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Web Design

Simple tips to design a professional website

Previously, we looked at examples of good and bad website design and why it’s so important that your website makes a good first impression. So, what are the secrets to good website design?

 

There really are no secrets. You only have to look at the world’s most successful websites and the sites you use every day to see examples of great design right in front of you.

 

Finding out what these sites have in common, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to design a website that reflects well on your brand and makes it easy for your site visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for.

 

We’re not saying every website should look exactly the same. But if you’re looking for ways to express your uniqueness, don’t do so at a cost to the user experience.

 

Whether you’re designing your site from the ground up or using a template, make sure your website is:

 

Visually appealing

 

What do people want to see? That should be your priority when designing the look of your website, rather than, how can I show off my artistic skills? Artistic design has its place when it’s used appropriately, but most of the time, your website users are going to be happy with a page that’s easy to read and doesn’t overload their senses.

 

You can give your website any colour scheme you want, but think about those sites you use every day: what do they have in common? The vast majority of them (if not all) feature black sans serif text on a plain white background.

 

Research has confirmed time and again that this is the combination people find most comfortable to read, and you should make sure all elements of your typography are easy on the eyes: font sizes, spacing between lines and the number of characters per line.

 

Amazon web design

 

Think about how sites like Facebook and Amazon have created iconic looks with their simple colour schemes and user-friendly layouts. Most of the time, these sites still follow the black text, white background rule.

 

Civic Web Media facebook

 

Easy to use

 

After visual appeal, navigation is the second biggest influence on what people think about your website (and consequently your brand).

 

Make it as easy as possible for your site visitors to find exactly what they’re looking for with menus that are clearly signposted, products and services organised into sub-categories, a search function and SEO-friendly URLs.

 

Every page on your website needs to have a clear goal and a clear Call to Action (CTA). For a multi-purpose page like your homepage, you should have a clear first action to help out new visitors, but you can also include other targeted CTAs that users are likely to be looking for.

 

The best way to check the usability of your site is to spend a little time searching and clicking through. If you were a customer, is it easy to find what you’re looking for, or frustrating?

 

Free from clutter

 

The World's Worst Website Ever

Image: The World’s Worst Website Ever

 

This goes hand-in-hand with visually appealing, but it’s worth stressing: your web pages should only include what they really need, with absolutely no filler.

 

Images are essential, and video can be great if it’s used sparingly. But when you clog a page with excessive pictures and videos, this will distract from the text, make it harder for users to complete actions, and cause longer loading times for users with slower connections – one of the biggest sins of web design.

 

Use your social links sparingly too. You should let people know if you have social media profiles, and you might want to include recent updates from your Twitter feed, but these logos shouldn’t be the most prominent features on your website. Otherwise, you’re just giving people more opportunities to leave you. (The exception to this is social sharing buttons on your blog posts and other marketing content, as you’ll want these to be shared as much as possible).

 

As for giving your website background music and spinning logos, these were annoying even in 1998.

 

Up-to-date

 

Even the best websites get stale if they aren’t updated frequently. User demands and preferences move quickly, and if your site is more than a few years old, certain aspects of its design will already be lagging behind.

 

There are other occasions when you should consider giving your website an overhaul. Maybe your business priorities have changed, your audience has changed or your brand’s profile has changed. A clean slate always delivers better results than bolting new features onto an outdated platform, and you won’t have to lose your old content.

 

Mobile-friendly

 

If you’re using a template to design your website, make sure it’s responsive. This means your pages will load in a special mobile-friendly layout when they’re accessed on phones and smaller tablets, or in their original size when viewed on a larger screen.

 

You can’t afford to ignore mobile users. Today, more searches are performed on mobile devices than desktops, and 35% of e-commerce transactions in Australia are made using smartphones (and rising). You can check whether your site is responsive using this tool from Google.

 

What’s the easiest way to make a great website?

 

You don’t need any training or experience in web design to put together a user-friendly, professional-looking website. You can either:

 

1. Pay someone to build your custom website, or

 

2. Use a template.

 

Template websites are the more affordable option. This involves buying a readymade theme that you can tweak to your preference to suit your branding. We recommend WordPress for its simplicity and flexibility, but you can try any of the popular CMS options.

 

Let us help

 

At Civic Web Media, we’ll help you create a modern and professional website that suits your business, whatever your budget. We’ll help you get started with website software and we can help you register your domain name and arrange hosting for your site.

 

 

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