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Designing the Right Site for the Right Audience

Designing the Right SiteWhat makes a great web designer? Is it the ability to learn countless Photoshop tutorials, or the ability to store the largest bank of HTML knowledge?

The answer is neither. Every skill that you ever learn as a web designer is absolutely redundant if you're not capable of targeting a desired website audience.

The first step you have to take before you write the very first HTML tag is to ask yourself who you plan to reach with your new website. Is it designed to sell a product? Is it an archive of information? Maybe its purpose is simply to look pretty and act as a portfolio for your work.

Whatever the reason, optimizing content towards the correct audience is imperative. Consider the target market that you're looking to crack and imagine in your head what that audience would like to find in a website.

Relevant images are a great way to reach out to your desired web audience. An image can convey more than any page of words, if you choose the right one that is. There are several stock photo services offering royalty free images for use with your website, and these are extremely important for the purpose of getting the right message across.

Make sure you select images appropriate for your website theme. Is it designed for teenagers with a sporting interest? Abstract business imagery probably isn't the right choice then. It sounds like common sense, but you'd be amazed how many web designers select images based on how pretty they look rather than whether they're relevant to the content.

This brings us on to the much debated topic of flash content. How many times have you visited a website which requires some kind of browser plug-in to operate a fancy animation? So many designers choose to flood their websites with artsy multimedia videos which add absolutely nothing to the browsing experience of a user.

If you're working on a business template, or trying to sell a service, the last thing you should be thinking of doing is loading your page with flash animation. New web technologies are developing all the time, but the purpose of a business is to reach out to as many potential clients as possible.

How many clients are going to purchase your service if they receive a "Plug-in required" error on your homepage?

There are exceptions, of course. If you're designing a website for a gaming clan for example, it's highly likely that your web audience is in possession of the latest web technology and capable of supporting additional plug-ins.

Consider download times. Is your audience going to accept a long wait to access the content that they're looking for? It's extremely important to cater for the connection speeds of the people that you're pitching your website to. Make sure that your website has optimized loading times if you're aiming it at the type of users who aren't computer savvy with lightening fast connections.

Believe it or not, there are still a substantial number of users out there with connection speeds on 56k. If you want to sell a product to them, or provide a pleasurable browsing experience, make sure that your content and web graphics are optimized for maximum web performance.

One of the first jobs you'll have to tend to with a new web template is the CSS planning. CSS (or Cascading Style Sheet) allows for extremely important modifications to the style of a web page. Why is this important for reaching the right audience?

If you can imagine having a website with several content authors, consider a few people using Arial as a font, a few more using bright orange Times New Roman, and then one stray typist writing everything in italics. You can forget about appealing to the right audience. A website without a set style isn't going to appeal to ANY audience.

CSS lets you customize your website and apply global styles which must be adhered to by content authors. Many a fine template has been ruined by awful formatting, and CSS takes this danger out of the picture. If you want to format your content to fit in with a certain theme "business or casual" CSS is definitely the way to go. Alternatives include new techniques such as XSL (Extensible Style Sheet Language).

Once you have your web template in place, and a style sheet employed, it's time to create the actual content. Don't blow it now. Always remember the audience that you're aiming to please, and the kind of language that there sort of people would use to communicate.

Your website is the layer of web communication between yourself and your clients or visitors. Talk to them in a language that they're comfortable with. If you're producing a website for teenagers, don't bombard them with corporate talk. You'll lose your audience in seconds, and all that intricate design work will go to waste.

It's important to get the balance right between providing relevant content to your users and flooding the pages with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). While it's certainly not impossible to make your content search engine friendly and readable at the same time, you're probably going to need to make the decision at some point and choose where your priorities lie.

The same decision needs to be taken for your website navigation. Will you be using graphical buttons for your linking? If you do, consider that a search engine can't spider the content of an image.

Are you concerned about how your website ranks on Google and the number of visitors it attracts? Is being search engine friendly a big deal to you? Or are you devoted to keeping hold of the users who reach your site and losing out on possible SEO-driven traffic? The choice is up to you, but the answer should be reached BEFORE you begin to design your website!------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------If you are a business owner get listed at Best Technology Site, part of Localwin Network.
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