Creating better web pages and site design
August 7, 2007 1 Comment
I have recently been doing some restructuring of my company website at www.meteorit.co.uk – it’s still very plain and simple but I have tried to tick all the appropriate boxes for accessibility, usability, standards compliance and above all giving people clear information about what my company does and does not offer.
Later I may give it a bit more corporate gloss and “pictures of people in smart suits drinking cappuccinos in a meeting, and someone good looking with a headset on smiling at the camera” (to quote a friend who kindly gave me their thoughts on what it was missing).
As regular readers will know, clear presentation of information is a hot topic of mine, particularly when I am delivering software training. As I am a MOS: Master I do a lot of Microsoft Office courses, and try to focus not just on the features of the applications but also advise on good practices. This might include clear layout of a Word document, suitable formatting of an Excel chart, or the whole process of designing a professional presentation to deliver your message clearly and avoid “death by PowerPoint”.
This area of interest means I read a lot of articles about presentation of information in all sorts of media and genres – people like Edward Tufte and Jakob Nielsen being two prime examples, but Hichert and Partner and Presentation Zen bring me back many times to read their latest thoughts. (Incidentally, it is this kind of “extra-curricular” reading that makes me a self-confessed geek. Normal people read Harry Potter, I am told.)
I was pleased, therefore, to stumble across a web design agency that seemed to give some thought to issues of usability, designing a site so people can find it (mainly through SEO) but also to find the right information within it. Not only that, but the Escape design and web agency are happy to publish articles telling how to do some of this stuff for yourself, and have a useful free web page analysis tool.
This produces reports of the header structure of the page, the keywords and their actual frequency in the content, and the words in the content which perhaps ought to be in the keywords. I am sure there are many similar tools out there that do such things, this one just seemed to be trivially easy to use, and gave me some useful information to make my pages better.
Part of the trick of course is not just using this blindly, but getting hard facts to highlight deficiencies. For example, it might make me realise that I had a word in the keywords which was not used on that page. At face value, this might mean I should remove that misleading keyword. On the other hand it could be that I was right when I chose the keywords but now need to edit the body copy to actually include a topic I missed out the first time round.
This is a continual improvement process, and needs revisiting periodically to get the best results. I am happy that despite being a small business, Meteor IT is in the top ten Google hits for several key search phrases, and first result for one in particular that is important to me. I know that metadata keywords do not play such a great part as they used to in search engine results pages (SERPs) as they once did, but they are a useful route to focussing your mind on what you are trying to achieve with a given page.
So, I found a plain speaking site, delivering the information I wanted, in a way I could access and benefit from. Their own website is therefore a pretty good example of the sort of thing I would want an agency to come up with. Unfortunately for them they did not get any business from me this time, but their tool was good enough to prompt me to write this and tell others about it, so it will probably score some success down the line.