Considering investing in a brand new website or refreshing an existing website? Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you, here are seven crucial web design elements to insist upon.
- Good navigation structure
The navigation structure is the backbone of any website and will dramatically affect whether users perceive your website to be user-friendly or not. When in doubt, opt for a simple, uncomplicated navigation structure over a more complex option. Studies show that 44 percent of users are put off an otherwise good quality website because of a poor navigation structure which affects usability. A simple but effective navigation structure that is appropriate for most websites is to have primary navigation options in a horizontal menu bar across the top of the site. Less important pages that don’t fit into that menu bar can be housed in a side bar down the left hand side of the page.
- Include bio, FAQs, testimonials and product descriptions
One crucial web design element often neglected is good quality content. In particular there are four different pieces of content which every website should have, but lots do not. These are:
A bio is important as people are often more inclined to purchase from someone they know something about and can see a picture of. It gives you a chance to share your story. FAQs are important as lots of customers will have the same questions.
An FAQ page allows customers to find answers to commonly asked questions without having to email or ring. This saves both them and you time. It also gives you a place to discuss your own terms and conditions and educate your customers in advance, for example regarding your returns policy.
Testimonials are important because customers are always looking for social proof. Just like people think twice about eating at a restaurant if they walk past and see it is empty, it is the same with any kind of business, whether product or service-based, online or offline. If we can see that other people like us have bought from you and are happy with their experiences, we will be more likely to trust you.
Embrace the power of product descriptions and maximise their effectiveness. Focus on writing about the benefits this product offers the consumers over just the features, use high quality images and embed keywords in your product descriptions to aid SEO.
- Mobile optimisation
No matter how good your navigation structure is on a laptop or desktop device, if it doesn’t display well on a mobile device you could be losing as much as 60 percent of all traffic to your competitors. Mobile users need websites that automatically adjust the way they are displayed to fit the screen size of the mobile device, without requiring excessive scrolling.
4. Utilise white space
The best looking websites are those that look simple and uncluttered. Many businesses try to put too much information on their websites and have long, imposing blocks of text that aren’t broken up into smaller sections with the use of headings. Other businesses have so many pictures, gifs and plugins on each page. Not only does this look cluttered and unprofessional, it will also significantly slow the speed of your site, increasing your bounce rates. Remember that white space is your friend. Test your website before you launch with unbiased friends and family members and get their feedback. If they say it looks cluttered, too busy or hard to read, consider how you might be able to express things more succinctly, do away with unnecessary elements or restructure the content and images with the use of headings and generous amounts of white space.
- Professional photography
You’ve probably heard it said that a picture paints a thousand words. Well, it’s true. No matter how eloquent the text on your site is, if your images look to be of poor quality, very generic, or dark and dimly lit, people will think twice about buying from you.
- Use HTML5 not Flash
If you’re still using Flash technology, you’re not doing yourself any favours. Flash technology on websites was all the rage over a decade ago but now it is becoming increasingly unstable and unsupported, as well as slowing down your site speed. Instead, consider using HTML5. It is mobile and search engine friendly, and is more seamless as it doesn’t require a plugin.
- Place calls to action above the fold
In a survey of web designers carried out by CIO, one of the top tips nearly all web designers agreed upon was the need to place your call-to-action and contact details (including address, email address and phone number) in the upper portion of the website. Details placed below the fold (in the lower 1/3 of landing pages) can be easily missed.
These seven tips should set you well on your way of creating a well-designed, user-friendly website. However, the best test of your design decisions is user testing, A/B testing and analytics to gain feedback from your own audience.