Most business owners know that if they want to break into the market, maintain their profits or expand their customer base, a well-designed website is essential. Websites today are so much more than just places for customers to find contact information and a few pictures — they’re places to get ideas, learn about a company’s brand, shop and interact with other customers and even the business itself.
Because so much shopping is done online now, having a website allows you to quickly appeal to customers who are looking for products or services in your general category, because you can ensure that your site URL shows up in search results under certain keywords. You can also quickly convert clicks into purchases by having an online store and producing content for the web and social media that convinces viewers to buy what you’re selling.
Unfortunately, none of the content you offer (or how visible it is online) is valuable without the right form. Having a poorly-designed website is worse than having no website at all because it creates a negative impression of your business (rather than leaving no impression at all) and can undo all of the hard work you’ve put into wording and visibility.
But the problem is that many companies don’t know what a good website looks like, and don’t understand some of the detriments to having a confusing or poorly-designed layout. That’s why it’s so important to understand the essentials of website design and to get help from a firm that knows what customers look for and can provide personalized solutions. But if you want to get ahead by thinking as industry experts do, here are five website design secrets you should know:
It sounds strange at first, but when you think about it, the idea that psychology influences how you build your website makes sense: you’re trying to anticipate what your customers will want to see and to do that, you need to know how they think. In that vein, several design elements are directly influenced by psychological principles that govern reactions to certain shapes, colors, fonts, images and other visuals.
Colors, in particular, elicit strong reactions from most people, and you’ll want to choose your colors carefully depending on the message you are trying to convey. Blue is known as the “calming” color, and many sites use it as a default because it soothes viewers — but at the same time, it’s not much of a standout. Red, on the other hand, can be seen as aggressive, but if you’re going for a high-energy product or service, it can provide a much-needed pop of color to what would otherwise be a drab website.
Fonts convey certain psychological implications as well. Sans serif fonts, like Gotham or Helvetica, are automatically seen as cleaner and sharper, more associated with a “sleek” or “modern” look that might go well for a tech product or service. But if you’re going for a more “rustic” feel, a serif font like Georgia might provide some homier aesthetics.
Ultimately, it’s all about having the right combination. Looking at the websites of well-known brands, it’s clear that “clean” and “simple” websites might use a combination of colors, fonts, and shapes that provides a minimalistic and calming experience for the viewer — such as a blue color palette with sans serif fonts. Alternatively, a more “adventurous” or “inspirational” site might have photos as backgrounds, and be heavy on the visual imagery if that is something the company offers its customers.
When designing a website, it’s crucial to keep in mind what the user will think and how they will see the site. Websites should always be made while keeping the user’s goals in mind — and with that said, it could be productive to sit down and brainstorm what your users want. Are they looking for simplicity, professionalism and a formal demeanor, or are they after a fun, bright, engaging atmosphere? Often, this will depend on the product that you are selling — so think about what they expect to see when they use your website.
But the layout of the site should reflect their goals too. Make sure all the site’s sections are visible at the top, so users don’t have to scroll down all the way if they want to find something, and that contact information, in particular, is prominently displayed. You should also place emphasis on the “shop” part of your site if you have one, where customers can purchase products if they choose to — don’t bury this somewhere deep on the page. Also, include easy-to-click buttons for your different social media accounts for greater engagement.
When testing your site, go through it as a customer would. Which part of it do you click to first? Is it easy to go from one section to another? Is there good integration of extra elements, like videos and photos, with the more basic parts, such as text? Is it hard to find any part of the site, particularly when you’re looking for who to contact or what to buy? Depending on the answers to these questions, you might try to redesign your site to reflect better the goals of the people who are going to be using it.
You might have a perfectly designed, sleek-looking site that is laid out appropriately, but none of this will mean anything if your site looks the same as any other — or if it sets customers up with unrealistic expectations of the product or service you offer. For example, you might design a professional, utilitarian site in tones of blue and gray, but it won’t help if you’re trying to sell cupcakes. That’s why branding, or the process of building your company’s identity, is so important: it establishes who you are, what should be expected of you and what kind of emotions you want your customers to feel when they look at what you have to offer.
Customers inherently value continuity, and they want to see that your brand is consistent across all of your platforms (and that it matches the nature of the product or service you are selling). Your brand also distinguishes you from all the other businesses creating websites and vying for attention online. Invest in brand development — which includes creating a logo, slogan, color scheme, design elements and essential message — before you go about creating your site, as it will save you a lot of time and headaches later down the road.
You might put in a lot of effort to make sure that your website looks perfect, but if customers can’t get it to load, you’re going to have an issue. Even having a website that loads slowly can impact your customer satisfaction and retention rates, as some people will just leave the site if it’s taking too long. Poor loading capabilities can even impact how many people come to your site in the first place, as Google takes speed into account when its algorithm creates search rankings — so if yours isn’t doing well, it could be pushed further down in search results.
These are all reasons its key to make sure the back end of your website works as well as the front end. Invest in a developer that will make sure there are no bugs and that the site is running smoothly for the best user experience possible. Then, when the time comes for users to visit your website, they can pay attention to the form and the content — rather than the amount of time it takes for them to access it.
One of the biggest mistakes many designers make is to assume that they need to fill the entire space that’s provided to them. But interestingly enough, white space has value when it comes to a sleek, eye-catching design. Otherwise known as “negative space,” this element draws the eye to any other aspects of the page that are visible, including pops of color, faces, shapes, and visuals. It can provide a great background to cutouts if that’s one of the effects you’re going for, as it makes those images look sharper and cleaner, as opposed to a photographic background.
However, it’s important not to go overboard, or to think that white space is 100% necessary. The key is not only to use it sparingly but to use it instances where it enhances the overall appearance of the site and helps to highlight certain elements that you’re trying to showcase. Also, whitespace goes well with certain types of brands, especially those that are looking for a “clean” and “simple” look.
Working with a professional web designer will help you develop a logo, branding strategy, and website that gets your business noticed and helps generate more leads.
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