By Noha Abou-Hashima
A well-designed, well functioning website is important to online users. It should be equally important to you as a business owner.
Websites are usually the first thing customers will look at to find information about your business. A majority of these customers (a striking 93%) begin their purchasing decision process with an online search. In order to attract customers to your business, your website should not only be a reflection of your brand, it should also be designed in a way that makes it easy for customers to find the information they're looking for.
It's not uncommon to get carried away when coming up with a design for your website. After all, there are so many creative ideas and designs out there. Those who get lost in that world tend to end up over-designing, creating noisy or cluttered websites filled with flashy text or over the top colors, making visitors turn away from both the website and the business.
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Let's walk through an example of a poorly designed website. This will give you a better idea of what poor web design looks like, and might help you to evaluate whether your website is well-designed.
This is the current home page of Yale School of Art (yes, the actual Yale University). Not very impressive, is it? Let's discuss why:
The first thing that catches the eye is the yellow highlight. I couldn't help but be reminded of my school days when I overused the highlighter in my textbooks (maybe that's what they were going for?). Still, while using bright colors to attract viewers is a common design principle, it is not executed well in this case.
Next is the positioning of the background image. Although the designer(s) used one photo, it appears inconsistent due to the fact that it is repeated in a tile-like fashion - it wasn't designed with today's wide-screen desktops in mind.. It would greatly improve the look of this site if the background photo was made responsive to resize to different screen sizes. It is usually considered good web design to place all the elements on a website in the center of the screen.
Using different colours to distinguish between different types of information is generally not a bad idea. However, it needs to be done right. As you've probably guessed, this is not a good example of it. On top of the excessive highlight, the text has no alignment whatsoever. This makes it hard for the user to:
- Find the information they need easily and quickly, and
- Strains their eye as they jump between blocks of text that are not on the same line
Of course, the above is not an exclusive list of poor web design. It is simply meant to give you an idea of what it could look like.
Now, let's go through some of the elements in detail, and what you can do to avoid making the same poor design choices.
- Visual Design
First impressions are crucial to any business. It only takes a couple of seconds for visitors to evaluate your website, so what they see at first glance will determine whether they want to keep browsing through your site, or run like hell.
It is equally important, however, that you don't let this overwhelm you. A common mistake in web design is emphasizing visual appeal to the point where the website resembles an art gallery (unless your business is art-related, your website should not be overflowing with artistic elements). Keep it simple. Start by integrating visual elements already present in your brand identity (typeface, colour theme, logo, etc.). Your website should have the same look and feel as your branding, otherwise you risk confusing customers browsing your site.
Tip: Use a consistent typeface and color theme on your entire website.
The saying "less is more" is certainly true in web design. Keep in mind that visitors often don't have the time, nor the desire, to sift through large amounts of data to find the information they need. So, stuffing your website with irrelevant content, images, and videos will only drive potential business away. To keep visitors from hitting the 'x' (close) button on their browsers, and for SEO purposes, your content should be organized properly, succinct, and most importantly, relevant to your business and what it does.
Determine what the most important information is (it will usually be the most obvious). Take a chocolatier's business for instance: the website should clearly reflect the nature of the business (is it a manufacturer or a seller or both?). It should list the different types of chocolate that the business makes or sells (with high quality photos of course), as well as (sample) pricing information. And since it is a food business, adding or linking reviews of what other people have said about the product would be a good idea.
Tip: Regardless of what business you're in, using images helps break the dreariness of text and keep the visitor's attention. But don't overdo it!
If you don't already know, Flash (also known as Shockwave Flash or Adobe Flash) is a multi-media program used for the production of animations, rich Internet applications, and mobile games. Or at least it used to be. In the world of web design, Flash is as good as dead.
Why, you ask?
Well, for starters, search engines don't get along with Flash sites. Even if you're lucky enough and users happen to find your website through a search engine, Flash causes loading problems on a number of mobile and even desktop browsers, particularly iOS (iPhones) and browsers like Google Chrome.
In addition to loading issues, flashy images and text that moves while you're reading do not motivate users to stay on your website. Don't take my word for it though, see it for yourself.
- Legibility Reading text on a website should not be a deciphering challenge. Make sure that the typeface you use, and the size of the text is easy to read. When it comes to color, ideally, there should be enough contrast for the user to easily separate the text from the background.
- Mobile-friendly You can check whether your site is optimized for different screens by either doing a Google Mobile Friendly test, or simply opening the site on your mobile phone, tablet, or other screens you may be using.
- Layout, Navigation & Content Your navigation menu includes the most important information about your business, so it is crucial that it is accessible from anywhere on the site. The most common information to add in a navigation menu will include a page about the business and what it does (usually called 'About'), your contact information, and a page listing the services and/or products you offer your consumers.