As a business, having an attractive user-friendly website is essential. Good design matters because it showcases to your customers your brand or service. This makes it a useful tool for boosting your sales. By contrast, a poorly designed website can potentially harm business.
Web design involves a comprehensive, holistic approach. You need to carefully plan and choose the layout, colours, text, font, structure, images, graphics, or interface across all pages of the site. To help you navigate your way to a better designed website, follow these design tips:
1. You’ll need a plan and strategy
A successful website starts with a plan. It sets out to meet the needs of visitors and be compelling enough to turn leads into customers. Firstly you need to develop a strategy:
- What products or services do you offer?
- How many pages do you need?
- What content should you include?
- How are you going to convert visitors into customers?
By understanding these essential steps, you’ll have a site that can engage every visitor to your site.
2. Check your competition for design insight
Consider researching your competitor’s website design to gather insight. Here are the five steps on how you can assess design approaches and adopt an attractive design.
- What is the design objective? Every design is applied to serve a particular need. For example, a page design adopted by a company like Amazon may not be suitable for a small online store that only sells a dozen items. Also, consider the function of the design you wish to use. Implementing it because it simply looks cool isn’t a good strategy. Instead, decide how each design element helps to achieve your ultimate goal – to convert visitors into customers.
- Use criteria not personal preferences when comparing approaches – You need to be objective when evaluating which design to implement. To avoid personal bias from interfering with your selection, consider setting up a set of objective criteria.
- Imitation isn’t flattery – Not every design works for all websites. Each design depends on your target audience’s specific issue. Creating or implementing designs involve a series of steps including conceptualising, learning what users like, and resolving their issues. A designer may be tempted to do an exact copy of a design from another site but the danger is it won’t be tailored to fit your company. Instead, think about whether the other design is relevant to any issues you need to address.
- Let users test your web design – You have conceptualised, researched and created the design. However, an actual user’s input is a better validation for your work. The best way to do this is through A/B testing. This is a process where you create two design options and let users choose which one they prefer.
3. Clean-up your site
It’s important to bear in mind that the average online visitor has an 8-second attention span. So, the design should engage the audience quickly and make great first impressions. Start by using succinct and engaging content, with appropriate photos or icons that are represented by clear and short headers.
Consider removing anything that will slow-down or clutter the site including:
- Complicated animations
- Heavy data content
- Large image files
Avoid heavy use of jargon or unclear terminology as they will confuse your visitors. Also it’s best to steer clear of overused words or clichés, as the visitor will be tired of reading the same hackneyed phrases and may not believe you have anything original to offer.
It’s also worth considering typography – in particular casing and hierarchy.
A Title Set In Title Case Is Harder To Read Quickly – for example. And use uppercase sparingly! It’s fine if you want someone to ACT NOW or as a header, but too much and it not only becomes harder to read, it just looks unprofessional.
Consider fonts too – serif and sans serif are easier to read in larger blocks, try using a lighter font in larger size for headings than lots of bold text – save bold text for important end statements.
Make sure that if you have a lot of text, it is in bitesize chunks with sub headers and shorter paragraphs, as many people skim read. Consider using a summary too for longer pages.
5. Use the right imagery
Images can attract visitors to your site as long as they fit the theme of your site’s message. While some photos can cost money, there are also a lot of images that are available for free online. Just avoid using stock photos that don’t fit in with your site’s theme.
The best option is to use real photos of your company and staff. Your visitors will be able to relate better to you as a customer-facing company, and imagine themselves dealing with actual people. Overall these type of images bring realism to your site and will enhance your entire website design and content.
6. Use the right colours
Using the right colours can stir the right emotion from your visitors. Colour is powerful for attracting visitors and each one across the spectrum has specific meaning and association:
Red – For many people this stands for:
Orange – This colour generally symbolises:
Yellow – This is also a happy colour representing:
Green – This particular colour represents:
- Healing (for this reason, hospitals prefer using green in their facilities).
Blue – This is a cool colour symbolising:
- Dependability (many business-orientated companies adopt this colour).
7. User-friendly navigation
When it comes to creating great web design, a user-friendly navigation menu is a primary requirement. Think of the navigation as a map that leads users to pages they can visit.
If the site is disorganised or the navigation interface is confusing, visitors may opt to leave. A well-designed navigation bar should have:
- Streamlined content
- Proper navigation hierarchy
- Intuitive controls
By improving the site’s navigation, visitors can find what they need more quickly. It’s vital to engage site visitors instantly, as there always remains the prospect that they will head to a competitor’s website that offers a better user experience.
