Top Ten Tips for Effective Website Design

- Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The design of your website, its navigational cues, its mobile responsiveness, and even font choices can make or break your site. Like it or not, website design choices can mean the difference between achieving the pinnacle of online success, and suffering abysmal digital failure.

But there’s no need to despair, with our top ten tips for website design, you can rest assured that you’ve made the right decisions when it comes to the design of your website.

Tip #1: Logo Placement Counts

If you don’t already have one, sort out a polished, professional logo that encapsulates your brand image. Once sorted, take your brand-spanking-new logo (or your existing logo if you already had one to begin with) and pin a high-resolution version of it prominently in the top left-hand corner of each page on your website. Then, link your logo back to the homepage of your website. That way, your becomes a handy navigational tool for your website visitors, as well as a brand enforcement tool.

Tip#2: Intuitive Navigation is the Best Kind

According to industry-standard and best practice convention, primary navigation is placed along a horizontal menu bar at the top of a website. Then, secondary navigation is usually accessed via drop down menu tabs (located underneath the primary navigation bar) or in a sidebar. These locations are industry-standard and best practice for a reason. They are intuitive. Website users expect navigational cues to be located in these positions whenever they hit a new site. So don’t try to be creative. If you do, the result is likely to be a high bounce rate, with people quitting your site, rather than puzzling out your creative navigation.

Similarly, opt for main menu labels that are commonly, or widely, understood. For instance, Contact Us, About Us, and News are common main menu labels. We all understand these terms, and know what content to expect to appear on website pages with these names. In contrast, Ping Us, Rad Peeps, and What’s the Haps might cause some confusion, particularly for older demographics.

Tip #3: Always Opt for Responsive Design

Your website design must be mobile responsive. According to leading industry sources, mobile internet usage rates will overtake desktop internet usage THIS YEAR. That means that more people will be looking at your website on a mobile, than on a laptop. So, design it accordingly.

Tip#4: Eradicate Clutter

Try not to go overboard with visual stimulation on your website. It’s all too easy to upload a plethora of images, interspersed by moving graphics, overlayed with fluoro green pull-out quotes. When confronted with too many options, website users fail to process any information at all. They suffer from sensory overload. Instead, cut out the clutter. Ensure that you don’t have competing graphics, or multiple calls-to-action on any one page. Limit the number of hyperlinks included in any one page, and even pare back footer and header content. Give your website visitors room to breathe. Include clear empty white space. Less really is more when it comes to website design.

Tip #5: Use Colour Strategically

While design is somewhat subjective, using colour strategically can have real, positive results. If you maintain a clean, modern, elegant palate that includes mostly neutral colours (or even just white), you can then use colour to highlight important information. Dashes and splashes of bright colour can be used for headings, for call-to-action buttons, for hyperlinks, and for key graphics. Colour then becomes like a road sign for your website visitors, marking your most important content.

Tip #6: Feature a Fabulous Font

Above all, website fonts must be easy to read on all types of devices (from desktops and laptops to mobiles and tablets) and on all available browsers (from IE and Firefox to Safari and Chrome). Don’t use a font that is smaller than 11 pt. And don’t use fonts from more than two families, or you risk slow page loading time.

Tip #7: Photos Are Crucial

While it can be expensive, high-quality professional photos can make an enormous difference to the look and feel of a website. Impressive imagery naturally draws the eye, and captures the attention of website visitors. Photos can wow users in an instant, and communicate a sleek, polished brand image instantly. Commissioning a professional photographer is obviously not feasible for everyone. However, there are numerous websites from which you can quickly and easily purchase stock photography.

Tip #8: Fend Off Fold Faux Pars

Know where the fold lies. Imagine a dotted line cutting your website horizontally across the middle. Now, double check, is your call-to-action above the fold? Are your contact details above the fold (a main menu navigational tab is acceptable)? If you answered NO to either of these questions, go back and rethink your layout. Move these two important elements up the page immediately.

Tip #9: Forget About Flash

With the never-ending dispute between Apple and Adobe unlikely to resolved any time soon, Flash really isn’t an option when it comes to website design. Flash simply doesn’t work on the millions of Apple devices in the marketplace. So, opt for a more Apple-friendly program, like HTML5, instead. HTML5 has a raft of benefits: it’s search engine friendly, and works on all of the popular operating systems without a plugin or bridging software.

Tip #10: Engage in User Tester

Last, but by no means least, once your newly designed website is live, elicit feedback from your website visitors, from your colleagues, from your friends, from your family. When you first launch a new website, test different placements for call-to-action buttons, try different colours and different photos, move things around. Just be sure to keep accurate records of user behaviour both before and after making any changes.