Every business needs a website – whether you are an online e-commerce business or a local brick and mortar entity.
With most of your customers and future markets online, it would be foolish to not open your doors to your business in the digital space.
And for that, you need a good website that helps inform new visitors about your business and also drive conversions, and sales while building engagement.
These days, it’s become quite easy to create DIY websites with so many platforms offering easy editors and applications to develop and create your own website.
But is your website really that effective?
Perhaps you missed out on some really important elements of good website design which stops your website from performing and bringing you the results you want.
To help you create an effective website we talk to 10 web designers about the important aspects of a good business website.
- CLARITY ON THE INTENT OF THE WEBSITE.
Laura Stinson, Artist & Web Designer, www.dblaura.com
“Making the intent and purpose of your website clear from the moment a visitor lands on it is paramount. Why? On average, a person spends less than 8 seconds on a new website. It takes them only 3 seconds to decide if they like your website’s design.”
Website designs must grab the attention of the audience from the get-go and if it doesn’t you have lost a potential client or customer in less than 10 seconds.
The internet is full of information and the audience doesn’t have the time nor do they have the attention span to sieve through a website which does not make its intent clear either through content or design.
It not difficult to make your intent clear and let your website visitors know what you are offering nor do you need large blocks of text to explain things. A few specific keywords relating to your business, products or services will do the trick.
Laura explains, “The headline and sub-head for my homepage are the following: “Creative Services for Creative Entrepreneurs — In the Business of Creativity”. Immediately, you get a sense of what I do and who I serve. My copy is short and to the point, and then I highlight 4 major areas of my site, including services, products, and freebies.”
Laura’s tips on how to make sure your visitor knows the purpose of your website without a lot of searching:
- Identify the keywords that work for your market and your services, and use them.
- Save your introduction for the about page (and even then, keep it short) — 99% of your website is about your visitors and what you can do for THEM.
- Keep your copy concise; people are not interested in reading long blocks of text unless it’s for a purpose like a blog.
- Think “above the fold” — the area of your web page that a visitor sees without having to scroll – this is where the most important information should be.
- Don’t be “cutesy” — be clear. You don’t want to confuse your website visitors.
- EASE OF USE
Elise Epp, Graphic designer, www.eliseeppdesign.com
“Making a website easy to use is at the heart of every design decision. You aren’t making a website as an art piece, so if you want people to find the information they need, your website needs to be user-friendly.”
A good website design will balance both form and function, making it easy for the end user to intuitively know where to go and what is required of them to navigate the website.
If a website looks great but lacks functionality, it’s as good as having no website at all.
People come to your website for a reason – to access information, communicate with your brand or to buy your products. They really don’t have the time to spend learning how to navigate your website and how to get things done. Most often they would leave your website and not be bothered with it again.
So does functionality come before appearance?
Well, yes it does! If you can’t provide seamless functionality on your online presence you have failed to give your user a good user experience (UX).
Elise’s quick tips on making your business website easy to use for your audience:
- Clear out the navigation and make each link absolutely clear – this isn’t the place to show your creativity!
- Have no more than 4-5 items in your main menu. It’s harder to make a decision when there are more options and you don’t want to give your visitors decision paralysis. When you have just a few menu options, visitors can quickly see their choices and pick which one is right for them.
- Have too many links? Put them in a footer menu or within the page content.
- SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Rose Victory, Digital Media Specialist, www.ettumedia.com.au
“SEO (and its sister SEM) are highly specialized art forms and, of course, an essential part of online marketing these days. When it comes to SEO as part of web design, a successful site is one that finds a balance between being an experience that is great for the people you want to engage with, and being a bunch of code that gets search engine crawlers excited.”
SEO is the most important aspect of website design – it’s not something you tackle at the end of the development stage.
“It needs to be part of the planning process with every design or redesign”, emphasises Rose.
You may have a great looking website but if it fails to deliver what it is meant to do – bring traffic to your website – then you will be struggling with marketing which will be a disadvantage.
An SEO website will allow search engines to crawl and read your content and pages on your site. The more easily your website can be crawled by search, the more visible you will be.
A well-structured SEO website begins with careful planning and research, but implementing SEO into website design can be hard for most businesses.
Take a look at Rose’s tips on implementing SEO into your website design:
- Start by focusing on quality over quantity, keeping things simple and taking care of the basics by having useful, relevant and appealing content that engages the audience.
- Keyword research is great for helping shape content, but keyword stuffing is never a good idea – it can be hard on a reader and the crawlers ( search engines like Google) have caught on to how this is being used and abused.
- Keeping things simple – strip away all extraneous content to focus on what’s important for your users.
- Make sure that there is no redundant code for the search engines to wade through. Clean code is the best.
- Have a well-structured site that includes a sitemap, utilizes good naming conventions for every page and piece of content, and also pay attention to details like alt text on images, titles on links and meta-tags.
- Finally, while SEO is important and the crawlers are getting smarter, it’s also important not to get so obsessed with statistics and rankings that you lose sight of your target audience and what your business is all about. Be awesome at what you do and if SEO isn’t your thing, then outsource.
