Hello Raj20000 ~
To have an effective website, you have to determine what its purpose
is - hopefully *WAY* before the design stage, and then plan for the
most effective way to get that purpose across and have your visitors
do what you expect them to do.
To achieve those goals, it helps to determine who your market is or
who you hope to reach and what motivates them to do what you want them
to do - all in the first screenful of information your visitor sees.
In this case, it is assumed you want your visitors to purchase study
plans to pass requisite achievement tests.
I say 'assumed' because at first glance, it isn't clear what the site
is about or what its purpose is.
The site loads quickly, even on a slow dialup, which is to your
advantage, as people expect to see "something" within the first 12-20
Your use of a light background with a darker text is a good choice and
the easiest for the eye to comfortably read. You have not specified a
page background color, however, and for some browsers, which don't or
can't pick up your table background color because of the lack of a
DOCTYPE Declaration (which is discussed below), your site shows on
whatever their 'default' background color is. Very often, it's that
strange grey color browsers seem to choose. You need to code a page
background color in addition to any table color you may wish to
What's Above The Fold
You should remember that people rarely just stumble across your site.
They are there for a reason, and in this case, you want them to order
They expect to see and understand a site's purpose immediately.
Unfortunately, there isn't much of a hint what this site is about.
While it does say such things as:
"* Product Tour
* What do you REALLY need to prepare for your exam?
* Top 10 reasons to use MaxSkill Training Software"
it is unclear what you are talking about when you say 'prepare for
your exam?' and why it says "Top 10 reasons to use MaxSkill Training
You would do much better to understand WHO your target market is and
aim toward them.
In this case, it would seem more reasonable to aim for a student's
parents, as most young people do not have the ability to make
purchases online, and if, by chance you ARE aiming at students, there
are none of the requisite Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
While it may be true that your visitor is delivered by some link
because he wishes to be there, you can't assume he understands what
this site is about. You have to inform him - above the fold - what the
purpose of the site is and use compelling copy to compel him to
It really takes some digging to realize that the purpose of this site
is to sell test preparation to pass state-required standardized tests.
Your visitors are lazy and really don't want to dig for that
information, so you must make it clear that's what the site is about,
with clear text links to the information he or she may require.
Bob McElwain wrote a good article on this subject for WebProNews.com,
"The First Fold Makes Your Site, (Or Breaks It.)", dated June 23,
2003, which sums this up nicely:
"Visitors to your site are not looking to make a new
friend. They don't want to chat. And they don't give a
darn what you think about anything, least of all your
product. They only want to know:
1. What's in it for me?
2. Why should I believe you?
3. Why should I buy from you?"
and you had better get those points across in that first screen full
of information. You can read the article here:
In addition, Jakob Nielsen, who is recognized as one of the Web's most
knowledge usability experts has just addressed that matter in his
November 10, 2003, Alert Box article, "The Ten Most Violated Homepage
See also Jakob Nielsen's "Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability",
dated May 12, 2002, which you can find here:
Notice the first item is "Make the Site's Purpose Clear: Explain Who
You Are and What You Do", in this case, it just isn't clear.
There are good points which you should apply to your own site's design.
Let's Talk About Kids,
The FTC and COPPA Regulations
I touched on the presumption that this site is for the students'
parents, but there is a possibility that a student himself may be
looking for information to help bring him or her "up to snuff" to pass
the mandated exams.
This is as good a time as any to address the issue, just in case. To
do so, you need to be very aware of the requirements under COPPA and
apply them here, including specific instructions about visitors under
13 years old, and how you handle any personally identifiable
information your site may collect.
Information from the FTC on:
"CHILDREN'S PRIVACY: EDUCATION & GUIDANCE"
You should add the information required and make sure there is a text
link to that information from every page of your site.
Building Trust & Credibility
Today's buyers are more savvy than they were a few years ago, and
there are certain things they want to see on a web site. These add to
trust & credibility for you.
A study completed by Consumer Web Watch Research and Stanford
University, "How Do People Evaluate a Web Site's Credibility? Results
from a Large Study", Published: October 29, 2002 Updated: November 11,
2002 reveals what people expect to see:
Advertising and Sponsorships,
You can find an abstract of the study here:
In all, you include some of these items (such as an About Us and a
You refer to scholars for "content", but what is their qualification
for contribution to the material you offer for sale? Who are these
"scholars"? Why should we believe you?
