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July 7, 2011 / brandcon

Small-business Q&A – Remember social media in developing websites

By JACQUELINE TAYLOR | HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Q: What’s the latest in Web design? I’m working on a new website, and I want it to be cutting edge.

A: Social media have had a big effect on Web design. You may have noticed the icons for Facebook, Twitter and the like on many of the most up-to-the-minute websites. The idea is for visitors to share the site’s content with their friends and followers. It’s no longer enough to have a visually appealing website that people will notice; you need to provide compelling content for them to share, and you’ll want to include features that will keep them coming back.

The best new websites invite interaction and give users something to do when they come to your site. Icons for sharing are one way of encouraging the user to engage, as are other features such as videos, polls and surveys, opt-in newsletters or an invitation to leave comments.

Blogs and online discussion forums can keep the content fresh and interesting. But be careful of overloading your site with flashy designs or features that can frustrate. Visitors will be distracted by blinking or scrolling text, pop-up windows, or autoloading videos and sound.

Images that take too long to load, pages that are too lengthy, or content that requires too many clicks will discourage them from staying to see what you have to offer. Simpler is better: You want your site to be easy to navigate, your key information easy to find and actionable features easy to use.

Something else to remember is that visitors to your site won’t only be viewing it on desktop computers. They’ll be using notebooks, tablets and smartphones as well, and you’ll need to consider that when developing both content and design.

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