Web design has become an increasingly important area for every business to consider in recent years – the saying goes that ‘if you’re not online, your business doesn’t exist’. Conventional wisdom (and the growth of various ‘website builders’ like Squarespace or Wix) mean that, while it’s easier than ever to have a great looking website, there’s also a lot more room for error as more and more people look to design their own sites.
1. Get the basics right.
Throughout civilisation, certain patterns have emerged when it comes to how we gather information. We read from left to right, top to bottom, whether it’s a book, a newspaper or a tablet. The convention of using these kinds of columns and rows is one we all recognise.
A fundamental principle of good design is to ensure that your site adheres to those kinds of basic navigation principles. If it does, any potential user should be able to explore your site with ease. A top tip is to sketch out your ideas first, to get a sense of the space available and the sort of user journey that might make sense.
2. A strong visual hierarchy.
Using bold and italics to emphasise key points, utilising headers and subheaders to break up content, and the selective use of certain colours can be extremely useful signals to your readers as to what they should look at first, what to pay attention to, and what they can safely skim over.
Indicate the broad ‘topics’ with catchy subheadings, consider breaking up large blocks of text with relevant images or other multimedia content – and make sure you test it thoroughly before launch.
Some important questions to ask yourself before getting started: where is the eye drawn to first? Where do you want people to go? In any well-designed website, the answer to both questions should be the same.
3. Are your fonts web safe?
You could have the most engaging, well-written, persuasive sales copy on the planet – but if your text isn’t web safe, it counts for nothing. Readability and clarity are absolutely essential here. So, make sure all your selected fonts are available and work on all platforms. Fonts must be scalable to any size, and legible for mobile usage (particularly given the huge numbers of mobile-only users). Neglecting your font choice can be an enormous mistake: it’s a fantastic way to hammer home a particular image for your brand (a visual message of sorts) to potential customers.
Some top tips: don’t overcrowd fonts (stick with two or three maximum, or you run the risk of confusing your brand identity). Be wary of space and size – some fonts have an extremely slow load speed, which impacts usability massively. Dark text on a light background has been proven time and again to be much more legible, so it’s probably a good idea to stick with that convention for most of your content.
4. A picture is worth 1000 words.
Multimedia content is widely considered by industry professionals to be much more engaging and effective than just simple text. Relevant pictures can seriously add to the overall look and feel of your site, and a consistent colour palette can help build instant recognition. But, it’s critically important not to overdo it. In most cases, less is more, and overcrowding your site with dozens of images can look messy and unprofessional. An added bonus to adding visuals to your website is that images can be a powerful component of improving your ranking in various search engines.
5. Safety first.
Before anything else, you must ensure that your site is safe and secure. Making sure you have valid SSL certificates is an excellent step towards setting potential users’ minds at ease, making them feel happy and comfortable to do business with you. Audience trust is a critical component of any purchasing decision, and with the added bonus of SEO optimisation (secure sites are indexed significantly higher), as well as the protection you gain against malicious hackers and viruses, making sure your site is safe seems like a no-brainer.