin’ back guys. Please leave your comments or critisisms below – and be sure to Subscribe to the RSS feed so you can keep up-to-date on all the latest goss and posts from Elastique Web Design Blog. Till next time, Cheb.

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Great Photoshop Web Layout Tutorials.

by on Mar.10, 2010, under Website Ecommerce

Useful Tips for Effective Web Design

Listed below are some useful and rather important tips for designing a professional and high quality web site:

*Neat and Easy Navigation: Navigation of links on your site plays a big role in determining the stickiness of your site (how long your visitor stays and explores your site). Ask yourself this, What do visitors do as soon as they open your site? They would probably read the content of the present page and then look around to find any other page that interests them. Read our article on Web site Navigation Tips.

*Clean Layout Design: A clean layout that uses a lot of white space enhances a site’s looks. Try to keep the focus on your content, use dreamweaver templates for this. Use fonts that will be available on all computers to prevent your site looking messed up.

* Program using pure CSS: The world is moving away from table based websites to pure CSS websites because it offers accessibility, reusability and considerably reduces file size apart from giving greater control over the look of your website. The single most important skill you can learn today to become a quality web designer is CSS programming! Even if you are not an expert at CSS you can learn to use the following simple CSS Styles Effects to enhance your website:

1. Cool Text Effects using CSS Styles: Text Links Rollover, Text Case Setting, Text Spacing, Line-through Effect.

2. Bullets in HTML or Deamweaver: Using CSS Styles with bullets (shapes, decimal, roman-numerals, images, etc.)

3. Links without Underline: Use CSS Styles to display links without the appearance of the underline.

*Optimum Load Time: Make sure your load time is low. For this you must:

Minimize Graphics, Flash and scripts: They hugely increase your file size.

Optimize your HTML & script code: Make sure that your site doesn’t have any unwanted tags or unused scripts.

Use Server Side Include (SSI) files where ever possible. SSI files once called from the web server reside in its cache so on subsequent requests they load faster.

* Website Layout for all Screen Resolutions: A site that is easy-to-use always encourages visitors to stay and read your content. For site with long pages of content this is very crucial as the amount of scrolling required is reduced. Suppose your site doesn’t look good for a particular resolution it is very probable that the visitor will close the browser window feeling that the web page is not for their viewing. Designing stretch layouts that fit any screen resolution ensures that you know all your visitors see a visually appealing and professional site.
Read our article Designing for all Screen Resolutions for more.

*Ensure Web site scalability: Make sure your code and design is scalable. As technology advances and configuration of computers & their monitors keep increasing and varying it is impossible to test your site in all screen sizes and platforms.

*Cross Browser Compatible: Make sure you check your site for Internet Explorer 5+, Mozilla Firefox 1+, Opera 7+, Safari 3+ and Netscape Navigator 6+ as they constitute 95% of the worlds browsers.

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SaleHoo – An Accurate Overview Of Its Features And Benefits

by on Mar.03, 2010, under Website Ecommerce

If you are looking to start up a wholesale business on the Internet, you’ll find many drop ship programs don’t have a great reputation. There seem to be a myriad of programs on the market that promise you all kinds of things and then you’re disappointed to find out a lot of them are just scams. Therefore, SaleHoo has come along to provide a comprehensive list of reputable drop shipping companies that will allow you to run your online retail business without fear of getting scammed and having your money taken from you. Don’t worry, this isn’t fraud. The purpose of this review is to show you the perks of having SaleHoo for your business partner and what they can do for you. Salehoo drop shippers’ list is not a scam.

SaleHoo isn’t going to lie to you about anything. The people involved running SaleHoo are complete genuine and there to help you in any way. Their forums are the chief example of that transparency, because it’s led by a large group of people whose sole purpose is cooperation. All of these members work to support and help each other be as successful as possible. Some members include some powerful eBay PowerSellers, and they’re willing to give you guidance and advice on any question. You can ask any questions that you have in the forum, and you will receive a ready response. Besides the member support, SaleHoo helps you research suppliers you might want to work with by supplying you with all their contact information as well as what your niche competition might be. There’s a favorites list in which you can store all the suppliers you like for easy access whenever you need. The point is that all the features SaleHoo offers to you are what you will need and want. You won’t find anything that’s un-necessary. SaleHoo has gathered everything essential for you to set up and run a retail business in one place, making it easy for you to be successful. You will also find SaleHoo’s dependability will not be matched by any other company. There are indeed companies who try identical services, but they simply can’t match that quality of service.

