Your website is a static advert that customers will consider when deciding whether they want to go into business with your company or not.
It represents your brand and should therefore show off what your brand is all about and offer a positive experience for every user. As it’s out there for everyone to see, it should be something that you are proud of and what your users want.
I’ve worked on a number of web development projects and in doing so have identified a number of common errors made by webmasters when developing a website. These vary from opportunities missed to elements not executed well.
One very important factor in web design is clear channelling. Your site design should clearly illustrate to users the path they should naturally take through your site to get to where they want to be.
You want to make it very easy for a user to reach their ‘intent’, be it to convert or to gather information. If you’re making it difficult for them, what’s stopping them from going to a competitor?
Quite often web designers get lost in ‘what looks pretty’ and forget ‘what works best for the user’. Design for your user and their intent – the rest should come afterwards.
So how can you clearly channel intent?
Get your conversion optimisation up to scratch with clear and unique CTA’s, buttons and navigation, all designed with the user in mind. Compliment this by continually asking what users are coming to your site for, and provide that valuable information, product or service offering where applicable. You can do this by looking at the search queries that brought users to your site within Google Search Console, and then build on this, amending it gradually for continuous improvement.
Ideally you should have one goal per page: when you’re looking at a page, you want to be able to answer ‘what is the goal of this page?’. If you struggle to answer this yourself, how is your user supposed to know? Users will struggle to make a decision when they’re given too many options.
Decide what each page’s goal should be before filling the page with content and styling, as this will save you time in the long run. Work out whether this is a learning resource, or whether you want users to sign up to contact forms or encourage a purchase.
By ensuring you have one set goal for each page this will improve time on site, bounce rate and other key metrics that help you assess site performance.
Whilst your call to action is arguably one of the most important components of any page, its position and the space around it is almost as vital as the CTA itself. Make sure there’s a big enough space around the CTA so that it stands out; if you clutter this up, your message will be lost and users will be less likely to convert. Remember: the more space there is, the more the CTA will stand out for the user.
Site spacing is probably one of the most important aspects of your website. White space is vital – a bit of simplicity never hurt anyone and some colour also wouldn’t go amiss. I’m not suggesting that web design should work against SEO (i.e. you must have some content above the fold) but I just mean it should look appealing. After all, your website says far more about you than a business card ever will. Your site is an open book that users will judge to assess whether they want to work with you or buy from you.
There are numerous sites that have failed because users either can’t understand how to use it or they can’t be bothered to work out the snazzy navigation the web developer has worked tirelessly to put in place. Either way, this isn’t going to help users navigate your site or helps drive conversions.
To ensure that visitors find your site easy to use, I recommend running some simple usability tests with a small number of people from your target demographic(s). Just ask them to perform a few simple tasks on your website, such as navigating to one of the main service pages, sending an enquiry through the contact form and downloading a white paper, for example. You may find there are some surprises to help you realign some of your site’s navigation to make it clearer for users to understand.
With accessibility in mind, managing content correctly is also an extremely important aspect to consider when building a website.
The importance of content on a website can often be overlooked in favour of web design. From an SEO perspective, this is detrimental as you’re missing an opportunity to provide relevancy for certain keywords to crawlers. From a user perspective, you’re not giving them much reason to stick around on a website.
All too often I have seen websites with next to no content and it just makes no sense. If you’ve worked hard to create a website, why wouldn’t you enrich it with content that’s going to help you build links, engage audiences and enable your company to excel in your field?
Get to the point quickly and concisely, your user won’t stick around for very long to try and find what they’re looking for. The more concise the content of your website is, the quicker the user can decide whether you’re offering what they’re looking for.
On the flip side, content is often ignored when there’s too much waffle.
I can’t stress enough how important good images are for your site. They allow you to say less in a simple and effective way. Branded images are a definite bonus, as are images of staff members to help build trust in the brand and to allow users to relate to your company and even see themselves working with you.
It’s also advisable to use a vector image for your logo so that it isn’t distorted regardless of screen size – there’s nothing worse than a low-res, pixelated logo. To me, this instantly sends alarm bells telling me not to trust the site as it’s such an easy fix, so why wouldn’t you just do it?
Good images will sell your product or services, while bad images will do the opposite. There are so many royalty-free sites now, so there’s no excuse to not use these resources to your advantage.
Using photos and videos in the right way will help transform your content from a word-heavy page to an appealing page that’s broken up and engages users.
Although I mentioned this earlier from a channelling perspective, you should also avoid clutter from a content perspective. Having a page that’s covered in images and text can be daunting for a user visiting your page for the first time, and they’re likely to bounce back to the previous page.
Make sure you’ve got a page with a nice balance of text and white space, as this will make it easier for your user to digest information and will also increase the likelihood they’ll engage or take the desired action.
Whilst including contact details clearly on your site is an essential trust signal, it also helps the user get in touch, alleviating the user’s confusion with important CTAs.
For the most clear and consistent layout, I recommend including your company phone number within your site header and your full business address within your footer.
If users can see that your company is legitimate and easily understand where to find more information, they will be more likely to perform each page goal that, in turn, will help generate site revenue and enhance your return on investment.
I’m not sure I believe that anyone’s site is beyond optimisation, but if you feel you’ve done all of the above then awesome – you’re well on your way to a site that’s optimised for your users in terms of usability and the overall look and feel. As it’s out there for everyone to see, it should be something you are proud of. My main tip from this post is:
Look to continually improve your site, and make sure it is designed for your user and what they want
If you think of any other web design features that I should have included, please comment and let’s chat about it. Alternatively feel free to ask me a question on Twitter via @Sally_Newm.