Your Privacy Page has one very long privacy statement with some
grammar and spelling errors. In a larger monitor, it is nearly
impossibly to READ that policy as the lines of text are so long and
there are so many lines to read, it become meaningless.
Break those pages up to both a readable line length (440 pixels is
about the maximum line width the human eye can comfortably handle),
and break those paragraphs up by subject and/or topic. Make it EASY
for your visitors to understand.
About That Grammar
You really cannot expect to establish credibility with spelling and
grammar errors. Proof, proof, proof and edit.
Then give it to someone else to proof and edit. You have one chance to
make a good impression, and a 'scholarly' site needs to give the
impression of ... well ... being "scholarly".
HTML - Back to Basics
Shari Thurow, one of the leading authorities in web design and search
engine optimization (and author of the book "Search Engine
Visibility"), recently made the following observation with regard to
"Clean HTML is absolutely imperative for search engine
indexing. Browsers are extremely forgiving when it comes
to displaying pages with "unclean" HTML (unclosed tags,
no quotation marks, etc.). Search engine spiders are
not so forgiving. Even something as simple as a missing
quotation mark on the <.a href="page.html"> can cause a
spider to not index text or a link." (See: Link Exchange
Digest, July 3, 2003, "Clean HTML")
She explained how errors in HTML can affect your ability to be
indexed, and ultimately, ranked.
Taking a look at your site, there are some important items missing and
some which should be added to make your site crawler-friendly.
1. DOCTYPE Declaration
DOCTYPES are essential to the proper rendering and functioning of web
documents in compliant browsers. It is also essential for the search
engines to understand and follow the coding contained on your pages.
DOCTYPE is explained and discussed further in "A List Apart",
and in Web Design Group's article, "Choosing a DOCtype",
You do not have a DOCTYPE Declaration and you should add one to every
page on your site.
Without a characterset declaration in your header tags, some of the
characters which look fine to you come out as strange characters in
others' browsers. For instance, your privacy page and your
"http://maxskill.com/content/info/what.html" page which render an
interrogatory (?) instead of your intended figure because of the lack
of a character set declaration.
You can read more about character sets in this article by Jan Hunt here:
And in Web Basics: Technology, here:
3. Title and Alt Tags
Put those title and alt tags to work for you! Use key word rich words
in both. Instead of repeating "MaxSkill Information Center" in every
page's title, use a dozen or so descriptive words (terms you would
like to be found under) first in your page titles.
You have no alt tags on the graphics.
Google recommends using a text only browser, which will give you a
very sobering look at your site (and what it looks like, to some
degree, to search engine crawlers):
"Use a text browser such as Lynx to examine your site,
because most search engine spiders see your site much as
keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser,
then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling
your site." [From Google's Technical Guidelines]
Adding descriptives to the alt tags will give the crawlers something
to 'index', since they cannot read graphics - it also makes your site
more 'user-friendly' and will help with accessibility issues.
I am sure you do not wish to appear insensitive to accessibility issues.
Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 794
and 794d, set forth the minimum government standards for
Among these standards are such items as ALT and TITLE tags (as
discussed above), and website design which will enable those with
special needs to be able to access and understand your web site.
You might want to run each page of your site through Bobby, which will
give you a full context report of any portions of your site which do
not meet the minimum standards. If you make all the corrections
suggested, it will greatly enhance any search engine's ability to
crawl your website as well.
The Bobby analysis page can be found here:
Overall, the site is pleasant (and even informative) enough, but it
does need some tweaking to give it focus.
Rich text with action words to compel your visitor to become your
customer is called for. The site's purpose definitely needs to be
emphasized "above the fold".
Understand your market, and write to them, giving them the information
they want immediately - make it EASY to do business with you.
There are some analytical sites to run your pages through to get an
idea of compliance with suggested standards and address accessibility
issues which will help. There are also specifics regarding children
that you need to know and address accordingly.
Web design and marketing are a part of my daily business, so the
information and resources cited, and links given are from my own
personal bookmarks and knowledge I use in my daily business.
Thank you for the opportunity to dig around your site. I live in
Arizona and know that our pass rate for the AIMS is only successful at
the third grade level, after that, the pass rate is deplorable.
(That's sort of a market tip if you use it right).
I wish you success!
Google Answers Researcher