In today’s world, the ability to connect with customers on a technology-based level is vital to a business’ success. Competition between rival businesses is fierce, and it is often the little things that can set a business apart. It is therefore imperative that a company create and maintain a website that is both attractive and user friendly.
One doesn’t necessarily have to be a web design expert to create a functional website. However, it does take someone with a keen eye for detail and an astute understanding of customer needs. Consider the following suggestions as you begin to develop a strong digital presence.
Understanding design principles
There are several principles to be mindful of as you begin creating your website. Understanding how people read and learn can help you create sites that engage customers, strengthen your online presence, and make the most of your efforts.
- Proximity – if two items appear close to each other, the reader will interpret them as related to each other.
- Alignment – you should consciously line up text and graphics along a real or imaginary vertical axis so the reader can understand the relationship among elements.
- Repetition – you should format the same kind of information in the same way so that readers can recognize consistent patterns.
- Contrast – the human eye is drawn to differences in appearance between two items.
- Chunking – people understand information best if it is delivered to them in chunks rather than all at once.
- Queuing – creating the visual distinctions to indicate levels of importance.
- Filtering – the use of visual patterns to distinguish various types of information.
- Line spacing – If lines are too far apart, the page looks diffuse, the text loses coherence, and readers tire quickly. If lines are too close together, the page looks crowded and becomes difficult to read.
Overall page design
Once you understand basic design principles, you can begin to develop your website. Although creativity is encouraged when it comes to web design, there are some important factors to consider. Using your page design to emphasize important information can help you maximize the success of your site.
Remember, the whole purpose of your website is to engage with customers and create a relationship that will lead to repeat visits and sales. A poorly designed site can alienate your company and drive your customers away. Viewers will spend very little time perusing your site. If they don’t find what they need quickly and easily, they may never return.
- Decide what types of information are most essential for your audience and draw their attention that direction
- Ensure the content is clearly accessible from the home screen
- Give your buttons, tabs, and other navigational information clear, informative headings
- Create informative headers and footers
- Make your document easy to navigate
- Include a site map or index
- Use a table of contents at the top of long pages
- Help readers get back to the top of long pages
- Include a link to the home page on every page
- Include textual navigational links at the bottom of the page
- An FAQ page
- Provide a printable version of your site for viewers that may have trouble reading/understanding a traditional page
Design for multicultural audiences
Many, if not most, companies in today’s global environment will have customers that live in other countries. That means you need to consider the needs of multicultural audiences and not assume that your customers will speak your language. Designing your site with this in mind can prevent your global customers from feeling isolated and frustrated. In particular, consider the following multicultural suggestions:
- Use common words and short sentences and paragraphs
- Avoid idioms that might be confusing
- If a large percentage of your readers speak a language other than English, consider creating a version of your suite in that language
Using graphics and color
Your website needs to be attractive without appearing tacky. The use of graphics and color can help your site pop off the page and attract interest. That being said, do not over use either design component. Sites that appear overly flashy can repel the customers you need to be attracting.
- Aim for simplicity
- Use simple backgrounds
- Use conservative color combinations to increase text legibility
- Avoid decorative graphics
- Use thumbnail graphics
- Use standard colors for text links
Check, check, and recheck
The biggest thing you can do to ensure your business has an attractive and successful website is simply to be proactive and deal with functional issues as they arise. Periodically, check your links to make sure they work properly. Include a strong “Contact Us” page and stay on top of questions and/or customer comments. Few things turn off customers quicker than a website that doesn’t work or doesn’t include the options they need. As a result, properly maintaining your site is equally as important as designing it properly in the first place.