In analyzing the website, in this case, the task will attempt to provide insights on useful approaches to make effective communication via a website. Several companies have successfully used effective communication and good web design to bring about significant improvements in the business. It is evident in the vacation industry, which from its beginnings in the 1960s, has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. Travel and Tourism industry (Lehman & Dufrene, 2010).
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It is reported that today there are more than 3 million households that have bought into vacation ownership, and the industry produces sales over $7 billion on an annual basis (Lehman & Dufrene, 2010). It has been noted that before the existence of web-based vacation planning sites, vacation arrangements were typically phone-based. This position suggests that users and businesses involved were engaged in repeated and lengthy telephone calls made to confirm the information and repeat available options (Lehman & Dufrene, 2010).
The advent of web-based communication via company websites has seen many firms in the vacation ownership industry enjoy increased ease in communicating with customers. In turn, this has translated into much more business and increased efficiency within the industry (Lehman & Dufrene, 2010). It is the case with Wyndham Vacation Ownership Inc, which is the world’s largest timeshare and the first to introduce a flexible point system (Lehman & Dufrene, 2010).
The organization owns over 145 resorts, with more still being developed all under two primary brands namely; Fairfield resorts and Trendwest resorts (Lehman & Dufrene, 2010). Given that the introduction focused on a vacation website to highlight the essential aspects of web-based communication, this analysis will focus on a company offering outdoor activity services in Canada. The company known as outdoor pursuits is among the leading providers of outdoor gear focusing on discounts and a wide variety of products (OutdoorPursuits n.d.).
Landing Page Features
At the onset of the corporate website, it was adequate for a forward-thinking company to develop a simple website with relevant links and generate a reasonably large amount of hits (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). However, within the web market today many companies have realized that it is not adequate to include marketing information on a simple page and hope to generate positive results. This is because carrying out marketing campaigns costs a lot of money, and companies would like to see this translated into business. This position suggests that companies are interested in the attraction of traffic that will convert leads to sales (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007).
For the above reason, it is becoming increasingly important to design a good custom landing page. Such a page plays the role of the website ambassador, and a superstar salesperson rolled into one (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). To achieve this, it is essential to include content that creates a custom experience for the user. In this regard, it is crucial to remember that the business goal lays a major role in the design of a suitable landing page. Taking the case of OutdoorPursuits the goal is to sell products, and the page must present these suitably to prompt the customer to either browse products or make a selection (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007).
In the case of OutdoorPursuits the company has designed a landing page that makes use of slideshow images to showcase the products and services that clients can access through the website (OutdoorPursuits n.d.). In addition to that, the company has also made use of images of popular products arranged on the landing page to allow customers to make instant purchases (OutdoorPursuits n.d.). It has been noted that to allow visitors to focus o the goal of the website it is wise to simplify and separate items on the landing page to avoid clutter (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). This consideration has been made when considering this landing page, which provides a neat arrangement of the various features used on the page (See Appendix A).
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To signify the importance of wording, the report briefly mentions the brick-and-mortar approach used by retailers. It is reported that until recently retailers gave little thought to environmental factors relating to the shopper’s experience. As a result of this, aisles were narrow, lighting was poor, and signage if the present was considered an afterthought (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). But after some research, it was noted that environmental factors had a profound effect on sales. Many of the changes that were to follow were minor and involved activities like moving racks away from the entrance, placing specific items on lower shelves, improving lighting, and increasing aisle space (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007).
All the above factors play a major role in web site design, and it has been suggested that wording and design of websites need to make adequate consideration to user experience (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). It is reported that the goal of any effective global communication is to achieve the desired response (Krizan, Merrier, Logan & Williams, 2010). This goal requires that such communication can provide people from various backgrounds with information comfortably and naturally (Krizan et al., 2010).
In this regard, it has often been recommended that it is good practice in business communication to keep the communication short and simple a principle often referred to as KISS (Krizan et al., 2010). In the OutdoorPursuits about us page, this principle has been kept in mind, and it was observed that the wording used is relatively simple. The page has been designed using relatively short and simple sentences. The paragraphs in the text are also relatively short and describe in simple language the details, offers available, and history of the company (OutdoorPursuits n.d.). It is believed that in keeping with the principles of KISS it is believed the company should manage to build meaningful relationships due to clear and concise information provided (Krizan et al., 2010) (See Appendix B).