8. Introduce scrolling to your site
Over the years, the generic style of websites have changed. Many leading companies now prefer to deploy a longer homepage format that involves scrolling through around 3-5 sections. This approach holds visitors’ attention and offers them the key content they seek, all in one place. Given too that mobile browsing is widely popular, users find scrolling intuitive and it delivers to your visitors a seamless experience. With more extended sections in this format, you can add some essential elements like:
- About us
- Case studies
- Product / services
- Value proposition
9. White space is your friend
Cluttering your site with every possible element isn’t going to help your business. Instead, consider leaving some whitespace to help clear up your page and improve readability. Blank spaces can also give your site a clean look.
10. Website load speed
Websites that are slow to load will inevitably have problems attracting visitors. Studies show that sites with four seconds of loading time may cause 1 out of 4 visitors to leave. It’s a waste to go to all the effort of creating a great website to then lose potential customers simply due to a slow loading time.
So how can you optimise your site for speed? If you want a fast loading site, consider reducing the amount of data and photos on your website. Also, removing any unneeded clutter will make the site load faster. There are handy online tools available that you can use to check your site’s speed.
11. Mobile access is a priority
You have probably heard about Google’s priority for mobile sites. The search engine will check a site’s mobile version before the desktop version. There’s a reason for this shift. As of late 2106, more people are using mobile devices to access the internet and most of these users are part of the younger generation.
This means that there’s now a need to design a site that is optimised to look good on mobile devices. At the same time you need to make the site intuitive and easy to navigate.
12. Lead them to your landing page
Convince and guide readers to visit your landing page, by:
- Focusing your marketing efforts on a specific target market
- Providing them with a relevant enticement
- Creating a form that’s easy for prospects to complete
- Matching the headline with your promotion ads
- Establishing a level of trust
- Writing an intro paragraph that’s descriptive and short but persuasive
- Using bullet points to list all your product or service benefits
- Writing a CTA that can compel users to take action
- Introducing a sense of urgency
13. Including social media / social proof
Posting your site’s link and online content in social media can help to build your brand online. As your brand awareness increases then so could your website traffic and reputation.
Also, the more compelling your social media posts, the higher the chances that people will share them via blogs, forums, and various social networks.
Social proof is an excellent way of boosting customer confidence. By sharing certain opinions, you can engage other people to share theirs and help to persuade them to buy your product or service. So ensure to add customer testimonials and reviews from your social accounts into your site.
If you wish to include comments on the website:
- Post the testimonials in a spot that’s easy to find and read. Just don’t let it overshadow your call-to-action.
- Consider including a picture of the quoted customer (if they permit it). By putting a face, the site can build trust with the users.
- Choose a font that’s legible and easy to read. For example, website users prefer Georgia, Helvetica, PT Sans, PT Serif, Verdana or Open Sans.
You could also include other proof like a best-sellers section.
14. Calls to action
A call-to-action (CTA) is either a word or short phrase that’s designed to make the reader take action. Visually, we can see it in the shape of a button, image, link or clickable object. You can use the CTA to convince readers to:
- Read an article
- Download a report, e-book or file
- Purchase a product or service
Here are nine effective techniques to make your CTA work:
- Website visitors often notice a CTA at the top of the page. However, you can also place it at the bottom if you place enough directional cues.
- Be brief and straight to the point.
- Use verbs that can compel users to accept your invitation (eg, ‘discover’, ‘get’, or ‘download’).
- Add a sense of urgency to prod users to take action (eg, ‘today’, ‘here’, and ‘now’).
- Tell users how they are going to benefit.
- Design the site to guide users to your Call-To-Action, eg, surrounding the CTA with white space to make it stand out.
- Minimise the use of pop-ups and long animation to avoid annoying your users.
- Add a CTA to every page on your website.
- Check the CTA’s effectiveness by running A/B tests.
15. Keep SEO in mind
Make your URLs readable
- Use the URL to describe your website Start by using a static URL instead of a dynamic one. A Static URL looks like this, domain-name/page/web-design-steps. Meanwhile a dynamic URL is harder to read, domain-name/page/?s=18635. For SEO purposes, Google finds it easier to ‘remember’ a static URL than a dynamic one.
- Hyphens (-) over underscores (_) – Google has a funny way of reading words separated by underscores. For example, Google will read web_design_tips as ‘webdesigntips’, which is hard to understand.
