Website Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

Discussion about the way that a website looks and how this is separate from the way it functions on the web and in search engines. Your website might look great and be exactly what you asked for but how do you know if it is any good?

I recently designed and developed a website for a very up-market 'beauty salon' and on completion the proprietor was really pleased with the work, so much so that she gave me a bottle of my favourite wine and was almost jumping up and down with excitement. It was great to be appreciated and her enthusiasm was infectious. This was her first real website and I'd guided her through the process, carefully explaining each step of the way and then finally I showed her how she could update the site using the built-in Content Management System. Now, maybe I'm just too sensitive but why did I feel a little uncomfortable? Something was getting to me and then all at once I thought "I know it's a good website because I delivered what the client wanted, on time and with solid architecture but how does this lovely lady know she's got a good website?"

Website Architecture - the 'Bone Structure'

What if we look at a website through the eyes of a beauty therapist? If we think of a website as a human face - some faces are overtly beautiful or handsome, they have two ears, two eyes, a mouth and a nose. Some faces could be said to be a bit plain but appealing and with a bit of work here and there they could conform to someone's idea of what beautiful or handsome is. And of course, what we think about a face is just our opinion - beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in reality there is no such thing as pretty, plain or ugly. All this can be said of a website: It has ears (yes - really!), it talks to you, it can sniff out your intentions (stretching the analogy a bit there!), it can see who you are (we'll save the explanation for another post!) and above all its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Overhaul your website

You can refresh your website with a make-over but will that be enough?

Something else that faces and websites have in common is structure - i.e. the bones. Once a face or a website is developed it is very difficult to change the structure. You can add glamour to a website to make it look good and you can make the most of its features but you will never get away from the basic structure unless you carry out major surgery.

What makes a website good?

The combination of a sound coding framework (the bones) and slick information delivery will give your website the edge over a site where beauty is the only consideration. You don't have to choose between brains and beauty but you should consider the following questions before thinking about what you want your site to look like:

Is there anything in the way my site is coded that will prevent search engines from indexing and listing my content effectively?

What features of the coding will help search engines to access my site and deliver search results to people looking for my type of service or product?

Will the website structure allow the site to be easily visible on smart phones and tablets as well as desk-top computers?

How does the coding help my site to be delivered or rendered on the screen more quickly?

Does the design of my site fit with what my potential visitors may expect or am I imposing my own views too strongly?

In conclusion I'd suggest that your site should lean more towards a reflection of your visitors needs than a reflection of yourself. That's my opinion - tell me yours...

By Chris Fickling

Website Beauty Is Only Skin Deep