01 January 2008

Facing the world through your website

WITH the Oman Web Awards, the only national level competition for websites being launched for the year 2007, the next couple of weeks we shall see the multiple facets of a website which is the face of the corporate or the individual, online.

Oman Web Awards

The Oman Web Awards is launched in Oman by ABS with the aim to recognise and reward well designed and useful websites in the Sultanate. It is an opportunity for web designers and companies to bench mark their sites and get recognition for their professional excellence. The organisation and individual compete within their own category and hence the unique features and nature of a particular business function or presence is recognised in a consistent manner.

The award highlights the reflection of the corporate identity while recognising the designers in terms of content, structure, technical and aesthetic design aspects. The criteria for awards cover all the above criteria in addition to a consistent representation of brand identity with opportunities for interactivity.

The Oman Web Awards is a competition for web & business developers in Oman with five main objectives:n Promote the spirit of innovation and creativityn Raise the standards of web design and websitesn Advocate growth & development of local talentsn Promote intellectual property awarenessn Encourage all sectors to become involved in the digital economy.

All web design companies, freelancers and web developers & web owners are encouraged to participate in this competition. A panel of judges from public and private sector spanning technical expertise to creative design and content experts have been appointed for evaluating the websites based onn pre-set criteria.

Quoting Ali Jaffer al Bahrani, Chairman of Oman Web Awards and Managing Director of ABS, ‘Awarding the design and development of web sites, the primary mission of ABS is to encourage individuals, organizations and businesses to make the best use of the Internet and World Wide Web technology; at the same time adding character, mood and a theme based upon the content of the particular web site requirement.’

Online presence

One can treat online presence as another channel for communication: one that reaches worldwide and opens up opportunities for interactivity. It is an interesting debate if website design is an art or science: while most people agree with the school of thought that it is science of information architecture is an artistic and aesthetic form.

The web site of an organisation integrates several internal branches and functional departments with their offering to the public, and it is a speedy and effective means for dissemination of information, interaction with people and for delivery of services to its partners and customers.
Apart from a website there exist other platforms belonging to the Web 2.0, such as forums, blogs and other social networking opportunities. But most formal presence is felt through the website which is a reflection of the organisation with its identity and key messages.

Benefits of being online

Having a company’s website is mandatory in the modern days and the user’s expectations are ever increasing with regard to pertinent information and interactivity. Instantly the company can reach clients across the world. Equally, the surfers can find most relevant products or services through effective search engines and organised directories.
Website can be information or transactional or a combination of both.

The informational component delivers or gathers information: for example product catalogue, project overview, services specification, expertise and client list or even press release and white paper.

The interactivity component enables a visitor to complete tasks online which may be simple queries or comments to sophisticates online shopping with payment processing facilities. No matter in what ratio these component exist, but they must create a valuable user experience through words and multimedia.

Managing pixel real estate

The home page of a website is the first landing point for a visitor and hence to retain the visitor until he experiences your online presence in its complete form is a challenge. With the limited number of pixels available, you identify your expertise or passion, deliver key messages all the while answering the question ‘what is in it for the visitor’. The website visit must add value to the visitor in terms of knowledge and convenience with a freedom to choose.

This home page real estate can consist of the following components:

  • Operating system elements — like title bar, address bar, status bar, etc.
  • Welcome message and self promotional contents
  • Illustrative aesthetic elements — like animations, images, design aspects etc.
  • Navigational elements — like links and tabs
  • White space — to improve readability (compared to the legibility of text in print media, reading online is more difficult but access to text is more easier and economic when compared to that of printed matter)
  • Advertisements and sponsor’s space

It is important to identify the percentage of space occupied by the above elements and analyse this is acceptable for the mission of the website’s presence. Most commonly content and navigation form the major part of the home page.

If found a need to change professional firms can be engaged to redesign the home page to give it a face lift. Sometimes it may even be required to restructure contents of a website in order to improve navigation and usability. This is a more complex and time consuming exercise.

Next week let us continue to analyse design of website according of usability engineering concepts and thus increase the value of online presence for both you and your visitors. We shall also see what form the fundamental criteria that assure accessibility of a website according international benchmarks.

(To be continued …)

No comments: