The Basics of Good Website Design
Website design is barely a couple of decades old, but in that time web technology has made dramatic advances. This has enabled remarkable functionality and flexibility when it comes to creating online user experiences.
This time is not unlike back in the 1980s, when the laser printer was introduced. This wonderful advancement gave everyone the opportunity to create documents with professional-looking fonts and smooth graphics. Overnight we saw an explosion of poorly-designed newsletters, flyers and ads. That’s because laser printers didn’t make people better designers. It just gave them better-looking fonts and graphics.
Fast forward to today. Now you can do just about anything you want with your web page designs. But that doesn’t mean you should.
The elements of good website design are the same as they always were: make it clean, easy to read, and intuitive. Make it easy for viewers to find and get what they want. And make the call to action clear. Basics.
So why do so many sites still get it wrong?
I can’t answer that question, but I can give you the proven formula for a well designed website.
The formula is, well, basic:
- Hire not only a good web programmer but a good graphic designer. Both should understand good user interface (UI) design – that is, how to make it easy for the viewer to operate your site. It’s really no different than designing a great product, like, say, an iPod.
- Make it so visitors can get to the information they want in the fewest number of clicks possible. Make it a game for yourself — how can you reduce the number of clicks to any page? And remember, in some cases, having redundant links are a good idea, as long as they are strategically placed to be visible and always at hand when the visitor wants them.
- Make the design clean and simple. Use lots of negative space. (Learn more about using negative space here)
- Treat your home page like a billboard. You have one second to get your main point across. Make your value proposition LARGE.
- Related to above, make it immediately clear what your company can do for the visitor.
- Provide additional value on the site, such as news that is truly interesting, helpful content (white papers, blog, etc.) and valuable offers (such as “Try it free now…” “Get this free tool…” or “Save 20% if you order this month.”)
- Whatever you put on the page, apply the “WIFM” principle: “What’s In it For ME?” If it doesn’t serve the customer, the customer won’t be interested in it, and you’ll essentially be wasting the customer’s time. People don’t like wasting time. They won’t come back.
- Make it very easy to know how to contact you. Put your email and toll-free phone number in a prominent place (the top and bottom of your site are good places) and make them stand out.
- Notice, we haven’t said anything about using Flash-animated sites, or the current rage, parallax design. That’s because Flash is often slower and takes longer to load, causing visitor frustration. It is also sometimes not as easily read by search engines the way that text-based sites can be. And parallax design, though interesting to look at when done right, can potentially interfere with your site’s SEO. Parallax websites don’t always work with mobile devices or with responsive design (auto-sizing for different size displays). Having a mobile-friendly site is an absolute must these days.
- Good web site design is just common sense, meaning, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to have a great looking, effective website for your business. Just carefully select the right team to implement it.
I came across this site for insidesales.com and was impressed by its great use of negative space, nicely structured grid system for page layouts, a very clean look, and strong value proposition and calls to action.
Take a fresh look at your current website. Look at it from the perspective of your customers. Better still, ask some of your customers and prospects to give you honest feedback about your site. Is it pleasing to look at? Easy to navigate? Simple to find what one is looking for? Is the value proposition clear?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” then it may be time to go back to the basics of good website design.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.