Whether you’re creating your own business website or hiring a designer, you should know the basics of what makes a site design work. Here are 10 tips that explain some simple web design principles.
Don’t choose colors randomly
Color selection is one of the first tasks in web design. If you already have a color logo, a lot of the work here is already done. Incorporating logo colors throughout the site strengthens brand consistency. If your logo has only one color, or if you don’t have a logo yet, there are some helpful online tools to help you chose colors. Kuler.adobe.com will provide you with several color schemes based on a starting color of your choosing.
Do make sure your text is readable
This doesn’t just mean make the font size large enough (although that is important).
It’s also important to have enough contrast between the text color and the background color for users who have difficulty distinguishing between similar shades. Colour Contrast Check is an easy-to-use online tool that can help you determine if your colors are WCGA compliant. So keep contrast in mind when selecting the main colors for your site.
Don’t use “mystery meat” navigation
“Mystery meat” refers to any navigation that is unclear or unlabeled. Here is the technical explanation of the term, first used by designer Vincent Flanders.
“…user interfaces (especially in web sites) in which it is inordinately difficult for users to discern the destinations of navigational hyperlinks—or, in severe cases, even to determine where the hyperlinks are. The typical form of MMN is represented by menus composed of unrevealing icons that are replaced with explicative text only when the mouse cursor hovers over them.”
This kind of navigation tends to happen because it allows for a cool animation or effect, or it saves space in the design. User friendliness is always more important. If visitors can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave in a hurry.
Do make sure it’s mobile friendly
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: mobile friendly design is important. You may have a great desktop site, but if it looks terrible on a phone, you’re losing visitors. Responsive design is a web design technique that allows the layout of a web page to change based on the size of the user’s screen. Keep mobile screens in mind from the start of your design so you won’t have a costly mobile site re-do down the road.
Don’t be afraid of whitespace
While it’s tempting to put as much information as possible above the fold, too many elements crammed onto the screen will confuse users and ultimately cause them to leave. Space between elements gives your pages breathing room and gives users a chance to take in information without being overwhelmed.
A great article explaining the benefits of whitespace can be found at alistapart.com. Well placed elements with the right amount of space will guide visitors through your site and lead them to your goal.
Do have clear call to action
What is the final goal of your website? Besides passing along information about your business, what is it you hope to accomplish? It may be a visitor requesting information from you by filling out a contact form, or it may be a customer buying a product through your online store, but your site needs to have a clear call to action. Use buttons with strong words such as “purchase” or “sign up” instead of “click here”. Mozilla uses a colorful button with high placement on the page to drive users to download their Firefox browser.
Do use good photos
Professional photography is best, but these days even phone cameras take pictures that are pretty high-quality, so there’s no excuse for not having your own photos on your web site. Pictures of you and your business create a personal feel that helps customers connect with you. And speaking of connecting…
Don’t forget about social media
If you already have a Facebook or Twitter account, make it easy for customers to get to them. Many businesses are using social media to promote their businesses but then forget to link up their accounts on their website. Small icons in the header or footer of your site are usually enough to get a visitor’s attention without being too intrusive.
Do ask for reviews and feedback
You’ll often find your clients are willing to give you feedback about their experience with your business, so make sure you provide an easy way for them to do this. Make a place for customer reviews on your site or you can even get feedback on your social media pages by creating a page on your main site for reviews and then linking it to your social network.
Don’t…do any of these things
One of the best ways to learn about web design is to look at what DOESN’T work. http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/ picks the worst of the worst so you can learn from other’s mistakes. All of these sites were made with the best of intentions but went astray for various reasons.
Don’t be afraid to change a feature or get rid of it all together if it doesn’t work the way you anticipated. Your site may go through several versions before you settle on a final version.
Follow the rules above and you’ll be on your way to having a great website. If you’d like a professional consultation, contact AMG today. In addition to web design, AMG offers a variety of services to manage your online presence and help grow your business.