- Make sure that the URL is descriptive, relevant and brief.
- Add at least one keyword in the page URL.
Create content that will appeal to your target audience
Search engines use the URL’s age to rank your site. So if you’re posting a blog every six months, your site may find it hard to rank.
Create content that will appeal to your target audience
To attract your target audience, you need to create content that engages them. Before writing your content, start developing your buyer persona and publish content that will matter to your audience.
Ensure your target market will understand the content
Provide a clear structure for your conversational content. Consider using titles, headings, as well as fonts and bullets points in your web design.
Plan and implement a content strategy
You need a strategy for creating and publishing your content. To decide what content to provide and its frequency, consider setting an editorial calendar ( a content schedule of when to produce and deliver work to your clients). Remember, you can also create content through blogs, social media, emails, newsletter, and other forms.
Write like a human
Having a great topic isn’t going to help if your content doesn’t appear natural. This means you should write your article as if you’re talking to another person.
Help search engines find your content
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo can automatically find and index your content. However, it’s best we give them a helping hand by listing pages and posts within an XML sitemap.
Block/no index unwanted pages from search engines
There are specific pages that you don’t want search engines to index, like server-side scripts, duplicate or test pages. To keep search engine spiders away, consider using a robots.txt.
Use image alt text attributes
Alt text attributes are word descriptions that users will see in case the browser can’t load the image. Since search engines consider alt attributes relevant in ranking image-based searches, consider adding this attribute to all images in your website.
Use compelling meta data
Meta descriptions are short paragraphs displayed under the page title on the search engine results page (SERP). Use this opportunity to introduce your brand before users even click to your site and see the product or service you offer. The optimal length should be between 150-160 characters.
Use heading tags correctly
Search engines often place a high value on heading tags second only to hyperlinks. Also, they also indicate the degree of the content’s importance. For the main topic, use the Heading 1 tag (h1) whilst using Heading 2 and so on for your sub headings. Make sure to use only one Heading 1 in a page.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Most successful websites adopt common standards like W3C. So, follow their example if you want to improve your SEO ranking and get search engines to index your pages.
Research for relevant keywords and use them properly
There are three different keyword types:
- Generic – These keywords are nonspecific and general eg, ‘web design’. They can generate high traffic although not very targeted. Also, these keywords are competitive.
- Broad match – These search terms gives you a balance between traffic volume and relevance. For example, ‘web design best practices’. Since these phrases are better targeted, you have a higher chance of converting site visitors to become your future customers, subscribers or followers.
- Long tail keywords – They are long phrases or whole sentences eg, ‘how to increase traffic through web design’. Using these types of keywords won’t get you a lot of traffic, however those who visit will more likely buy your product or engage your services.
Get rid of duplicate content
Sometimes your site may contain the same content on multiple URLs. Consider avoiding such instances because it can seriously affect the website’s ranking. While it’s understandable to have the same product on different web pages, there is an important feature you can use that will help your SEO. The Canonical Tag is a way of informing search engines that a specific URL represents a page’s master copy. Using this tag also prevents duplicate problems by telling search engines which URL version will appear in the search results.
Consider linking your content to internal pages
Aside from content, internal links are the most important SEO element. They point to other pages in the same domain and are often used in the navigation menu. They are also useful because:
- Visitors use them to navigate within your site
- Provide information hierarchy for the website
- Provide more authoritative links on the site
Link your content to other websites
Linking your site to other websites is an effective promotion technique to let more people know that your site exists. As you provide quality content, people whose work you shared will likewise be more willing to promote your site. Link building is more than exchanging links but about creating and maintaining relationships.
17. Constantly test your new designs
Even after completing your website, you will likely have to keep updating the site, adjusting both content and technical elements. Frequent and recurring issues may include:
- Outdated information
- Obsolete design
- Design changes
However, when it comes to design, you may have trouble deciding which works best for your site. Using A/B tests, you can help determine which design works best based on the user’s feedback.
By following all the above steps, you can develop a site that will both attract and engage users, helping to build your brand’s visibility and create more leads.
It takes a real concerted effort in terms of conception, preparation and execution. Plus, there isn’t a one size fits all approach you can use. Every company’s product or service together with its target audience’s needs are different. Try to be patient and don’t expect to get the best results with your first try. It may take several experimentations before your site gains the level of enquiries or sales you set out to achieve.