Business websites are so much more than just a place for online customers to locate your product or service. This is why the average web designer puts in many more hours than you may think to create the absolute best possible website for every client.
However, what may look great on a computer or smartphone screen is only part of the equation. An effective website design is a combination of good looks (the form) and how well it works (the function).
Here are a number of principles that have a bearing on how effective a website can be:
The defining principle of every single website on the internet is the purpose for its creation. The purpose should meet the needs of those who are using it. Whether it is an information website, eCommerce site or something else, each page, as well as the entire website, should have a clear and specific purpose. When someone arrives at your website, it should be obvious what you want them to do, and what they will find.
2. Load Time
Once someone reaches your website, the pages should load (become fully visible) in a reasonable period of time. Slow loading pages will send away some potential customers so it is important to have faster-loading pages.
There are many tools and tricks that can be used to analyse and achieve this. Make sure that you have a look at this post for more information.
The method in which someone can move around inside your website is known as navigation. The idea is to have them spend some time looking around but also be able to locate what they are looking for quickly.
There are a number of ways to assist visitors to your website with navigation, including using headings and sub-headings, effective use of white-space, easy-to-click buttons and hyperlinks, well laid out menu structure and the three click rule (whereby a user should be able to find what they are looking for on your website in no more than three clicks) to name a few.
In order for visitors to a website to absorb the information they are after quickly, it has to be communicated in a clear and concise manner. The best design to assist with this is often small chunks of information such as short sentences and using sub-headings.
Short and to-the-point gets the information out quickly. However, you have to balance this with providing the right level of detail and information to the visitors of your site.
5. Grid Layouts
A visually appealing design on web pages comes from a pattern. The most effective and neater looking is a grid layout. This places small chunks of information in sections, boxes, and columns making the page look organized.
Messy web pages look too busy and hard to read or understand.
6. The ‘F’ Pattern
Speaking of patterns, eye tracking studies have revealed that we all scan a website page in a pattern that closely resembled the letter F. The top and left of any web page is most seen so it makes sense to layout the information in a left to right, top to bottom configuration with the most important information at the top left.
7. Font Selection
Newspapers and advertising firms have known for years which fonts are the easiest to read and comprehend. A website is no different. San Serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana work well but there are more to it than choosing a clear font.
The font size (eg. 16px) is just as important because the combination of font and size make for easier reading. Plus, using multiple fonts and font sizes just turns a web page into a confusing mess.
A good rule to follow is ‘3 and 3.’ No more than three different fonts and no more than three different sizes per page.
8. Colour Combinations
As important a decision as font selection is for your website, so is colour. Contrasting colours work best and make reading much easier on the eyes.
Using bright, flashy colours may be ok to draw the attention of a visitor’s eye but is usually best used in moderation.
For a clean and uncluttered look, a white background with dark text often works best.
Because the internet is a visual medium, the use of images can greatly enhance whatever message you are sharing with your website visitors. You don’t even need high-quality professional photos, and the average digital camera available in the marketplace will do a great job.
If you are not a very good photographer, there are several online stock photo sites where you can find virtually any photo to fit your brand or message (check out this post for some good sites). Videos are another visually engaging option that provides a different dimension than just static pages of plain text and images.
10. Mobile Friendly
Since the internet can be accessed on more than just a desktop or laptop computer, ensuring that your website works on devices of all different sizes is critical. In order for visitors to your website to have the best possible experience with your online product or service, they need to be able to see it properly.
You want your website designed to ensure that it is mobile-friendly. This means that if you use a handheld device, a tablet or a large display screen, the website will function properly without parts missing or not fitting within the width of the viewing screen.
Have a look at this post which discusses more on mobile-friendly website design.
Give Your Business Website The Winning Edge
Whether you decide to build your own website or get a professional to do it for you, by following these ten website design principles you will give your website the edge, giving you the best possible chance to promote your product or service to the world.
Many of these points are part of Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is a large topic… you can read more about it here.
SEO combined with a website design that contains equal parts of form and function will improve your online presence. These are the guiding principles that any quality web designer follows, and that you should follow in order to get the best results from your business website.