Designing your first website is a very exciting prospect. No one decision may impact the future of your business so profoundly as an amazing website design.
Since it is so critical to get it right there is a lot of things to consider. The purpose of this article is not to replace a professional designer but to help you to aid them in getting your design right. Often this comes down to proper planning, cooperation, and execution before the design phase begins. Remember “A great design changes everything!” and proper planning is one of the keys to a great design.
Using Visual Aesthetics & Usability to Enhance a Design: Visual aesthetics and usability also play a large part in the success of your website and will go a long way towards turning a first time visitor into a loyal customer. On average visitors will give your website about 1 ½ seconds to make a good impression so pay particular attention to the look and feel of your website when commissioning a design. They way a website looks is the first thing people notice about the site and as such it is vitally important. An unprofessional or amateurish design tells people that your company is not to be taken seriously and unfortunately people make these connections almost instantly. For this reason, there is no substitute for a high-quality design with excellent visuals and images. Too often we see companies invest large amounts of time and money into their marketing efforts only to try and skimp on images by using low-quality stock photos or clip-art. While it may be true that some stock images are ‘OK’ is that the impression you are trying to make? “Come buy my products or services; they are OK.” To stand out, you need to make an amazing first impression. Fortunately, it is not as hard as it seems.
We will assume that you have already created a strong brand for your company. If not please read our article on Branding 101 for more information. Once you have a brand that fits your company goals and industry all the visual design decisions you make for the website will be much easier to make. Choosing colors for your website is as easy as borrowing them from your brand. Your logo is also a key element in the design and should be prominently displayed near the top of the page to reinforce your identity. It is also very important to make sure that your name, a short slogan or motto, and up to date contact information is readily available on every page of your website. This way it is always at the forefront of people’s minds. There are many other factors such as font choices, white-space, balance, contrast and how they all fit together that affect the overall aesthetic of a design and therefore must be considered.
Usability is the Key to Success: Usability is very important to your website’s success. After all, no matter how beautiful it is if they cannot use it easily the site is not going to be very useful to your customers. Clear navigation of the website, with easy to find and understand products or services, is a top priority. Be very thoughtful about what you include and exclude in the main navigation; you should always group similar products into practical and logical sub-groups. This will streamline your navigation allowing the visitors to quickly find what their way around with no prior knowledge. One of the features you should consider having on your website is a fixed navigation bar so that as a visitor scrolls through each web page the navigation bar stays fixed in place at the top of the screen. This way they can always find their way around the site quickly and easily. After all what good is a website if you cannot find any of its content. Usability is not just about how a site is designed; it is also about the nature of the content. Product or service descriptions should be written in a way that your target customer will easily understand. In most cases, the language should be plain and simple to read. Remember if a visitor has a hard time understanding what your business can offer then they will simply move on to a competitor’s site. A clear call to action for the customer helps them to move the shopping process to the next step. This may be something as obvious as a “Buy Now” button next to a product, however sometimes our customers want to take some time with a purchase, and perhaps a newsletter sign-up would be the right step for them to take. There are other things to take into consideration also.
To create a consistent and easy to use site the design should be a “responsive web design.” This means that it uses modern technology so that it can adapt to almost any type of device immediately without any added steps such as downloading an app or switching to a mobile site. If they cannot read it on their phone or tablet, they will leave, and most of them will never come back. If you are selling a product, it is even more important because 47% of product searches are performed on mobile devices, and 90% of purchases take place across multiple devices like “phone to computer” or “tablet to phone.” If your design is not responsive, the end result is that you are going to lose a lot of sales. Responsive designs are far superior to mobile apps in other ways as well. For example, they will improve your search engine ranking because they follow Google’s recommendation for best design practice. Since Google controls 90% of all internet searches, it is easy to see how important this is to the success of your site.
Take Things a Step at a Time: Remember to take the process step by step and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Throughout the process of planning and designing your website remember, this is your online home. It should have a look and feel consistent with your company and industry, be easy to navigate and understand, and help your customers decide what’s next.