New York (April 26, 2004) -- Your Web site can be the first thing prospective clients look at regarding your firm, yet many firms consistently make mistakes in the design and usability of their sites, according to Robert Algeri, partner with the New York-based Web and print design firm Great Jakes.

Speaking at a luncheon meeting of the New York Metropolitan chapter of the Association for Accounting Marketing, Algeri challenges firms to ask, “Is your Web site turning away business?”

“Visitors judge your site quickly,” Algeri says. “It should look like you spent money. Does your site say you’re big-time? Does it say you’re smart?” A neat and clean design of a site conveys competency and professionalism, he says, adding that firms should beware of such unattractive features as rainbow-colored banners, white type on a black background, and dancing animation. “Flash technology is another example,” he says. “All it does is make you want to hit ‘Skip.’”

Algeri praised the sites of such firms as Philadelphia-based Asher & Co. and New York-based Murray & Josephson as clean, well-designed and easy to navigate. He notes that firms should use care in illustrations on their sites. “Err on the side of using faces, rather than shots of a conference room,” he says.

Among his other tips:

  • Simplify the information on the homepage, directing visitors to only the most important pages of a site.
  • Navigation bars and boxes in more than one place on one page are confusing. “The steering wheel should always be on the left,” Algeri says.
  • Allow direct contact of a partner through your site only if the partner has been trained or is otherwise qualified “to handle that marketing opportunity.”
  • Most accounting firm sites do not need a search function.
  • A site map and a Back button are often signs of design and usability problems.

-- Jeff Stimpson

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