Take a look at this page from the website of a reputable coal merchant. I’ve blanked out the detail of identity because the name of the company is irrelevant. What we’re thinking about is how their website looks.

Example homepage

So let’s give it a bit of a critique. What’s the first thing you notice? I’m guessing it’s that red / yellow contrast? Wow, it screams a bit, doesn’t it – and how well can you read the text against that red background? If you do battle to make it out, does it grab you? Internetters tend to give each webpage just a few seconds of unconscious consideration before they decide whether to move on. How long do you think people will give this page?

Can you see the links to the site’s other pages? There are eight of them. Eight?! That’s far too many. And one of those links is distinguished by bad grammar (“Area’s”, rather than “Areas”). Not the best presentation that the company would aim for, I’m sure, and nowhere near what this excellent company deserves.

Here is how the “Coal Fires” section starts on the Products page:

Example products screenshot

The pictures show you how these coal fires look, they’re fine though they could be a bit bigger. What do you make of the text, though? You have the same red background problem. This time the text is starting off in block capitals. Crazy.  And look at the info for each of the coal fires. Has it been written from the customer’s perspective? Is it ‘dressed to impress’, or is it a pair of baggy and saggy old corduroy trousers?

That company deserves better!

Now take a look at this front page (identity details likewise blanked out). The website’s aim is to generate and maintain local interest in caring for a children’s play area. Compare how light and airy its style is in comparison:

Good example screenshot

The residents who run this site have chosen to have their Blog on the front page. At the bottom right of this screenshot is the beginning of the site’s Social Media area. In particular you can see a link to the website’s Facebook page with an easy button for Facebookers to Like the Facebook page. Clever because with every new Blogpost the site’s Facebook followers can see a link to the Blogpage pop up in their timeline.

And there are refreshingly just four pages clickable from the front page. Here’s what you would see on the website’s About page, for example:

Good example screenshot 2

See how straightforward and ‘clean’ it all feels? And look, here again visitors to the site are presented with the Social Media Facebook and Twitter links. They just click to follow. The people running this website don’t worry about how to bring visitors back again. Those visitors who are are on Facebook or Twitter, and who are interested in what this site does, will click to follow. And if you check out what the Man with the Beard has to say about Paper Planes and Private Detectives, you’ll see the how all this makes Social Media so valuable to you.

(Actually the Man with the Beard has a slight confession. That site for the children’s play area is one of his. So naturally it goes without saying that it’s jolly fine!)