Salehoo is accurate and complete.People from many different businesses and niches tend to join SaleHoo. Some people are power sellers on eBay who use the directory to earn a healthy income with their business, while there are other people who join so they can purchase products at discounts for themselves. People who want XBox 360s come there all the time to get wholesale units for much cheaper. You would pay only the cheaper wholesale cost. Besides, SaleHoo is so useful that it’s often used by people who have their own retail stores anyway. In other words, SaleHoo is not just a source of products to buy and sell, but also a place you can trust to find things much cheaper. In addition, there are no additional fees or hidden costs when you decide to sign up as a member with SaleHoo. You won’t find hidden costs anywhere. Suppliers can be dealt with without needing to pay any fees whatsoever. With other similar companies, there are often additional charges you must pay to the suppliers beyond the fees for membership.

When all is said and done, you can definitely place your trust in Salehoo’s comprehensive database on the very best wholesale suppliers. Salehoo is definitely up your alley if you have always had an interest in beginning your own drop-shipping company. Once you sign up with the company, you’re set for the rest of your drop-shipping career.
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3 Great EBusiness Ideas For Building A Lucrative Web Site

by on Feb.27, 2010, under Website Ecommerce

A great internet ebusiness idea is by far the ultimate key to success when building a money-making web site.

When researching options for the best and most valuable website ideas one place to turn to is Google. Google has many, many hidden treasures. Using the powerful tools available from Google to discover great small internet business ideas is a winning strategy.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use every research resource at your disposable. After all, you are going to put a lot of time, effort and hard work into building a small business web site. The key to success when building a small online business is all in the research and planning.

You need to start with an idea.

A great idea.

A lucrative idea.

That’s where the research comes in to play.

Research will confirm that your idea will be valuable.

The past several years have consistently demonstrated that there are several general topic areas that have a high degree of profitability. Three great money-making ebusiness ideas are websites that have topics related to:

* RealEstate
* Financial
* Technology

Now each of these ideas are extremely broad topic areas.

As a matter of fact, each of these topics is way too broad for beginning a ecommerce website. For example, the general topic of “financial” can include anything from budgeting, investments, credit to insurance, loans, and debt management.

However, starting from a broad perspective gives you many opportunities to research a wonderfully valuable niche for your web site.

So narrow down the focus of any one of these 3 great online business ideas.

Start with using Google’s free adwords tool to identify specific web site niches that return a lot of money-making keywords. Then start to narrow down your search to create a highly specialized and focused niche.

For example, using the financial topic again you might discover hidden potential in “managing college student loans” or “avoiding foreclosure”. Be sure to research all aspects of the potential niche you have identified so you are confident that it will be a valuable one.

Then all you have left to do is to get started putting that great internet ebusiness idea to work for you by building a profitable website!

There are tons of website resources to help you build your own ebusiness website. All you need to do is narrow down your idea and get started!

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Get invaluable http://www.web-site-building-tips.com/web-site-tips.html Website Tips in Bits and Bytes. Bits and Bytes, two infamous and extremely gifted cyber geeks, will keep you connected to the latest in site building tips, techniques and strategies. With the help of http://www.web-site-building-tips.com, Bits and Bytes will open a world of opportunity for any ebusiness.

Web Site Building Tips.com will teach you how in small but measurable Bits and Bytes.

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Choosing a Good Ecommerce Website Solution

by on Feb.17, 2010, under Website Ecommerce

While researching for a quality ecommerce website solution, I came across this article and found it to very informative and educational.  Whether you already have, or are just considering an ecommerce solution, I feel that you will find this information quite valuable.

Ecommerce is often called the lifeblood of the internet. The internet would just be a collection of personal websites with no clear purpose if it was not for ecommerce. In fact, ecommerce helped to shape the internet. As more and more people saw the financial benefits of the internet, they began to jump on board with ecommerce. Now, ecommerce runs into the billions of dollars in revenue and there are countless small business owners making a living running ecommerce website solutions.

When you choose an ecommerce website solution, there are many things you should consider, including:

1. What is the web host offering you? You want to get as much as you can out of your hosting company. If the web host is giving you a domain name and little else, it is not worth your money, even if they are the cheapest. This means that with a webhost you should be getting good ecommerce tools including shopping carts and shipping calculators. These are great features for your ecommerce solution.
2. Is the software they provide what you need? When you choose a web host to put your domain through, you should look at the software they provide to build your website. If the software is sub-par, then you need to find another web host. Often it can cost far too much to have a professional make your website. Instead of paying that large sum of cash, you should simply use the software provided for you. Most web hosts will provide you with software that allows you to drag and drop to create your website, with no programming needed. Having great website creation software will make things much easier for you and your ecommerce website solutions.
3. Will the web host be reliable? If a web host’s servers are running 95 percent of the time, it may seem great, but that amounts to the servers being down 18 full days per year. You want to find a web host that is up 99.9 percent of the time. The best ecommerce website solutions will be able to meet that target for you.

If you need ecommerce website solutions, then you need a good web host who can provide you exactly what you are looking for to get the job done properly. You want to be successful with your online store, and good ecommerce website solutions can do that. For further tips, check out Startanonlinestore.com.

Author: Kate Wilber
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
Provided by: US Dollar credit card

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