You’re getting your business off the ground and one important marketing essential is to have a website. After all, this is the best place for customers to learn more about your company and the best place for them to get in touch with you. Just like the rest of your marketing materials, your website needs to be well thought out and well designed to serve the needs of your target market.
Here are a few key items you should be thinking about as you start designing your site.
Know your purpose before you start.
What is the purpose/goal of your site? Who is your target audience? What kind of content will you be sharing with your customers? It’s a good idea to create an outline of the goals and content that you’d like to have on your site. This will give you an idea of what your navigation should be as well as what kind of page layouts you will be designing.
Note the five-second rule.
You have approximately five seconds to catch your user’s attention and explain the value of your services as a user enters your site. If you aren’t meeting your user’s needs and expectations right away, you risk them clicking the dreaded “back” button to leave your site in search of someone else who can give them what they’re looking for. You can grab and hold their interest by having a good, clean design with compelling content and photos that quickly and effectively get your message across.
Say what you mean.
The most effective way to deliver your key message is to be clear, concise and direct with no more than a few words to get the point across. It comes back to that five-second rule. If you have more information to convey, use internal linking to lead the user to related information across your site.
De-clutter your design.
Your design should be clean and easy to navigate. Don’t be fooled into believing that you need to utilize every inch of space to cram information on a page. In fact, you should be doing just the opposite. Don’t be afraid of white space! White space prevents the visual overload that can cause users to leave a site.
A good design will lead your users to the information you want them to see. It’s like building a map for your users to follow: If they fall off track it should be easy for them to get right back on. Your design should create a positive experience and make the user want to return.
Cluttered and Hard to Read. Badly Organized Content.
Clean and Simple Design. Organized Content.
The design of your site should align with your existing brand standards. Just as you have brand standards for your logo and other marketing collateral, you should have brand and design standards for your website and any other digital marketing channels. Things like image sizes, alignment, headers, fonts and colors should all be consistent throughout your site in harmony with the brand you are promoting.
Let pictures help tell the story.
Invest in good photography. Photos help to emotionally connect your company with the user, keeping them engaged and present on your site longer.
Be mindful to use audience-appropriate photos. If you’re a veterinarian looking to gain new patients, incorporate images of people with their pets throughout your site. If your target market is K-12 community members and parents use images of happy, engaged students in a classroom environment. Don’t just put photos of puppies and kids on your B2B technology site because you think they’re adorable. That would likely confuse your potential customers and could sabotage your brand credibility.
Emphasize important information.
The most important information should be accessible from every page. Things like contact information, links to social profiles, a blog feed of your most recent posts or links to your latest portfolio projects. This kind of information can and should be placed in the footer.
Just say no to these quality-killers.
Avoid having one-paragraph (or worse yet one-sentence) pages. We recommend at least 250 words per page (not including the home page) for healthy search engine indexing and positive user experience. If you don’t have enough content to properly fill a page, consider combining that content with another page. If all of your pages are extremely short, think about designing a one-page site.
Conversely, avoid text-heavy pages. If you have a text-heavy page, it is recommended that you break up the content by using graphics (images, graphs, icons etc.) that are relevant to your content. This helps keep the reader engaged as well as gives users a visual break and more time to digest the loads of information you’re sharing on the page.
Avoid center alignment. You should never center align your text. Exceptions to this rule are headlines and single line image captions. Even then you should think about the layout and flow of your page and determine from there whether center alignment is appropriate or not.
DCSD Before: Note the use of the center alignment which throws the eye off and makes the content difficult to follow. The page also contains little content but many additional internal links to content related to the department.
DCSD After: In the redesign of this site you can see that the alignment is consistent (left justified), which is easier on the eyes. There are fewer links on the page and content is organized into tabs making it easier for the user to navigate.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, understanding and exercising these key points will help you get on the right foot to designing a great website.