educational

Cooking Up A Website

Cheryl Cain
Whether you're building your first webpage or your ten thousandth, there are certain basic ingredients that are required in order to make it work. As with a culinary creation, what often separates one "dish" from another is the mix of ingredients along with the "special sauce" that one chef brings over another. So it goes with websites. Luckily it's easy to get a handle on the ingredients — and "spices" — that will allow the thoughtful webmaster to serve up a website that viewers will find "delicious."

Here are a few areas that you should test your website's recipe against:

Standard Simplicity
The Internet is a rapidly growing phenomenon — not just in terms of the number of people (and other non-human entities) currently using it, but in the ways in which these users are accessing it. It's no longer just a case of PC vs. Mac, with the odd WebTV thrown in for good measure, but cell phones, PSPs and more. Part of the solution to addressing these opportunities is to build standards-compliant websites. You can see how close you are by using the free validation tools at www.w3.org.

First Impressions
Step back and take an objective look at your website. What is the first impression that it conveys to a visitor? Since you've looked at it countless times before, you won't be able to make an accurate assessment, so try to solicit the opinion of a friend. Think about what "impressions" you would want to receive from a website before you would be inclined to spend money there. Are these the impressions you receive from your own website?

Focus of Message
What is the focus of your website? For example, is it to sell memberships or to send its visitors to your sponsors or to offer some other goods or services? Does this message get across to the visitor? Too many websites make perfect sense to their creator, but not to its visitors. This doesn't mean that the visitors are idiots — but that the webmaster did a poor job of making it understandable. Focus your approach – if you want to sell memberships, then make the "join" page easy to find...

Readable Text
If there's one ingredient that's commonly (and unfortunately) missing from the recipe of many adult websites, it's readable text. This does not mean "graphic images of text" but actual text that people and search engines can read. Clear text can reinforce your message and guide the actions of your site's visitors while increasing the amount of these visitors and the length of time they spend on your website. Remember to check your spelling and grammar, because nothing will hurt your website more than deficiencies in these areas.

Graphics and Design
With adult websites in particular, having an eye-catching and visually appealing design is vitally important. This doesn't mean that a jumbled mass of incongruous imagery is what is needed, however. Images should be used to enhance the message given by your text, not take away from it. Consideration must be given to your webpage's download speed as well as to how it looks in different browsers and on other platforms. Be sure to check it using a dial-up Internet connection. Would you wait that long for someone else's page to load?

Website Navigation
Many surfers are noobs with little experience. Many don't speak (or read) English. Some have trouble even clicking a mouse – but none of this means they can't afford your offer. Make the links between your pages easy to find, understand and use. Incorporate a site map for easy access and use text links as backups for any "fancy" nav systems (such as those using Flash or JavaScript) for use on systems that don't support these technologies. Ensure an easy and logical flow between your pages and guide visitors to where you want them to go, using your readable text to instruct them what to do once they get there.

Privacy and Beyond
One ingredient missing from many website recipes is the privacy policy. Not only is this poor marketing, but also, at least for websites available in the state of California, operating a site without one is against the law. You can build a proper privacy policy using the online generator located at www.oecd.org. Be sure to place a prominent link to your policy on your home page. Not only will it help you to comply with the law, but may also increase sales from wary consumers looking to see what your policies are — or even if your site is operated by a "real" company as evidenced by you even displaying such a statement.

While all of this is basic information, reviewing it has hopefully gotten you to think in greater detail about many of these areas and how they can be fine-tuned to achieve better results from your website. Remember, many recipes begin with flour and water — it's the extras that the individual chef adds that makes the difference — and so likewise with the webmaster and his or her websites... Bon appetite!

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