Web design: what you should know if you are not an expert
The story of any successful business starts with an entrepreneur, a good idea and the willingness to make it happen. However, if you want your idea to reach its designated audience, your company will need a website that can communicate its values and encourage users to interact with it.
We know that good design alone is not enough to create a successful website. As we have previously discussed in other articles in this series, implementing an effective SEO, content and conversion strategy is essential. This is not to say that design is not important. In fact, a friendly design can get a user to stay on a particular page or website and explore. Online and offline, first impressions set the tone for your company's relationship with consumers.
How do we find the right design?
There is no one way of creating a successful website, but there are a set of good practices we can implement to make sure that our team is developing a high-quality design.
First of all, we need to make sure that our company's platform provides the right answers to some of the questions users ask themselves, within the first few seconds of reaching our platform:
- Is this a credible website?
- Can I trust this company?
- Can this company offer high-quality services?
- Do I feel welcome on this website?
- Am I where I was supposed to be?
These rather intuitive questions can help us evaluate the website as a whole and make sure that users will not abandon our platform after the first couple of seconds. However, please keep in mind that, on average, website bounce-rates average between 30-60%, so don't get discouraged if your website's bounce-rate is higher than you expected. This doesn't mean that your team shouldn't strive to improve retention and fix any issues that might be scarring people off.
Here's what you can do in order to make sure that your company website engages users and encourages them to stay on the platform to learn more about your company:
1. Page loading time
40% of users abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load properly. In other words, regardless what spectacular animations you've included and how well you've managed to structure your content, a significant part of your target audience will never get to see all your hard work if your website doesn't load fast enough. That's why, despite their inherent wow-factor, Flash animations are to be avoided if you want to create a competitive online platform. It's also recommended to use large media files only when they are absolutely essential to getting your company's message across.
2. 100% Responsive
Before evaluating the quality of the design itself, we must first make sure that it can adjust seamlessly to both mobile and desktop screen-sizes and that it is properly displayed by the most important browsers on most devices. Presently, over 50% of online traffic is mobile traffic, so a website needs to be responsive in order to be truly functional.
3. Layout and colors.
When we think about design, we usually think about layout and colors. It can be all so tempting to choose bright, bold colors in an attempt to guide users towards certain pieces of information or just to build an entirely memorable website. However, this type of color scheme can in fact provide a rather unpleasant user experience. It's considered best practice to choose a neutral primary color and even a neutral secondary color, and to only use a single bright accent color in order to highlight important messages and buttons.
Although it might seem complicated, there are lots of tools available online that can help you develop a custom color scheme for your company's website. One of the most used tools is material.io . This platform was built by Google in order to help developers and designers embrace a then new style we now all know and love: Material Design.
Simplicity is also recommended when designing the layout itself. In other words, it is advised to provide clearly structured information and to use bold design elements only when more emphasis is needed. So, avoid including irrelevant details or adding to many animated effects.
Layout should be used consistently across the entire website, meaning that pages with similar content, like blog pages, should have the same layout. Of course, the layout of the home page or contact page can differ slightly, as long as it does not stray too far from the original design.
There are special rules that apply to certain types of websites. For instance, a company's presentation website will have a different layout when compared to a landing page designed for capturing leads. We've explored the connection between layout and lead generation in another article, so be sure to learn more if you are interested in building an effective landing page for your business.
Although creating different layouts is unavoidable and sometimes even advisable, in order to build a cohesive user experience, pages should always use the same design elements. Encountering the same colour scheme, button design, components (navigation, footer) and fonts helps users have a more predictable and comfortable experience.
Creating a website that is easy to read means more than just sticking to the most important information and trimming away excess details. It also means choosing the right fonts. Fonts are powerful design elements that can easily communicate what your company is about and even what type of industry it is a part of.
For instance, a company that wants to showcase its vast tradition in a certain field will probably choose a serif font, while a tech start-up will most likely opt for a modern sans-serif font. There's even been talk about font psychology, and we can definitely turn to these ideas when we feel that our company's website does not correctly portray company values.
After choosing our website's main font, another obstacle can present itself, that is if our design team decides to opt for using multiple fonts within the same project. A common design recommendation is to never include more than two fonts in a website's design. And it's also considered good practice to use these fonts for different types of information, one for titles, subtitles and other important information and one for website copy.
Although it might seem challenging to find the perfect font pairing, there's really no need for the marketing team to waste countless hours figuring out what works best. When inspiration is lagging behind, websites like font-pair.co and fontjoy.com can help you find a solution in minutes. There are a lot of resources available for those who want to learn more about typography and fonts, but if you're an absolute beginner, we recommend you start with this article that will help you understand the basic concepts.
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, so we'd better make sure that all pictures we upload on our company's website convey the message we want them to. According to a study published in 2011, stock images provided by online image databases such as ShutterStock and iStock are 95% less effective than images where real people are shown. If we consider the fact that stock images are designed to be as generic as possible, it's not at all surprising that companies using them to convey specific values and messages report poor performance. So, in order to harness the true power of images, it's advisable to use authentic pictures that truly represent your company and team.
Navigation elements such as buttons, arrow and menus usually appear so familiar that users use them without even noticing their design. However, they are crucial to building a truly functional website. A good navigation system helps users discover the information they need, helping improve retention rates. That's why it's important to keep everything simple and intuitive.
A basic, yet functional, navigation system should include: a main menu bar and a search bar at the top of the page, a footer that contains links to all the pages and breadcrumbs that help the user know the path to their current location. The decision to navigate from one page to the next should be as simple as possible, so make sure to never create more than three navigation layers within the same menu.
Web design is not an exact science, so there are never any guarantees that a particular design will perform as expected. However, by implementing the good practices described in this article your company's website will be off to a solid start. It all depends on how well your team ca customize all the available design elements in order to best communicate your company's values and goals to your target audience.
A good website design is not necessarily a design that has a flamboyant aesthetic, but one that manages to meet the expectations of its intended audience. And even a perfect design won't be perfect for long. It takes constant optimisation and perseverance in order to make sure that your company's website continues to evolve and keep up with the changing market. Are you ready for the challenge?