What makes a great website? It seems like a simple enough question, but ultimately it’s one that is not going to have a single straightforward answer. It really all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your site. This can probably be boiled down to a couple of sentences. When it comes to web design, it doesn’t do you any favours to overcomplicate things. Once you have worked this out, the pieces of your site should start falling gradually into place.
It’s more than likely that you will enlist the help of a web design agency who will sort out all the intricate details for you. But it’s important to give them as clear a brief as possible so they can take care of the rest. So, if you want to create a great website but you’re not really sure where to begin, here are some of the timeless principles of web design which will hopefully get you on the right track.
We’ve already talked about it briefly, but the central purpose of your website will determine what sort of design you decide on. Is your website mainly there to sell products? Are you trying to further educate customers about the range of services you have to offer? Will your site solve a specific problem people are having? Ultimately, it’s best to keep the purpose nice and straightforward. Your website may end up having other functions as well, but they should all be
secondary to making sure it fulfills its core purpose. Plan out the content that will be featured on each page. If you feel like there are some that are surplus to requirements, now is the time to say so.
Sometimes, websites get bogged down by overly complicated designs and don’t actually communicate the core messages. Though it’s great if a website looks fantastic, if it doesn’t clearly communicate the central messages of your business, it is not doing its job. Your homepage is hugely important, so you should try to boil down what your company does to a few short, snappy sentences. Remember, people are often ruthless with their time on websites. If they can’t find what they are looking for within a few seconds, there is every chance that they will switch off and go elsewhere.
Try to organise your information into headers and subheaders so you don’t overwhelm people with huge swathes of text. Utilise bullet points where you can so you can break information up into manageable chunks. You may choose to include a short video explaining your company. People tend to have shorter attention spans these days so a video may be the way to hold their attention for longer.
Consider how readable the text on the website is for people. Some of the most commonly used fonts include Arial and Verdana because they are extremely clear. If you are planning to go off the beaten track font-wise, it’s a good idea to line a few up side by side and get the opinion of a few different people. Consider using different sizes and boldness to draw people’s attention to the key information. Also think about the size. More people than ever are viewing websites on their mobile, so you need to be sure that everything is readable even from the smallest of devices.
A carefully thought out colour scheme can really enhance the overall user experience of a website. You may well decide to base your colours on your company branding to reinforce your brand presence on your website. People will then begin naturally associating these colours with your business. Whatever colour scheme you settle on, make sure the individual colours complement each other well. Using contrasting colours for the typeface and background will make it much easier on the eye. Don’t underestimate the use of white space, which can make your site appear minimalist and uncluttered.
Rather than using standard stock imagery, it’s a nice touch to use pictures that are your very own. Remember, these need to be high quality so it’s probably best to hire in a professional rather than attempting them yourself using only your iPhone! The images should be used to complement the text that goes alongside them. You may want to have photos taken around the office, or individual shots of the team to give your business a human presence.
Think about also using infographics to communicate information in a way that is easily digestible. This can often be more effective than large quantities of copy. It’s already been mentioned, but a video is another nice way to communicate with customers. Using a number of techniques to get your core message will improve your chances of that message sticking.
Nothing is more likely to make people go elsewhere than a website that is difficult to navigate. Make sure to have a logical page hierarchy so that people find it easier to access the pages which contain the key information. Other tactics include using breadcrumbs and having well designed clickable buttons to take people to certain pages (usually the ones that they can actually spend money!). Many designs follow the ‘three click rule’ which dictates that people should be able to find what they are looking for within this number of clicks. It’s not always as easy as it sounds to create!
Now it’s time to think about how the information is actually displayed on the page. Many people adopt a grid based approach, rather than scattering content around the page in a haphazard fashion. Clear sections, columns and boxes that all line up provide a sense of balance and symmetry so people can take in the information in a more logical way. Thinking is always changing on the best ways to display content, so it’s worth consulting with your web design agency to get their input.
Studies have shown that people tend to scan over a computer screen in an F pattern. Most of what people need to find is in the top and left side of the screen, while the right remains surprisingly neglected. It’s best not to force the visual flow that a user goes through, so follow their natural behaviour by displaying the information in a way that has been proven to work well.
One of the most frustrating things for visitors to a new website is when it seems to take a lifetime to load. Your web design agency will probably have clearer ideas of how to make your website load time quicker, but you need to make sure to optimise the size and scale of images for a start. Ultimately, it may be worth cutting down on some of the fancy features of the site if it means that it’s going to take longer to load, causing people not to even bother visiting in the first place.
Gone are the days when people would view a website on a single device. Now people have a myriad of laptops, tablets and mobiles – all of different sizes. It’s important to think about making your site mobile friendly so you are accommodating all these people who are using different means to access your site. Alternatively, you may decide to build a separate mobile site for your business. Both approaches have their pros and cons which are worth investigating.
It’s important that when your website is built, search engine optimisation is firmly in mind. SEO starts from the moment your site starts being built. When it comes to writing the content itself, there are a range of techniques that you can use to make sure that people are easily able to find your site when using search engines. You will need to do your research beforehand to work out which keywords you want to focus on. Your website should also be built with a blog page so you can update the content on a regular basis. This is one of the key features when it comes to getting your site higher up the pecking order.
Ways to Get in Touch
You should see your website as an interactive tool that you can use to communicate with customers. You may decide to have an instant chat facility or direct people to your social media pages to get in touch. Someone should be placed in charge of monitoring your contact pages. People expect responses in a timely manner, so your website should be used as a tool to facilitate this communication.
Creating an attractive and functional website shouldn’t be too difficult if you keep all of these design elements firmly in mind. You may be looking to create a new site from scratch, or just refreshing what you have currently. Either way, you should make sure your site is engaging, useful, and ultimately achieves the central purpose that you set it up for in the first place.