By now, you know that I was a graphic designer for close to 3 decades before I entered the wonderful world of massage. So appearances are very important to me–so important, that I had to do my own design work. Now, I am not a web designer, I only have an eye for what I want it to look like. So when I worked on my own site, it took me much, much longer than it would have a professional webmaster. That aside, there are certain things that a website should have, and certain things that it shouldn’t have from a design perspective.
I already mentioned the Logo in an earlier post. I also mentioned 3 crucial elements that every page should have: an opt-in, a phone number and an email. So today, I’m just going to talk aesthetics.
Every site needs to have balance. It needs to have balance in color, balance in layout, and balance in content. Color, as you know, is able to calm, or to agitate. It conveys a strong subliminal message. Look at your website. Are the colors used complimentary to each other? Do they evoke the kind of emotion you desire? My massage practice’s website www.wellandfit.com uses variations on orange. Now, I’m a blue kind of guy. I don’t care for red, orange isn’t my first choice of colors. But in experimenting with colors and the mood they created, I found that orange worked wonderfully. It just moved those who saw the sight. My color choice was not about me, but about the client. Likewise, with The Growing Practice, green just worked. I started with the logo, and took it from there. This brings up another point about color balance: the overall design and color choices of your site need to harmonize with the colors in your logo. (Do you have a logo yet?)
The next point is balance in layout. Layout is not just throwing things on a page and letting them be wherever they land. This is how some pages look. A properly laid-out page will bring the eye exactly where the designer wants it to go. Each element points to the next element in subtle ways. There is a natural flow, and the story of that page is told in the order that the designer wants it told. An example of this, is look at an editorial page in a magazine that has a model looking in any direction other than straight at the camera. Notice how your eye is drawn in that direction? An off-balance layout is confusing to the subconscious, and confusion is uncomfortable. You want the viewer to be comfortable on the page so that they remain there.
This last point leads me to one of my pet peeves with websites: Flash and music. It looks very cool to have an elaborate animated flash introduction to your website. But you have only a few seconds to capture someone’s attention. If that time is spent waiting to get through several cool intro screens, it is likely that the viewer will just go somewhere else. If the viewer stays, he or she is already annoyed at having to wait, and is going to be less interested once the flash presentation is over. Also, some people have animations on their home page. These animations are a distraction, and rob the viewer’s bandwidth to process what is written on the page. Remember, your written content is what they come there for. I find music on a site particularly annoying. I usually do a lot of browsing after my wife is asleep. If I happen on a page with music and haven’t already turned my speakers off, I can wake her up. But that’s not all–it just is not necessary, and most people find it annoying.
My last point is about balance in content. People come to your site to learn. Michael Port writes, a web presence is “a critical aspect of being able to start and continue conversations with potential clients.” So if people come to learn, and you want to continue conversations, your content must be compelling and interesting. It must have value to the reader. Someone comes to your site looking for what is in it for them. So your content should not only be about you. While they do want to know your services and your credentials, they are looking to know what you can do for them. So you must balance information about your practice’s FEATURES (about you) with your practice’s BENEFITS (about them). Furthermore, when you speak about benefits, it needs to be written to address their deep needs. But a site that is only about benefits and features (notice I put benefits first–they are far more important), but you need to have valuable information on your site. If your site continually has new informative content, you are giving the reader incentive to return. Sales usually do not happen the first time someone has contact with you. It requires repeated contact.
A final word about design: an important aspect of web design is what I call the back end. The back end is the part of the site that is not seen, but is visible to the search engines, such as Google. In this part of your site, you should have something called “Google Analytics”. There is not enough room in this post to speak about analytics, so all I’ll say for now is that when you insert this code from Google into your site, you are able to track just about every bit of information you need about how much traffic your site generates, and where it is coming from. Another important part of the back end is the information you have put there so that your site gets better rankings with the search engines. Since I am not an expert, or even mildly informed about this subject, I want to direct you to a colleague who has already written about it extensively. To know more about the back end of websites, please read Julie Onofrio’s page on the subject http://www.massage-career-guides.com/massage-websites.html She also has other valuable marketing information for massage therapists and those who are thinking about massage as a career.
Until next time,