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Designing a Website that Commands Attention

Well-designed websites have innumerable benefits, but in order to be successful at their goal they must first accomplish two things: 1) draw the user’s attention, and 2) direct it to the desired place. This will make full use of the limited space the user sees and the limited time he gives the website, improve the brand recognition and loyalty, and hopefully increase the conversion ratio. But how do you command attention?

The first step to any website designing is to find the concept, the reason behind its formation1. This is business specific and can range from simply informing or doing online marketing to full Internet sales, and each option determines where and how the user must end up. Although online shopping is a good addition to on-the-spot sales, its maintenance and technical support may not be worthwhile for locally based businesses. Furthermore, the reason will determine the site infrastructure; whether the site will have primarily text, pictures or Internet functions, as well as the internal links and menu layout.

The next step is to choose a color scheme and layout theme that will be used throughout the whole website, because users prefer consistency2. The biggest brands select a main color, which dominates their logo and background, a supporting color, and the accent color, consistent with the 60-30-10 rule, after the percentage each color takes up. Be careful with your selection of color, however, as it is subconsciously perceived beyond any element of the webpage3. It is wise to use this subconscious effect to your advantage. For example, a nuance of red can embolden the customer near check out, and convince him to make the purchase (perhaps out of sheer impulse). Furthermore, colors can contrast and highlight important buttons, options, menus or places4. However, beware that if the first thing a customer notices is the buy option without any information about the product, he could consider this intrusive and leave the website.

Smart positioning can engage the user from their first moment on your webpage and lead them through your narrative to the happy conclusion; purchase, subscription, etc. It is human nature to notice moving objects, so if you are confident of the browsing speed of your customers, put a video on the first page that talks about your business. Another option is to have two separate home pages for new and for returning visitors. The former will be heavily guided and with limited options so that the user is not discouraged by multiple, confusing menus, from exploring. Again, video introductions spread across multiple pages with hints of where to go next will be considered helpful, and rewarded with a return visit or sale. Finally, if these are not an option, consider reducing the number of options on the home page to the most necessary and relegating the others to lower-tier pages. This will improve browsing for returning visitors and also increase your user reputation.

Most European and American users read from left to right, while most Asian users read from right to left, so try to tell your story in that order. Keep in mind that you must begin with an introduction and go through every phase of the sales pitch like description, testimonials, limited discounts, even negotiation, before reaching the purchase option, as it will be unnecessary from the start. Graphs, charts and directional arrows can lead the customer through your explanation, while a small scroll bar can inform him of how much remains so that the he can skip to the relevant part and not lose interest midway.

Commanding attention is about making a perfect compromise between simplicity and usefulness.


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