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Site Unseen?

If your Web site gets more misses than hits, the hang-up may be your home page.

There's a warning on kids' video games that reads: "While watching certain images, you may experience dizziness, motion sickness or nausea." The grown-ups' version of digital fun, the World Wide Web, should also come with a warning: "While waiting for images to load, some viewers may experience impatience, frustration or distress." And flashing on every home page should be the caution: "The links on this page may cause some viewers to suffer from indecision, uncertainty or vacillation."

Because your home page is your e-commerce storefront, it has to be welcoming and inviting. That means fast load times and easy site navigation. But how many times have you reorganized your pencil tray, gone to the fridge or taken a bathroom break while waiting for all those images to squeeze through the phone cord and onto your screen? Despite the supposed "Star Trek" speed of today's modems, graphic links and other images still take their sweet time popping up. Take a good look at your Web site's first impression, and be sure it's not such a laggard that it's turning people off.

That's my message to Chad Tackett, a personal trainer in Portland, Oregon, who wrote recently. Tackett operates a pay-to-view Web site called Global Health & Fitness (http://www.global-fitness.com) that offers counseling on weight loss and cardiovascular health to some 5,000 online members. He wants to draw more people to his site and wonders if there might be a quick fix. The answer is yes--and no. Tackett can quickly make his site more inviting with a home-page makeover, but publicizing it will take more time.

Before:

This home page has a lot going on--but that may be its problem, says a Web-design expert.

1. Having several links to choose from is desirable, but offering too many choices can overwhelm visitors and may promote indecision.
Also, with 25 graphic links of type, load time increases substantially. This may turn off visitors who want quick results.







After:

Still attractively presented, this streamlined version offers fewer choices and allows for a faster load time.

1. This two-tiered headline offers the company's core message and is animated to grab attention.

2. The testimonial offers quick credibility to this unique method of staying fit.

3. The links are now pared down to four and are in plain text for faster loading.




Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising ($39.95), available by calling (800) 247-6553. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them to "Ad Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or e-mail him at Jerry228@aol.com

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Site Unseen?.

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