Quality Site Criteria
The following are some of our personal criteria that you MUST follow in order to have proper "curb appeal." We strongly suggest that you follow this quality site criteria at your site.
If you are applying for an award or a site review, before submitting a site, print this page and rank yourself. Fix what needs to be fixed, and come back... we'll keep the page open!
- Backgrounds -- Gaudy is out, especially on professional commercial sites. Colored text that is difficult to read is out. And text over complex patterned backgrounds is definitely out. The page must be clean, uncluttered, and very easy to read without hurting the eyes. Black? Never. Have you ever tried to print a page where the text is white against a black background and get a blank sheet from your printer? Definitely not a commercial site advantage! White, off-white, pale, or an exceptionally light texture is okay as long as it NEVER detracts from the text and the images have impact.
- Banners -- None at the top of your page, and usually fewer than four on the page.
- Be Commercial -- Who you are, What you do, What makes you unique, Why use your products or services, and How you can help solve a pain or need MUST be there. But it is not going to be effective on the web if all you want is their money. Offer this information, but take a backseat to content. Include it as links and subliminal notes. Content is king, and selling without selling is the way to be commercial. Clarity is important in your content and purpose.
- Browser Compliant -- We get 88% of our traffic from Firefox, Chrome, and IE. The rest include spiders and text browsers. Make sure that your page works well with all of these browsers before submitting. We will look at your page with at least 3 different browsers in this review.
- Content -- is KING. If you have no real content that contributes to a visitors pain or need, then their visit is not worth their time. Offer something they cannot get anywhere else. If you need to, offer your opinion, but be sure that you are right.
- Counters -- These are effective on some sites where there would otherwise be no credibility, but in content-rich sites, the value of the content is far more important. Give me a great link program any day. Lose the counter and use server logs for your statistics.
- Contact Technique -- There must be a clear method for contacting the company by completing a form, email, US mail (street address), and telephone/fax. If there is no street address and phone then it is assumed that you have something to hide. There must be a clear navigation to a contact page.
- Doorway Pages -- Avoid doorway pages (also called splash screens). Having us wait while a logo loads so that we can be impressed enough to click to go to your content is not cool, and is a waste of our time.
- Excessive Animation and Flashing Text -- Flashing and twisting used to be cool, but isn't anymore. Make sure that your gadgets have purpose, slow them down, and if it does not add to your message, don't use them. They have gone from fun to annoying. And they detract from your content.
- Frames -- We hate frames. We have seen some very nice sites where the frames were well done and made sense to the content of the page, and others where the frames were in the way. In the event that your frames do not contribute to the site (navigation or otherwise), this is a definite disqualification.
- Graphics -- The content of your page is king, but you must have "curb appeal." Like selling your house, if it is ugly from the street, people drive by without going inside. But if it is nice, they will enter and look around. Within this appeal, the graphics must relate to your content, so they must be context sensitive and appropriate. Compressing a graphic for speed is good, but do not destroy the curb appeal of a nice graphic just for speed. Animated email icons probably have little contribution to your content, so they probably are more of a distraction than an advantage. Waiting for an image to load takes forever sometimes, and many will not wait.
- HTML -- Do not worry about how "clean" your HTML is unless it causes your page to look funny when switching between browsers or monitor resolutions. Using site inspection tools is great, and you must adhere to good practice in writing your page code, but if you don't see it, we think it is far less important than other items in this list.
- Image -- The site must convey your corporate image, however you define it. It must be appropriate for your industry, clients, and appeal to your prospects.
- Links -- If they are broken (common where you link off of your site), fix it before you submit. We run tools on submitted sites to test their links for accuracy before We review them, so don't disqualify yourself.
- Matching -- The general design for the site should all match. Visitors should feel comfortable that the look and feel is similar while transitioning page-to-page, and that navigation is always located at the same spot on the page. Changing the style within the site is not recommended.
- Navigation -- Do not over do it. We prefer to have navigation be obvious. Where possible, place key navigation within the content and tell why it should be used. We hate to wait for ten buttons to load at the top of the screen before we can navigate the site. Likewise, we would expect every button to have a corresponding text link at the bottom of the page.
- Obvious Purpose -- Make sure that top of page text tells a visitor what they will get by staying at your site. Don't make them leave, let them know how you are going to relieve a pain or satisfy a need that they have.
- Plugins -- Avoid them. If you include sound files make sure it starts "off" and has a control.
- Portals -- These are a big deal now, but will soon be a thing of the past. Avoid making them cluttered and difficult to use. And since portals are to be fast loading, always cut the graphics.
- Screen Size -- 85% of the world uses screen resolution higher than 1024x768. Before publishing your website to the public, check your pages at 1024x768 or higher to ensure compatibility.
- Scrolling Messages -- We want to know where links go. We don't want the distraction of a scrolling marquee at the bottom of the page. But we like tickers where there is a scrolling text that actually can be clicked and a link taken.
- Size -- Some think that this is important. We do not. If the text is displayed right away even if the images are still downloading, and if we can make a decision that we want to stay to read the contents of that page without the images, then the page can be very long. But if there are links on the page and you have any tables, returning is tedious. We have large pages without tables, and the return from a link is to where you left, not the top of the page.
- Spamming -- Do not babble, ramble, or otherwise pack your content with worthless keywords. Having your keywords appear within your displayed text is important as a promotion tool, but the content is still king and must not be destroyed in the process.
- Speed -- Display the text within 5 seconds, and then the images. We hate to wait for a page to load images before we can see if we want to be there or not.
- Spelling -- Get it right. Sure there will be an ocasional [sic] typo, but these can be caught by proofing your work and with the many word processors available today. Proofing is vital, don't allow typos where the wrong word happens to be a word that is spelled correctly -- such as Sue for Sure (missing r).
- Tables -- Avoid setting fixed-width tables wider than a screen width. If we see text scroll off the right of our screen, you lose.
- White Space -- Use margins and spacing to avoid a cluttered look. Never-ending text looks like too much to read, so visitors won't. Use some color that is easy to read, but make sure it is meaningful (we use blue heading level text). Indent text to cut down on the length (page width) of each line to help it be easier to read.
- Under Construction -- Your site, if it is to have current information, is ALWAYS under construction. Don't place any under construction signs on your site. And don't claim to offer information that is not there.
- Unique Content -- This is a touchy subject. In general, but it needs saying, NEVER borrow content from anybody else without prior permission. Always have unique information, or at the least be first with your view of that information. Bruce Clay was first in stating how to beat your competition in search engines, and others have restated our methodology at their sites. That happens. But do not take an entire section of another site. That is what links are for.
- URL -- You should have your own URL to be taken seriously as a commercial site. Having a URL with a complex name detracts from the visitors ability to reach your site, and makes you look "poor." Behave like a professional and demonstrate that you have made an investment in your site other than just having one. Personal sites, not having your own URL is just fine.
Before submitting a site, print this page and rank yourself. Fix what needs to be fixed, and come back... we'll keep the page open!