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For quick insight, check out this video for the Top 5 Ways to Create an Effective Website Design! You can read our full article below for more details and download our FREE informative guide!
Steve Jobs famously said “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” That’s true of the hardware products Jobs brought to market over the course of his remarkable career, and it’s true for your website.
More than any other factor, the success of your website comes down to usability and utility, not simply visual design. Nothing happens on your site until a visitor takes some kind of action. You could create the most visually stunning and attractive home page in the world. But if users don’t click through to the next article, request a white paper or consultation, sign up for a newsletter, or in some way engage with your brand and ultimately identify themselves to you, your business won’t grow by a single new customer.
The purpose of your website is to get discovered, encourage first-time visitors to become repeat users, nurture those users into interested leads, and ultimately convert them into paid clients. Here are the top five factors you need to design into your website to effectively educate, engage, and convert new users into loyal customers.
# 1 – Fast-Loading Pages Are Essential.
According to a study by MachMetrics, as page load time goes from one to three seconds, the probability of a user exiting your site increases 32%. At five seconds the bounce rate goes up by 90%!
You have a limited window of opportunity to engage users when they first land on your site. Before you do anything else on your website, make sure your pages load fast. Here are some of the most common basic ways to shave precious seconds off of page-load time.
- Resize and compress images. Before you upload images, reduce them to the size you wish them to appear on your web page. Then use compression to further reduce the file size. Use the Smush plugin on your WordPress site, or other compression tools for non-WP sites.
- Use a streamlined mobile-optimized theme. First, your web pages will open faster. And second, mobile now accounts for up to 50-60% of all searches. If you design only for the desktop, you’ll miss out on half of all organic search traffic.
- If you currently use standard shared hosting for your website, consider the very modest cost to upgrade to managed shared hosting. Your website will be optimized for speed through personalized web caching rules and other performance enhancements. Bonus points: Your site will be much more secure, too.
# 2 – Make Navigation Easy.
Design your website navigation with familiarity, repetition, and accepted web conventions as your guideposts. People are creatures of habit, after all. If users can’t find a topic or figure out how to use a feature, that content or feature is wasted – and so is your opportunity to capture a lead.
The goal of your website is to collect clicks and signups, not awards for avant-garde design. Follow these navigation best practices to effectively guide visitors through the customer journey on your website.
- Be consistent. Your navigation links should look the same and appear in the same location on every page. A visitor should never have to think about how to get to any other page. A solid approach is to feature your navigation links in your home page header, then use the same header on every page of your website.
- Use clear, descriptive keywords unique to your business. These will instantly communicate your products and expertise. Those keywords also will drive search traffic, especially since they appear on every page of your site. Avoid terms such as Products, Services, and Solutions. They could apply to any website, and they won’t drive search traffic to yours.
- Show a limited number of menu items. Peoples’ short-term memory holds seven items. Limit the number of navigation links to make it easy for visitors to remember where they’ve been and where they want to go next. It’s also better for search engines: The more concise your navigation, the more “authority” is assigned to your linked pages, which helps those pages rank higher in search.
- Make sure visitors always know where they are. It’s reassuring and builds familiarity when users can quickly see where they are on your site. Highlight or color code the corresponding keyword in the menu bar, display the keyword in large type in the header of the individual interior page, and use breadcrumbs at the top of every article. An added benefit of breadcrumbs is they help search engines better rank your site.
- Make your navigation mobile friendly. You’ll find responsive designs and themes for every major content management system. A prominent hamburger menu icon is important on mobile devices to clearly highlight navigation links. Make sure the links themselves are large enough to tap easily on the small screen.
#3 – Communicate Clearly and Quickly.
Microsoft estimates you have roughly eight seconds to grab a person’s attention. For the record, that’s one second less than the nine-second attention span they ascribe to a goldfish. The upshot is, every page on your website must have a clear purpose, and you don’t want site visitors to have to think about it. The following suggestions will help reduce friction and enable users to explore your website free of any obstacles along the way.
- Go easy on text. Say what you need to say in the fewest words possible. Don’t bog down users with a lot of reading and thinking. (Obviously, we’re not talking about your blog page here.) Your home page and main article pages should be airy and quick reading. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. Eliminating unnecessary text not only forces you to communicate quickly and clearly, it also reduces clutter and makes your call to action (CTA) more obvious.
- Apply the rule of thirds. This design guideline is based on studies of how viewers’ eyes scan a photograph, painting, or web page. Imagine a big tic-tac-toe board superimposed on your laptop screen. The points where the lines intersect are the four hotspots on the page for capturing attention. Those hotspots determine where to place the most important elements of the design – your logo, a product shot, or a CTA.