In the analysis of the OutdoorPursuits website, the site must be checked to confirm that the design avoids common pitfalls that lead to messy web site presentations. It has been noted that a good web site design must include aspects that allow the user to concentrate on what is important on the page (Colborne, 2010). In this regard, the web site has used principles that allow it to be inviting to the users. For example, it is noted that in the division of the page it is recommended to use subtle background changes as opposed to lines (Colborne, 2010). It is evident in the outdoor pursuits website (See Appendix C).
It has also been mentioned that in attempts to design web pages that are inviting and free from clutter, it is advisable to use the minimum degree of the emphasis possible (Colborne, 2010). This approach suggests that the designer of the web site should refrain from the use of bold, large, and colored fonts in instances where simply making a piece of text bold will be suitable (Colborne, 2010). On looking at the OutdoorPursuits web page it is possible to observe that there is minimal use of emphasis, thus leading to less clutter on the website. This approach to design makes the website appear inviting and easy to use.
In addition to that, it has been noted that to make a suitable website design it is appropriate to limit the levels of information. It is reported that more than three levels of information on a web page tend to confuse the users (Colborne, 2010). For this reason, it is observed on the OutdoorPursuits website that most pages have two or one levels of information thus allowing users to focus and preventing confusion (See Appendix A).
The limiting of clutter on a web page also requires that in the design there is limited variation in the shapes of elements. This suggests the designer should stick to a single style rather than applying three or four different styles (Colborne, 2010). This is evident when observing the website landing page where there is minimal variation in the shapes of various elements used.
According to Dawson one of the most crucial aspects of a clean and efficient user experience is to keep it known as Keep It Simple, Stupid, or KISS (2011). This position suggests that during the design of a website, the more complex things are, the more likely one will end up irritating users. This principle has been applied in the design of the OutdoorPursuits website, as is evident in the relatively simple menus used alongside the links.
These menus could be designed using more complex mechanisms, but it is believed they were kept simple to reduce load time and irritability caused to the user. The web site has used simple web design techniques to facilitate the completion of tasks.
Another principle that was found useful in improving overall user experience and user-friendliness is known as minimalism (Dawson, 2011). This principle suggests that the enhancement of elements on a web site should be avoided until it is found very necessary. In line with this, it has been noted on the OutdoorPursuits website that most elements have not been enhanced, and in cases where enhancement has been used it serves the purpose of drawing attention to the element.
In addition to what has been mentioned above, it has been observed that a user-friendly experience requires the website design to maintain consistency. This is because learning new things is scary for visitors, and forced trial and error in search of information is among the main reasons people avoid complications (Dawson, 2011). Based on this the website must maintain a consistent look across pages to reduce the learning curve. In this regard, it has been noted that the OutdoorPursuits website is relatively user-friendly as it maintains consistency across its pages.
Availability of Information
It has been suggested that in web design the deviation from excessive graphic effects and maintenance of consistent use of company color palette, fonts, and other motifs allow users to make a connection with the brand (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). This connection then results in more comfortable use of the website and turn easy identification of information. This approach of a user-friendly design has been used in the OutdoorPursuits website to ease use and access to information.
To the above point, it has been noted that the consistent use of the company theme plays a major role in retrieval and access to information. About this, it has been suggested that there is a need to provide a page with details about products to the user. This information should be provided on a separate page preferably with a landing page template to maintain consistency (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007).
This approach has been used in the OutdoorPursuits product details page and allows for easy access to information while maintaining an important link between the customer and company (See Appendix E). It is important to note that one major function of designing a user-friendly web site is to allow easier access to relevant information by the users (Loveday & Niehaus, 2007). Just as in the science of retail business user experience plays a significant role in access to information and the success of the web-based business.
Colborne, G. (2010). Simple and Usable Web, Mobile, and Interaction Design. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
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Dawson, A. (2011). Distinctive Design: A practical guide to useful, beautiful web. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Krizan, A., Merrier, P., Logan, J., & Williams, K. (2010). Business Communication. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Lehman, C., & Dufrene, D. (2010). Business Communication. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Loveday, L., & Niehaus, S. (2007). Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
OutdoorPursuits (n.d.). Web.