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Ann Marie Moriarty

The Webs We Weave
Like other marketing materials, a Web site should be designed to reflect positively on your company. The elements that make up a professional-looking Web site are much like those of a well-run job site. It should be clean and organized, with tools and materials that are readily at hand and clearly labeled. Here are some important ingredients of a Web site with public appeal.

A good first impression. The home page should be free from clutter, both visual clutter (like distracting background patterns or clashing colors) and audio clutter (music that arrives uninvited).
Clear navigation. Use easy-to-read signals that tell users where to go next and how to get there. Show them how to move backward, too, both to the previous page and to the home page.
Small graphics. Big files take a long time to download. The user-friendly Web site uses small graphics files so users don't waste valuable time.
Tight and bright content. The information you present should be useful and to the point. It's harder to read from a screen than a printed page, so make the most of your space. No lengthy sagas, please.
City and state. Include your location up front. If you're selling books on the Web, it doesn't matter where your office is. But remodelers can't ship a new kitchen by UPS. Telling viewers where you are lets them decide quickly whether to browse.
E-mail link. This should be a no-brainer, but some sites don't bother providing one.

Take a page from this handful of remodelers' Web sites; they're some of my favorites.

Absolute Remodeling
The pros at ConAd, a construction advertising consulting company in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., designed this site. It follows all the rules: It's clean, attractive, well-organized, with good navigational cues, and it's pretty quick to download. Project photos are small, and captions are short and snappy, but you can click to a bigger story and picture if you want to know more. My only beef: You have to go to the fine print on the home page or to the company profile to find out where the firm is located.
Michigan Building Specialties
The opening screen of this site, designed by one of the firm's multi-talented siding mechanics, is understated but effective. It features the company's bright red logo. The background is subtly textured but not distracting. The site has just seven pages, but each page has a few well-chosen photos, a paragraph or two of information, and big red Home and navigation buttons to send you to any other page on the site. There's room for improvement: more compact graphics (those on the Custom Home Improvements page were fine) and better proofreading to lose typos and jargon (the use of "image map" when the words "red bar" would do). But it's a site that works well.
Sweetin Construction
This site is clean and attractive. Remodeler Odus Sweetin resisted the temptation to use a lot of graphics – except for the Services page, where the pictures don't add much. The "For You" page is particularly useful for consumers, with safety and maintenance information and a list of local resources. Sweetin even put a rolling message on his home page. It's cool to watch and tells the viewer where the firm is located, but it probably didn't need to be right in the middle of the page.
Fred Parker Company
Here's a beautiful site, designed in-house. The information about the company's services is helpful and to-the-point. Newsworthy items, like the firm's participation in an accessible-house project, are highlighted. The home page's main frame is a bit graphics-heavy, but in the left-hand frame the designers listed all 13 areas of the site so users can click to a topic without waiting for graphics to load.
Seilhamer Remodeling
Designed by the company's Internet service provider, this one-page site has an eye-catching logo, a concise description of the company, a list of services, as well as an appropriate photo. It even has a coupon – for a special price on a Pella sliding door – that site visitors can print out and clip.


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