TITLE:introduction/newsletter_archive/design/design03A.html

By Joe Burns

Concern #3: I noticed you used an ALT tag for each of the images. That's good, but the ALT tag doesn't describe what the image link goes to. The ALT tag describes the image.

Suggestion: Use the ALT tag to describe the link. Have the little yellow tool tip state that this cat tray image will take you to the cat lover's page. Navigation is the second most important thing to a page, right behind content. I am a fan of blatant, almost simplistic navigation. If I have to guess or infer at all, I'll probably miss what the author is trying to say. Be blatant.

Concern #4: I'm going to stay on the images for a third reason. If I like something I see on the home page, and I click on it, I may or may not get to a page that has the item. The moon box is one example. That link took me to a page full of items, but no moon box. I had to click one more time to see a page that contained the moon box. Then I had to click on the moon box to get more information.

Suggestion: Don't use the images on the home page as navigation. If I click on one of them, I should go right to that item's page. I would make a point of rotating the images every day and stating that the images are "Featured Item" rather than navigation. You have a nice navigation bar. You don't need those images to do the work. Set up a random JavaScript to rotate the items for you, or do it by hand. Either way - change them out daily and have them link right to the item's page.

Concern #5: I clicked on the navigation bar and went to "The Unusual" where I found the roadster car for $75.00. That's a good price. I wanted to buy it, but I couldn't. I finally clicked on "Order Info" and found that I had to call or e-mail to get the item. You even made that sound like a good thing because I would get to talk "to a real live person."

Suggestion: E-commerce is not a well-respected way of doing business. Still, it is no longer something that is overtly feared by people with credit cards. I like that you offer a phone number, but you're going to lose sales. People who are surfing to buy want to be able to buy right then and there. You simply must set up the ability to enter a credit card and make the purchase. I consult with companies that want to go online and I tell them that they must make a point of making the buying process easier than mail order or going to KMart. If they don't, then why would anyone use them when mail order and KMart are easier? You've made the process difficult by not offering online purchasing.

Overall: I really liked the look of the site. The items you offer are worth buying and I can see you making a real go of this. You just need to set it up so that you can accept credit cards. If not, you'll lose the impulse buys and make it more difficult on your users than it has to be. You got a winner here. Make it easy on the people who come to buy. Let them complete the sale without getting back off line to use the phone.

That's that. If you're thinking of starting your own e-commerce business, take these suggestions to heart.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

Always Remember: When it comes to designing your Web site, the most important person is not you, but your user

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