What if you were told a single, lone URL could provide all the inspiration you needed? One single web address could reveal how every site in the vast expanse of the web should be designed and structured to attract visitors, generate sales, and truly fulfill its own goals and business model — becoming the leader in its field, securing a significant majority of its target market share, achieving praise and recognition the world over, and making a great many people a great deal of money in the process.
That URL is www.google.com.
No doubt you've witnessed the flurry of attention granted to Google over the past several months, as the Internet's leading search engine made itself the center of attention on Wall Street and business pages across the world. If you're like most web surfers, you visit Google several times a day. It is the Internet's Grand Central Station — where most web sessions are likely to start, where it's almost inevitable you'll end up, and where near everyone on the net will eventually pass through, regardless of destination. With profit reports, IPOs, and pitched battles between Google and competing search engines over market share and the loyalty of surfers all over the news, and with increasing attention being paid to the complex, mysterious and top secret search engine index ranking algorithms that determine who goes where when searching for what, the most genius aspect of the entire Google universe is so often overlooked. Yet it stares most of us in the face several times a day.
The Google homepage is simple (some accuse it of being bland and boring). It is the absolute most basic page imaginable, with really no more than a logo and a form field. So it is that the Google homepage is the most brilliantly fashioned piece of real estate on the web. It stays true to itself, it stays true to its purpose, and it couldn't possibly be more easy to use. When you look at the clutter and mess that exist at www.yahoo.com or www.msn.com it's not at all hard to see just why it is that Google has been so effective in acquiring and retaining the bulk of the web's search query sessions. When you go to Google, you go for one sole purpose — to find whatever it is you're looking for. Google's homepage caters to that with finely honed simplicity. It's a shining example of what every website should be: focused and effective.
The Internet shopping medium isn't like the mall, where fancy window displays and mazes of counters and racks turn casual passers by into sales. Online customers more than likely already know what it is they're looking for prior to even arriving at your site. Give it to them. And if you're not quite sure how to do that, just take a look at Google and then jump over to Yahoo – you'll start feeling sorry for whatever poor bastard ends up at Yahoo when trying to get anywhere. Years ago, Yahoo lost its search engine focus as it went about snatching up every little website it could in a bid to make itself the center of the web world. Yahoo's having wandered off the search engine path and gotten lost in a forest of unrelated and incongruous ventures is as evident through an MBA course study of the company as it is on Yahoo's homepage itself. As great as their search engine is, 70% of people surfing the net can't be bothered to use it.
Far too many webmasters think they have to make their sites the be all and end all of the Internet, throwing a mess and maelstrom of design elements and features, plugins and products, forms and imagery, animation and buttons, segments and functions into a site now entirely without focus or direction and having completely lost touch with whatever real purpose it's supposed to actually serve. What webmasters see as "increasing the options" to their surfers and customers, their audience might just see as confusing and distracting.
Stay focused, stay simple, and stay effective.
Brian Dunlap is the Director of Marketing for Bionic Pixels LLC.