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By in Design + Develop

Why working with a specialist makes such a big difference to the effectiveness of your website

There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to designing for web. Everyone has a different opinion of what is right and all those opinions will be unique. Follow these simple principles and your version of perfect is well on its way to success.

One of the simplest principles to begin with is to think of any website as a journey for the visitor. Identify clearly what you want to achieve from your site, and make all roads lead to heaven.

Where do you want to go:

Completed enquiry forms?
Ecommerce sales?
Appointment bookings?

Who is coming with you and why?

It’s not enough simply to have a laser-focus on getting to your journey’s end; you’ll need to understand who your visitors are and why they would want to go there. Understanding your audience is one of the guiding principles of good business practice. With a compelling offer and a good understanding of your customers, you’re half way there! Appeal to your visitors through appropriate design.

Navigate, Navigate, Navigate

The usability of your site is the difference between success and failure. A website’s design should make following the journey instinctive; no need for maps!

Less is nearly always more

It is said that you typically get between 3-8 seconds to get a point across online. Clarity really is key when it comes to online design. It will feel hard to simplify your message, but you must take away whatever you can that isn’t needed and focus on the real essence of your offer to get true clarity.

Never cover the whole page

A web design must be allowed to breathe. There needs to be white space – not least for practical reasons. It should be easy to see what to do next and easy to click – even on a mobile. Leave no doubt or questions.

The less input from the user the better

If a visitor needs to complete a questionnaire or fill in a form to complete their journey, then it is essential it is easy. Use ‘1, 2, 3 done’ as a guide and leave as few of the boxes blank as possible. Auto fill as much as you can. Do you really need their postcode to book an appointment? Make it easy and obvious.

Content is king – text and type matter

Getting found on the web is in many ways more important than looking good; content is King online. Divide up and organise your content so that it is in easily digestible sections. No reader will take in every word your write – but design the form and format so they can take in what they need. After typography, the other elements of great webs design are: fabulous photos, interesting illustrations and clear layout, but typography is the killer.

Old Fashioned Typography Skills

Design with the content first. Long text blocks without images and not broken up with keywords marked in bold or italics will be overlooked. The majority of exaggerated language will be ignored, so get to the point and use plain English. Aim for 20 words per line maximum, with a maximum of three typefaces and three sizes.

Avoid Acronyms and ‘Clever’ use of Language

It may provide a fantastic display of linguistic dexterity to ‘theme’ all your sections, or make them rhyme with your company’s name. But in reality you are only making it harder for the reader to understand, at a glance, what you mean and where they should go next on their journey.
For example, if you describe a gardening service and want users to create an account, it is easy to see which button will achieve the most sign-ups:

  • Sign-up
  • Sow the seed
  • Explore our services

Thinking is Optional

Be obvious and self–explanatory. Users should not have to think. When designing your website try to get rid of any question marks or queries. A user should never ask themselves, ‘What should I do now?’ The only sure way of doing this is to make sure all the links are recognisable and obvious as well as easy to click.

Layout and Scaling

Most web designers will be familiar with the F shaped layout first discovered by Nielsen Norman Group in 2006 in their eye tracking study. There is some dispute about its existence for mobile, but this study by German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence earlier this year, shows the readers eye favouring content on the right strongly, with a small tendency to an f shape. So the layout still lives on!

Scalable for mobile

It pretty much goes without saying that any design for web, must work equally well on a small device such as a tablet or mobile as it does on a laptop or desktop PC. With this in mind all layouts and images must be scaleable. Mobile friendly sites are typically made up using 12 column divisions. A successful design will make use of this from the offset.

Keep it Conventional

A short cut to keeping your website design work for you is to keep things conventional. By sticking within the normal range of expectations any visitor should be familiar with the navigation and be able to follow the journey easier than with a more avant-garde creation. Tempting as it may be show off your company’s creativity!

Own your website

Be sure to choose a colour palette that works for your products and services, appeals to your market sector and co-ordinates with your logo. Keep typefaces to a maximum of three and only use three sizes of font. Above all be consistent and ‘own’ the style of your website. It is an intrinsic part of your brand and speaks volumes about your business.

Designing for web is an ever-changing discipline. As Sandijs Ruluks outlines in his article ‘A brief History of Web Design for Designers’ The debate around whether designers should learn code or developers should learn design still rumbles on. But one thing is for certain. Working with an expert, who has years of experience in designing specifically for web will put you in a strong position to get what you want from your website.