When I created my first websites, I have to admit that I was pretty naive about the graphic/visual side of things. SEO ROI is a good example.
When I was creating the specs for the site, I wanted a few things in particular made custom:
– The ability to change the logo
– The ability to edit and add to the call to action area in the upper left
– The ability to hand-edit the top, sidebar and footer navigation
– An option to opt-in posts to the homepage of the blog so everyone who hit the homepage would see my best posts. (That’s the SEO ROI Quality category.)
– Similar options for news and testimonials lower down on the homepage. (Latest News and Testimonials categories, respectively.)
– A fluid-width layout that would adjust to screen sizes.
– Top navigation with the appearance of buttons, but that was actually text.
Within those specs, I more or less gave the graphic designers free rein to do as it pleased, and then I chose the design which looked the best to my then-girlfriend and I, and best repeated my corporate colors for brand-recall purposes).
Not particularly business savvy, you’ll agree.
What did this amount to?
– I haven’t once changed the logo. So that was extra coding for nothing and money down the drain. I don’t even remember why this was important to me at the time.
– I’ve spent countless hours updating the call to action areas, with mixed results. Since I was working with basic HTML and limited space, I could only do so much…
– Likewise, my experiments with the navigation have shown some improvements but also some significant screwups.
– Opting in posts was a worthwhile idea – except it made me overlook initially that I lacked a general blog page where all posts would be seen.
– I doubt very much that anyone cares about the news or testimonials sections, and anyways the way they appear and are updated isn’t really practical. (What RSS or email subscriber wants to see a new testimonial as a ‘blog post’ – accordingly I’ve had to backdate the testimonial posts so they wouldn’t be noticed when I add them.)
– Hassles with IE7 and my navigation buttons in terms of the fluid width layout messing stuff up on narrower screens (there’s no minimum range at which the site stops adjusting to window size).
More importantly, what did it NOT amount to?
1. Effective use of my homepage to drive interest in my SEO and usability services.
2. Lines that are too wide on most screens for optimally comfortable reading.
3. Poor monetization of my blog posts that are basically limited to the sidebar, which most people ignore.
As my high school science teacher, Mrs. Sadaka, taught us: “Form is related to function!” What she meant is true in just about every walk of life – function must define the form or else you’ll get nowhere.
The story has a happy ending though. I’m currently working with a client on redesigning one of their sites with conversion and usability top of mind. Since many of their goals for the site align with many of mine for this site, I get to test-run my ideas (and some of yours!) for redesigning this site before finally (after much, much delay) going into production on my own redesign (coming sometime before 2099…).
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