- Leave plenty of white space. A cluttered, cramped web page causes the same apprehension as being stuck in a cluttered, cramped room. Leave sufficient white space (sometimes referred to as negative space) between the various elements on the page. The open area provides a break for the viewer’s eye and mind, and makes the important elements stand out.
- Make CTAs clear and obvious. Remember the main purpose of your website. Every call to action – whether to schedule a consultation, download a whitepaper, sign up for a newsletter, or make a purchase – must be instantly recognizable. Include some kind of CTA on every page of your site, in the same location on the page, with the same bold design. As with site navigation, rely on familiarity, repetition, and habit to drive more clicks on your calls to action.
# 4 – Collect User Data to Continuously Improve Design.
No website is ever 100% finished, as every day reveals something that can be improved. The best way to understand what works and what doesn’t is to watch how your visitors use your website. Then optimize around design features that produce the results you seek, and revise or eliminate design features that don’t.
For most of the design elements on your website, it’s fairly easy to run an A/B test. Here are some common candidates for testing.
- Website header design and layout.
- Site navigation.
- Headlines, images, and graphics used on home page or feature article page.
- Text links vs. buttons.
- Alternate layouts for article pages.
- Color schemes.
- Logo designs.
- The location, size, or color of your CTA button or graphic.
- The copy that accompanies your CTA.
- Images or graphics used with your CTA.
The methodology is simple enough, and the results are generally unambiguous. One group of people sees design version A, another group sees design version B. Whichever version produces the most clicks or engagement is the winner. That’s the version you use on your website.
You should always be A/B testing something on your website to keep your design elements fresh, and to keep trying to improve on previous results. In the end, the best design is the one that produces the desired outcome. Only the behavior of your website visitors can tell you that.
# 5 – Optimize Your Site for Mobile.
More than 80% of Americans own a smartphone. Nearly 60% of them say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. And Google’s search rankings now emphasize and reward mobile-friendly websites. It’s clear your website needs to be optimized for mobile. The good news is, it’s not particularly complicated to achieve that goal.
Compared to desktop searchers, mobile users tend to look for quick answers. They want the fastest, most efficient way possible to find answers to their questions. The objective of a mobile-optimized website, therefore, is to make the user experience lightning quick and foolproof.
Mobile-optimized web pages reformat themselves to fit smaller mobile screens. It’s not as simple as simply shrinking down your desktop website. To ensure the best experience and prevent glitches in the reformatting process, incorporate the following mobile-optimized design concepts into your website.
- Single-column layout. Mobile scrolls up and down, it doesn’t do sideways.
- A large, clear, obvious hamburger menu in the same spot at the top of every page.
- Simple navigation with large buttons or links.
- Sans serif fonts for easy reading.
- Type size should be 14 points minimum, 16 points works, too. That may seem large, but it’s necessary when the text is reduced for the mobile screen.
- Line spacing should be in the 150% range.
- Large graphics, well separated from text.
- Photos and graphics should have one main subject, close up. Avoid group shots, long-distance views, complicated charts and graphs, etc.
- Limit the need for typing. If you want to capture leads or signups, request bare-bones information only, such as an email address.
- Make your email and telephone clickable.
- All links should be large, obvious, and well separated from other clickable elements.
- Style text to look like a button using CSS instead of using button images. This ensures your “buttons” will always be visible, appear at the correct size, and preserve the critical text of your CTA.
You worked hard to build your business. Your website is a prime opportunity – perhaps your main one – to reap the rewards of all your time and effort. In addition to the technical requirements of keeping your site functional and secure, you need to optimize your website for efficiency in successfully guiding visitors through their customer journeys. A fast, friction-free, mobile-optimized website design is the most effective way to engage new users, nurture them into leads, and ultimately convert them to customers or clients.
READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP?
We have seen websites of all shapes and sizes, from brilliant to completely dysfunctional. Your site may live solidly in the middle of the bell curve in this regard, however that doesn’t mean your site couldn’t stand to benefit from some amount of modernization. Just like all other technology, the technology of websites is constantly evolving and changing. Often times, elements of a site which were highly effective when a site was built lose their effectiveness over time; and depending on the nature of your business, you may not even realize how significantly even a small issue can affect your business.
While it may be difficult to fully comprehend and validate the decision to move forward and modernize, it is important to keep in mind that time flies as it relates to technology and user expectations fly right along with it. Your website is a 24-hour, 7-day a week representation of your organization online. It needs to properly showcase your brand, your message and your mission. It should drive results, rather than hinder your efforts.