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Style vs Function

I belong to a potter’s group and along with learning new techniques for using clay, we often discuss form and function. What we are talking about is the fact that you can learn to throw quite competently, but what is the pot’s use? It has to be of a size and a shape that is functional as well as attractive, otherwise it is just a dust collector.

I was looking at a person’s site for them last week. He was asking if I would re-create the site so that he could do the updates on it. At first glance, I wondered what he wasn’t happy about. However, although I knew the web address, I still gave it a search in Google. And this is where the style of the site and the function didn’t work. The site was lovely with a flash image of a leave tumbling down in the header of each page. However, the site didn’t come up in the first five pages that I looked. And I was putting in the name of the company. Not what they sold, but their actual name. It should have come up right away.

Flash on a site can be quite attractive and does have it’s place, but it won’t help your customers find you. This site had a few problems with it, which were keeping it from coming up in the first page or two of Google. Firstly, the flash was on all the navigation buttons and the header. There were no Alt descriptions on any of these buttons, so the search engines wouldn’t be able to read these buttons, but neither would a blind user. A look at the source code revealed that the person who put the site together managed to misspell the company name every time when adding the meta tags. That might work if you know your business is one that is commonly misspelled, but it is usual practise to put in the correct spelling to!

You can easily help your site become more visual by having navigation buttons that are words rather than images. If you really want the images, then include the Alt tags so they are readable to the search engines. All images on your site should be labelled to indicate what they are and if you can be creative, you can sneak in your company name or the product you sell as well. For example a Farm equipment site may label a picture of a tractor with “this John Deere is available at Downey’s Farm Equipment”. Someone who can’t see the images now knows that it is an image of a John Deere Tractor and the store that is selling it.

PDF documents are also completely available to be scanned by the search engines. Although to your site visitor they are similar to an image with words, to the search engines they are another page with information on your site.

So, as you can see, the site I looked at was attractive, but it’s real function was to attract visitors and this is where it was let down by it’s design. You can have both, but the real function of a website is to give information about your company/subject and you want people who don’t already have your web address to find you.

Avoid Spam from your email address

I used to recommend that clients use forms on their website to try to avoid their email address from getting lots of spam. There are searches that are done that look at websites, much in the way that seach engines look at websites, but these searches are for any email address as a potential place to send their spam. So forms used to allieviate this. However, then I, as well as some clients, were starting to get the forms back but filled with rubbish.
I was reading a blog by Stepanie Sullivan (no relation) about a site that you can use that scrambles your email address on your site so these scurilous wags can’t use it. The site is called reCaptcha and what you do is type in your email address and reCaptcha will give you some code to insert into your site. Your viewers will see an incomplete email address with a link. When they click on your email address a new window opens and you have to type the text you see (you’ve seen this before). Once you have done this, it allows you to send an email address. I’m sure that anyone who is plagued by spam will not mind the extra few steps in order to send an email.

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