Rita Morales, Branding and Business Design specialist, www.ritamorales.com
“I had to learn this the hard way but if you do not have a brand then designing your website will be extremely challenging. I remember trying several different designs but nothing felt right until I got really deep and specific with my own branding.”
Branding is essential for any business to survive, thrive and succeed. For most people, branding means choosing the theme colors of your business or website.
But branding is more than just that.
It encompasses your whole business from your business philosophies, your products, and services to specifics like color, themes and corporate identity designs.
Fundamentally, it is the perception your customers have when they hear about your business and your products and services.
Branding also extends into your online presence and is one of the key elements in your website design.
“I do think it can be challenging for someone to define their own brand because they are so close to it, but it is possible,” says Rita.
Building a brand takes time and calculated effort. Your whole marketing strategy rests on your brand. You don’t want to take the process of branding likely and should invest time in brand-building. This includes how your brand is represented on your website.
Rita gives us the following advice:
- My advice is to really think about that ONE person that you want to serve. Make your website and services to speak directly to them. The colors, fonts, graphics, and words should all be geared to appeal to and attract that person.
- A lot of people are afraid to narrow down too far for fear that they will repeal potential clients but by being very specific with who you are helping will, in turn, make your business grow faster – Another lesson I learned the hard way.
- MOBILE WEB
Dannielle Icke, Creative Director at Isshoni Creative, TAFE SA lecturer, www.isshonicreative.com
“With so many portable devices such as mobile phones and tablets, more people are accessing the internet via these devices while out and about. It’s important for small businesses to understand that there are multiple brands, operating systems and screen sizes with portable devices and building a website is not as simple as making sure it works on a desktop computer. “
This means that your website must function not only on a desktop but on mobile devices too as users will use the few seconds they have to glance, browse and decide on whether they want to engage further with your brand or not. And if your website is not optimized for the web, they will lose their interest and you will lose their business.
Dannielle’s tips to optimise your website for the mobile devices:
- Before building a website it is important to fully understand the business background, the target audience the business would like to reach, and the objectives for the website. For example, is the website an online flyer or do you want it to engage the user with call-to-actions?
- When considering the build for a website, it’s important to build it with a ”mobile-first” mindset “. To think mobile first, you need to think about user experience. Don’t make the users deal with endless scrolling and find ways to engage or entice them to click through the website – without forcing them to click too much.
- What comes along with this is careful consideration of the content that is displayed on a mobile device and how it is displayed. A hierarchy needs to be developed. Then a plan can be established on how the website can adapt to larger devices.
- With the use of responsive web development, there is no need to create separate websites for mobile and desktop devices. Developers are capable of creating websites that adapt automatically to the devices they are being viewed on and are capable of showing and hiding content depending on the device, as well as changing the way the website acts on each type of device.
“Careful consideration of content and user experience is the key to the success of any business website. The engagement generated (or lost) is what determines the outcomes of the website, with the ultimate goal of turning the website user into a return customer”, concludes Dannielle.
- ANALYTICS IN WEBSITE DESIGN
Joel Brooker – Owner at JBE Digital, www.jbedigital.com.au
“The importance of analytics in web design and conversion rate optimization is huge for any business. It should be looked at when thinking of making aesthetical changes to your site or when designing your site completely. Having a sound understanding of how your customers navigate your website will set you up for future success”.
Great graphic design and UX is one thing in a website, but if you fail to make a website that is analytics-friendly, your website will not be able to deliver the analytics you need to make informed business decisions.
Analytics can tell you a lot about how your visitors and customers behave such as:
- How long are people spending on my site?
- When they arrive, are they going to the page you want them to go?
- If it’s an e-commerce site – where do your customers drop off sales or how do they check?
- Which pages on the site are most important (time on site, highest converting pages)?
Andy Crestodina, co-founder and the strategic director of Orbit Media Studios, offers these tips on designing a website which is analytics-friendly:
- Put your blog in its own directory.
- Make a page for each product, service, and topic.
- Post PDFs sparingly.
- Put thank-you messages on their own pages.
- Post contact forms, not email links.
To run analytics on your website, Joel suggests that at the minimum very business should have the following:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- If running Adwords – conversion tracking
- If running Facebook Ads – pixel installed with events set up
- IMAGES AND VISUALS
Genevieve Engelhardt, Digital Designer, www.genengelhardt.net.au
“Good imagery and visuals in website design are paramount. I find many websites, or business’ fail in this category. Having a great business and website can be made completely defunct by low-quality images in terms of actual pixel quality and also subject matter”.
Consumers are highly tuned into what is going on in the internet world including the quality of images and types of images used on websites, blogs, and other online content. Cheesy stock photography is an obvious deterrent for most consumers accessing websites.
Consumers like to connect with photographs and images that are relevant, high-quality and authentic- which translates into high conversions for your website.
With a lot of high-quality stock images available online it now much easier for people to find good quality photographs and images for their websites.
