The modern internet user—and indeed any customer most likely falls into this category—is increasingly selective about which websites make the cut for their increasingly short attention span. As such, a well-designed website is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for your business’s online presence.
This might not come as a surprise, because you will most likely be already scrutinising every website you visit on a daily basis, even if it’s not a conscious effort. Your customers are no different. If a page takes too long to load, you click off and try elsewhere to find out what you want to know. If you feel like a link has taken you to an irrelevant landing page, you’ll do the same thing, and most likely mark a big red cross in your mind through ever giving your business to that company if they’r making those mistakes at this early stage of the customer journey.
Streamlined Web Design is Far From Simple
Some principles of good website design are intuitive, or at least they make sense once we understand how a customer interacts with us online. But others might not be so obvious. Muddying the waters further still, there are infinite resources out there offering conflicting points of view, so that for the average business owner, working out the web design tactics that will be most effective for them is no easy feat.
On top of that, this is a field of knowledge and expertise that is evolving at a phenomenal rate. If there is one truth in online marketing, it is that your work is never done, and you can never know too much.
The Benefits are Well Worth the Effort
However, there is so much to be gained from taking the time to learn the ropes, and implementing your learning into a cohesive, fluid, and punchy website which is easy to read, easy to find, and tells visitors what they want to know. Not only will your profits boom, but you’ll be nurturing the more long-term reputation of your business, and not to mention boosting your connection with your customers.
So what considerations should you cover in your web design strategy, in order to see these lasting results?
Three Elements that Underpin Your Web Design
Designing with conversion in mind is absolutely fundamental to see the results you’re looking for. In this case, conversion means ‘converting’ your website visitor into an actual potential customer.
A call to action, where you encourage your visitor to do something—like pick up the phone, fill in a form, or book an appointment—is the only way that you can reliably take them from just a number to a real life lead. In simple terms, it transforms them from an abstract concept to a tangible lead.
This is one of those intuitive elements mentioned earlier on: if you want someone to do something, all you have to do is ask them. But too often this crucial step is overlooked or neglected altogether. Maybe the button to make a purchase is too small or hard to find. Perhaps the reader wants to know more information, but you’re not offering them a pathway to do so.
Go through your site and put yourself in the shoes of customers who might want different things. What if your visitor owns a business, and wants to make a wholesale enquiry? What if they want to know about shipping to their country, or are only thinking about your product and instead want to receive your newsletter every month so that they can be gently coaxed into a sale?
Designing with conversion in mind needn’t obstruct a clean and visually engaging design. Some elements you might want to consider include:
- Creating engaging landing pages led by bold imagery. A picture tells a thousand words, and is a great way to communicate without asking too much attention from a browsing visitor.
- Using directional cues to help your reader find important information quickly. Humans tend to read left to right, in a ‘Z’ shape. If you want them to scroll below the fold, you’ll need to indicate that this function is available to them, but keep in mind that this is not the area to house your most crucial information and functionality.
- Embracing cohesive design across your entire website. That involves everything from layout, to colour scheme, to the tone of voice in your copy. Without this connection, your reader will feel like they’re talking to a different person or business on each page, and won’t form that trusting relationship with you.
User-friendliness, often called user experience or UX, is equally as important as conversion when considering how your site will come across. Consider the five basic tenets of good user experience—or how easy it is for your visitor to use your site.
How easy is it for someone to reach your site in the first place, and once they’re there, can they find the information they want in just a few clicks? If they want to know your opening hours, where you’re located, if you stock a certain product, or how to get in touch, is that all immediately obvious from your home page or landing pages? The navigation bar along the top of your site should have short headings, and drop downs if need be, that clearly direct any visitor to where they want to go.
Reading on a screen is different to reading on paper, and reading on a phone is different to a tablet, or a desktop. Your text should be clear, ideally black on white, and sans serif for best results. Make sure slabs of text aren’t anywhere to be seen—either break them up withe headings and white space, or better yet, learn how to say more with fewer words.
It’s imperative that your page loads in five seconds or less, including images and graphics. Any longer, and your visitor won’t stick around.
Minimal is best, always. Uncluttered pages, logical ordering of content, and a single message or call to action per page. Humans are wired to appreciate these things, even if we don’t consciously realise it.
The type of device through which someone views your site impacts much more than just your text readability. Responsiveness means that your site—everything from layout, to amount of information—adapts according to the screen it’s being viewed on. A desktop screen is landscape. A mobile is portrait, and around an eighth of the size. Your site has to look equally good on both.
Note that this is more than simply being ‘mobile-friendly’—being able to be viewed on a mobile. Responsive design totally rearranges how things look, and how your site is navigated. Your navigation bar might become a hamburger icon. Your grid gallery might become stacked. Your paragraphs of copy might become a single, punchy headline.
Responsiveness is not only of high importance to your human readers, but your robot ones as well. Search engines know that a responsive site is going to be better performing, and so prioritise it over non-responsive ones. With mobile search now far exceeding PC ones, you need a responsive design now more than ever.