Just how important is your website design? When users were asked to describe why they mistrusted a website, 94 percent of comments were directly related to the site’s design. A well-built website generates better customer traffic and an improved user interface leads to increased conversions.
Creativity is important, but there are some basic rules about design and user experience that will help you to grow your website. When creating or redesigning your site, keep the following suggestions in mind.
Gain Trust with a Clean, Engaging Website Design
In recent years, the digital design world has embraced simplicity, moving away from bells and whistles and focusing on the basics. From a user perspective, this has made websites easier to navigate for a more enjoyable experience. Incorporate these eight design rules into your website to better engage your audience.
1 Keep the layout simple.
The simpler your website layout, the better. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring, but it does mean it should focus on the essentials. Clean, functional layouts make your site easier to load, navigate, and use on different platforms and devices.
Harry’s entire website is only a handful of pages, with the most important information—plans and products—front and center. Makes it easy to engage with the content.
2 Make navigation easy to follow.
If you want visitors to spend time on your site, you need to make it easy for them to get around. You might be tempted to do something unique with your navigation menus design, but again, the simpler, the better. Making your menus standard in appearance is a way to make your readers feel comfortable when they land on your site.
Vogue has descriptive, prominent navigation menus to help you find and engage the content you’re looking for.
3 Use clear calls to action.
What is it that you’d like site visitors to do? Buy products? Sign up for an email newsletter? Donate to a cause? Think about your buttons. Design them in a way that makes them “pop” to a visitor scanning your website. And make sure the text on the button is short and direct.
World Wildlife Fund utilizes bright buttons alongside its navigation bar urging visitors to “donate” and “adopt,” along with strong calls to action throughout their content.
4 Remember that with content, less is more.
Use what you know about your visitors to minimize their options, and focus their attention on your content, products and ads. Show only the text and visual elements that need to be there––and nothing more.
Websites for mobile apps—like Pocket—tend to do a great job with this, focusing on explaining the app, strong calls to action to install it, and maybe some information about the company and a related blog.
5 Don’t be afraid of whitespace.
Whitespace is simply empty space on a page. It doesn’t have to actually be white—it just has to contain no text or images. If done well, it can enhance your website design and improve readability. White space can also help direct focus and attention; it provides a way to separate features and ideas so that visitors can discern exactly what you want them to see in a quick glance, rather than having to visually sort through a noisy and cluttered layout.
Google is the ultimate example of utilizing whitespace. It couldn’t be cleaner—just a blank page with a logo and a search box.
6 Enhance your website design with eye-catching colors.
Pick a color that will provide the foundation of your entire website design, and then choose a contrasting accent color for important buttons and other interface elements. Learn more about choosing the right color palette for your brand.
Whole Foods Market green for their primary website color, and the little pops of the secondary orange draw the eye toward featured content.
7 Incorporate attractive, easy-to-read fonts.
Also use an attractive type that is both visually balanced and unique in order to make your website text clear and intriguing. Four top trending fonts are Brandon Grotesque, Museo Sans, Railway and Playfair Display.
Belgian children’s clothing website Studio Aimee uses Brandon Grotesque for a clean, readable shopping experience.
8 Engage users with video and rich images.
Videos and images are more engaging than content alone—in fact, content with visuals can lead to a 100 percent increase in unique users. So use scalable images (SVGs) to ensure a high quality user experience on both desktop and mobile devices.
Nonprofit charity: water displays video front-and-center on their homepage, making it the first thing you see when you visit their website for maximum impact.
Keep Visitors Engaged with a User-Friendly Website
You can have the most attractive website in the world, but if it’s hard to use, your visitors won’t convert to customers. These seven rules will ensure your audience has a smooth user experience.
1 Make your website mobile-friendly.
Did you know that 80% of web searches are now done on smartphones? That means there’s a good chance that someone visiting your site for the first time is doing it on a mobile platform. And if the mobile experience is negative, you’ve just lost a customer. Learn why and how to make your website more mobile-friendly.
Everlane’s mobile shopping experience is clean, beautiful and easy to use. It includes calls to download the shopping app without making you feel like you’re getting a lesser experience on the website.
2 Streamline your navigation.
The more pages someone has to navigate on your website to find what they’re looking for, the more likely that customer will leave your site out of frustration. In fact, for an average website, 40 percent of visitors will leave after only seeing one page! Content shouldn’t be buried; don’t make your visitors hunt around for what they came for. Your navigation should be well-organized and logical from a user perspective. It should also feel familiar, so your users don’t have a learning curve.
Tilde Inc. has a simple navigation bar on the top of their website, with the important points linked below with a bit of explanation in the “What We Do” section, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.
3 Use calls to action to make things easier to find.
Think about where you can place buttons throughout your site to make the important things easier for visitors to find. If you’re an ecommerce site, having buttons that say “Shop Now” will have much more impact than a simple navigation link; if you’re a nonprofit, a “Donate” button alongside your navigation bar will make donating a breeze for visitors.
Square has a simple call to action “Start Selling Today” and the button reads “Get Started.” It doesn’t get much easier than that.
4 Give users robust search capabilities.
Thinking about both how visitors will search your site and how results will be displayed is equally important. The search experience should mirror your navigation experience with how results are organized. Incorporating features like auto-complete will make searching easier from a user perspective as well.
Zappos has a smart searching tool, which is highly accurate and also updates the filters on the left side based on search terms.
5 Break content up with section headers.
When dealing with content-heavy areas on your site, break it up with headers. Whether it’s an article or product description, headers give your content structure and make it easy to scan.
Tory Burch blends fashion, shopping and storytelling all in one place, and the content is always readable, broken down into small chunks to make visitors more excited about the products.
6 Talk like a real person.
The more jargon and marketing-speak users have to decipher when they visit your website, the less likely they are to engage with your brand. A friendly, conversational tone will make it easier for visitors to read and understand your content, as well as navigate your site.
Zipcar makes their service easier to understand—and their site easier to navigate—with their easygoing brand voice.
7 Confirm your visitors’ actions.
If your visitors purchase a product from you, subscribe to a newsletter, or even share your content, a good practice is to display a confirmation screen that shows them their action went through successfully. It doesn’t hurt to use that screen to thank them, either.
TheSkimm congratulates and welcomes you after you sign up for their newsletter, with a prompt to share on social media.
Test Your Website before Launch
When launching—or relaunching—a website, there are always kinks that need to be worked out. It’s important to take the time to test your site and elicit feedback before it goes live.
1 Conduct Quality Assurance (QA).
If you have the resources, hire a quality assurance team. Their job is to test your site within an inch of its life (if web sites were alive.) If you can’t hire people specifically for the QA role, then have both internal and external individuals test your website prior to launch by clicking all links, filling out all forms and trying all services. Basically, if there’s something to do on the website, they should do it. That way, you can fix any bugs prior to launch.
2 Collect user feedback before you push your site live.
This is where your beta testers come in. Invite a select group to provide feedback on items like navigation, design and customer experience. You may not make changes based on all of the feedback you received before launch, but you may want to keep suggestions in mind for changes down the road.
Creating a website from scratch—even if you’ve enlisted an agency to help—is no small feat. We’ve created a handy 3 Steps to Creating an Engaging Website (PDF) checklist, so you can make sure you’re checking all of the important items off the list as you go.
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Last modified: December 15th, 2015