“Images with real people, real life or more candid shots that are relatable are great shots for websites to use – something that conveys the story or meaning of the website than just another nice photo”.
Genevieve’s top trends in images and visuals for website design:
- Card design and grid layouts (like Pinterest, Vice, Tumblr) – great for responsive design and websites with large amounts of information
- Unique brand-themed illustrations – The use of visuals which are unique to a brand and help make them stand out.
- GIFs and Cinematography – Have you noticed more websites are using moving images in the background of their websites? These moving backgrounds are called cinemagraphs, and if executed properly can be a great addition to a website as it captures attention immediately.
- Immersive storytelling has become bigger and bigger, with brands using elements such as social media, websites, imagery, videos and human interactions to sell their products. Immersive story-telling goes past just using a website to sell your goods and services; it also gets users to interact with your brand and visuals play a big role in this.
- Authentic imagery – It is the king of visuals that connect with your audience and tell your story. It should fit the persona of your users and form a connection with them. This applies to videos too.
- Asymmetry (no longer just using grids), Open Composition (floating elements somewhere just off the page) and use of clever typography in design.
- Use of bolder colors – actively attracts the attention of the users. The trend is growing as more brand move from safer colors to bolder colors particularly start-ups.
- Flat design – clean minimalistic designs are trending. This means the use of bold colors, lots of open space, clean and crisp edges and images that are authentic and relevant.
Cathy Topping, Designer, www.yourwebtoolkit.com
“Effective calls-to-action are one of the most important parts of website design. Your website is a marketing tool, and as such needs to take your visitors on a journey throughout your site. Your calls-to-action do this, as they are the way you tell people what’s the next step you want them to take”.
Besides providing direction to website users, calls-to-action also give focus to your website and enable you to measure the success of your website, business or offering.
While adding calls-to-actions on your website, you should focus on the value your calls-to-action provides to the users and you should also answer all their questions regarding the action you want them to take. For example, if you want them to book an appointment, let them know what you rate is for that appointment so that they don’t have to go through your website looking for it.
Cathy’s tips for effective calls to action are:
- Use a contrasting color so that they stand out from the rest of the content around them.
Use compelling language – ‘Join The Tribe’ or ‘Grab Your Blueprint’ rather than ‘Click Here’ or ‘Sign Up’
- Don’t crowd your pages with too many CTAs – too much choice is overwhelming, and people tend to take no action if they feel overwhelmed.
- USE A PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER
Jessica Budd, Firefly Web Design, www.fireflywebdesign.co
“If you’re serious about your business then it’s very important to get a professional designer to work with you”.
Your website is a marketing tool and the first point of contact for any business. This first impression counts starting with your website – not only how it looks, but a number of other factors such as the time it takes for the website to load, type and quality of images and visuals used, whether it loads well on mobile devices, how easy it is to use and many other factors which can ensure that your customers experience is a positive one.
Professional designers are aware of the latest trends and technologies and have the experience and skills to customise your website for your goals and objectives so that your website stands out and makes that statement it is meant to make,
Jessica’s advice on professional websites vs DIY ones:
- When you hire a professional web designer you’re not just paying for their time, you are paying for their years of knowledge and expertise. A skilled web designer knows which strategies to implement to reach your specific goals, as well as best practices to ensure your website is fast, search engine optimized, accessible and effective.
- DIYing is a good solution for hobbies and personal blogs, but if you want your business to be successful online you need to invest in the right tools. And your website is the most important online tool you can have.
- WEBSITE CONTENT AND MESSAGING
Kate Remmer, Branding and Design Alchemist, STUDIOKTR, www.studioktr.co.uk
“Great web design is just that – great design, but it won’t mean anything if you don’t have a strong brand behind it. The only way to sell products or services is by connecting to your audience. The only way to connect with your audience is through their emotions. You can do that by creating a very consistent, cohesive and clear branding strategy”.
“I get clients coming to me time and time again, knowing they need a website, but thinking that they can just put whatever information they want into it and then they’ll just start selling”, adds Kate.
Good content is what makes your website successful by delivering the right message to the heart and soul of your users. All other content elements like design and visuals play a secondary role to support the message in your content.
Because good content is so valuable for the success of your website and your marketing for that matter, you should consider hiring a professional copywriter who has the skills and the know-how to write content for the purpose of marketing by writing clear, concise and customer-centric copy.
Good content sets your brand apart and unifies all the various elements of your brand – from brand colors and corporate identity to the goals, values, and philosophies of your business.
Kate’s advice on content and messaging:
- To nail down your brand strategy and your content, you need to create a personality for your business – give it human qualities if you wish to connect with other humans, and determine your core values.
- Determine your audience’s wants, needs, values, and fears.
- Develop your magnetic sentence (who you help, how you help them, why you help them, what you help them with) and your services.
- Once you have a strong brand strategy and know your brand’s voice, you can then start to create your website copy and other copy and visual content.
- Keep your visual and verbal content consistent with your brand’s message and values. Consistency helps build your K-L-T factor (know-like-trust). This is crucial if you’re an online business and want people from around the world to trust you and buy your products or services.