There are certain “rules of thumb” that are easy to remember and wise to follow. Here are five tips that will assist you in creating an honest, professional and successful website.

1. Be economical with words and images. You must remember that people will check out your site to see what you do, not read a small book about it. There is a one and half page rule to website design – make sure all the information fits on the first page and a half when landing. Nobody wants to scroll down forever.

Keep your pages short, succinct and uncluttered. Do you have 70 pairs of earrings in stock? Rotate their appearance on your site, 10 to 12 at a time.  Do not make your customers trawl through seemingly endless pages of earrings. They will lose interest before they see them all and will leave your site. At the same time, make sure you have at least 10 to 12 items – any fewer and the site looks incomplete or “under construction”. Never leave pages blank in anticipation of having content later. If you haven’t anything for the page at this time, “hide” the page until it is complete.  

Many websites feature side columns – limit the number and make sure that they fall within the one and half page rule. “Featured” products should be limited to one, as should “Sale” items. The more you put in the side columns, the more cluttered the page and the more overwhelmed the viewer will feel.

Limit the items on your menu – it should never be more than one level. Beyond that, the site will appear busy and cluttered.  Don’t double list something on the side of your page if it is covered in your menu.

Most important of all, do not rely on all the bells and whistles that are available to you when designing your website. Music is nice to include if it isn’t overpowering. Slideshows, if discreet and not overwhelming are also acceptable. But having images fly in from the side or including a moving marquee is not going to win you fans.

2. Be thorough. Try to think of all the questions your customer may have and answer them. What materials have you used? How large is the piece? What is the carat weight of any A-grade gemstones (buyers do not expect carat weight for the rougher or lower graded stones)? Leave nothing out when it comes to information about your creations. No one is going to buy a piece of jewellery without knowing as much as they can about it. Here is an example of a concise description that covers all the possible questions: Deep burgundy 4-carat AAA-grade rhodalite garnets feature in these handmade sterling silver earrings that measure 50mm in length. Earrings are provided with rubber cuffs to prevent loss while wearing.

3. Be consistent. This applies more to language and appearance than anything else. Do not use more than one font in your text. (Obviously, the font that is incorporated in your logo can differ from the font in your text BUT make sure they are complementary).  Make sure all your photographs are approximately the same size and have the same appearance (lighting may change from one photoshoot to the next if you do it yourself – but don’t mix backgrounds). Images on websites should be in sharp focus, on a plain background and well lit without reflections or shadows, for the simple reason that online customers can't see your jewellery and the quality of your photograph is the only thing that they have to base a buying decision on!  Taking good quality images of your work can be a most difficult skill to master; you may find it useful to take a look at the guild articles ‘Photographing Jewellery’ and ‘Jewellery Photography - The Basics’ for some pointers.

Proofread your site carefully. I have come across sites where the spell check has changed spellings to American spellings, but in other places it has retained UK spellings. Make sure spelling is consistent throughout your site. Make sure your grammar and spelling are faultless. It is always a good idea to have someone else proofread your work.  Nothing puts off potential buyers like bad spelling and grammar. There is no shame in making mistakes, but mistakes should be corrected as soon as they are spotted.

4. Be professional. Try to leave out emotive phrases such as “made with love” or “my favourite piece.” This is personal and has no place in your professional image. Make your website a reflection of your business, not your feelings. It is always acceptable to mention education and training (if related to your work), but try to stay away from personal comments that include your children or pets. It is always appreciated when you speak about the sources of your inspiration, but stay away from a narrative that sounds like a long-winded Academy Award acceptance speech.

Don’t use the third person in your website narrative. Many site owners use the third person because they think it sounds professional.  This is not the case, and using this point of view appears both arrogant and contrived. Obviously, third person will be evident in your “reviews” or “testimonials”, but it should never appear in your narrative.  Likewise, don’t give your life story in the About XYZ page. If you wish to convey more detailed and personal information, make this an option or link on the page. (Third person narratives will appear in websites about those who have gained a great deal of fame and success and for those whose name is that of a large company or corporation or the “brand”, so this rule is aimed at the small, independent maker.)

Stay away from “cutesy” or over stylised fonts for headings or general text as you don’t want your font to compete with your images. An over stylised or artistic font can immediately have a negative impact for potential customers and will not lend your site any gravity or professionalism. It is always best to stick with fonts that are “neutral”. Times New Roman, Tahoma, and Georgia are amongst the “neutral” fonts that give a website a polished and professional look. Remember, it’s not about the font, it’s about your work.

Make sure your Terms & Conditions reflect the laws governing distance selling. This is imperative. Remember the new EU cookie law requires certain information is presented to your potential customers. To disregard this may result in your incurring fines for breaking the law. It is always a good idea, even if you don’t sell products that require a hallmark, to include hallmark information if any of your pieces are made with precious metals. This way your potential customers will understand why you do or don’t have hallmarked pieces.

5. Be honest. One can always find “contests” to be named “best” where you win by having more votes than your opponents. This is not an award that should be featured on your website. The awards you should feature are those that have been gained through participation in juried shows administered by professional, respected and known entities or competitions where your designs are being judged, not your popularity.

Savvy shoppers will see right through any superlatives that aren’t backed up by cold, hard facts. A recently launched site stated, in big, bold letters on the home page, “The best handmade jewellery in XYZ.” With internet sites, you can say anything you like, but this sort of comment, unless you are quoting from a reputable source, comes across as dishonest and manipulative. This goes for appearances in magazines as well. One is not “featured” if one has paid for the privilege. You may always say “See XYZ on page X of Y” (which is just as impressive if you are referring to one of the international glossy magazines), but don’t say “featured” unless you have been featured in editorial space for which you have not paid. Similarly, when writing press releases, resist the urge to make unrealistic claims - focus on being genuine and consumers will appreciate this. A statement such as, “ XYZ has been recognised as the best provider of ...." is foolhardy and will not be taken seriously.

Whether you are writing copy for your website, marketing materials or press releases, it is of paramount importance that you use a professional writing style and ensure that what you write is free of any grammatical and spelling errors.

Please remember, as well, that if you have had the fortune to sell to someone famous, you should not use them for marketing purposes unless they have given you specific permission to do so. Using their photograph without their permission or lifting a photograph of them wearing your jewellery is a copyright infringement. You must gain permission from the owner of the photograph before you can use it on your site legally.

Bottom line – if your business is viable and your goods all you say they are, you don’t need tricks and slight twists of truth in order to make your business succeed. A simple but elegant website featuring beautiful products and detailed descriptions is all you really need. Anything more just muddies the water for your potential customers and makes it harder for you to administer. You should make the website as simple as you can and free yourself to spend more time creating and less time trying to keep up an unnecessarily complex website.

Martha Mawson

Martha has worked for over 25 years as an editor and writer in the publishing sector, both in the United States and here in the UK. Over the years, as publishing migrated from the printed page to the computer screen, she has had the invaluable experience of interviewing the movers and shakers in the online marketing world and has written many in-depth pieces about transactional websites.

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