This post will give you some pointers about how to go about your first Web Design project. If you have limited technical ability, we always recommend working with a professional developer or agency to get your project off the ground.
Layout: Creating a layout for your website is a big part of developing a successful website. The website should follow a pattern that feels familiar to visitors. Try putting your twist on the classics.
Do – Create a website with an intuitive layout/interface that is easy for a customer to find what they want. Research on other websites and try to identify customer behaving patterns when visiting those sites. There is a lot of research about how people browse the web out there, so look around and see what you can do to capitalize on how people navigate the web.
Don’t – Design or build a website that is so wide that the customer has to scroll left and right to see everything. All of the content should be contained within the viewable width of most web browsers with the most important information “above the fold” or before the page needs to scroll vertically.
Navigation: Navigation is an important tool for your website. Think of who will be viewing your site and think of how to split up the content in a way that would make sense to them to look for it.
Do – Use a top navigation or left-side navigation as these are familiar to most visitors so they’ll know where to go to get around on your site. If you’ve got a blog page, you may want to have a right column which includes the blog filters and widgets, while the main column contains the posts you’ve written.
Don’t – Use a hidden navigation or remove navigation on certain pages. Make sure it is always easy for your customer to get around your site. You’ve probably spent a lot of time and money on your site, so don’t waste that investment by making it hard for your customer to get around.
Colors: Color can be a very useful tool to create interest and engage your customers. As in most artistic mediums, color should be used carefully.
Do – Use colors to enhance your design and draw attention to specific elements on your site (checkout button, add to cart, etc. – more about this later).
Don’t – Complicate your site with tons of different colors that don’t belong on the same page. You’re not creating abstract art here. Color should enhance the website, not take it over.
Think About Mobile: As more and more people turn to Mobile and tablet devices to browse the web, it’s important to have a strategy in place so customers can view your site on these devices.
Do – Implement a responsive theme for your website. Responsive design allows you to create a website which adjusts based on the device viewing the site. This makes it ideal for websites which receive traffic from a wide variety of mobile and tablet devices.
Don’t – Make mobile an afterthought. For most people, there is a tendency to develop a website and then implement a mobile theme separately. You’re doing your business a disservice if you follow this route. It’ll effect your branding (no matter how much you try, your mobile theme will never quite match your actual site) as well as your search rankings (two separate sets of HTML code for the same website add additional complication to your site that search engines don’t like).
Call to Action: Have a clear call to action prompting your customer to take a specific action that you want.
Do – Prominently feature your call to action on the page and make it stand out with a bright color or a large graphic.
Don’t – Pack your page so full of graphics and buttons that the Call to Action is lost in the shuffle.
Content: Ever hear the phrase “Content is King”? Well, it’s true. Content is an important piece of creating a successful website.
Do – Create good, original content to engage your customers. This applies to both website copy as well as images/graphics.
Don’t – Plagiarize or use duplicate content. Search engines want original content and know when you’re lying about it. Avoid getting punished in your rankings for doing this.
Get Interactive: Add interactive elements to your site. These can be used for specific promotions or messages to your customer. Changing/rotating graphics will keep a customer interested and allow you to draw their focus where you want it.
Do – Use sliding banners on your homepage. These allow you to send your customer a specific message about your site (promotions you are running, new products, etc.) in a way that is easy for them to consume. These can help grab a customer’s attention and keep them on your site.
Don’t – Use Flash. There is almost no time when a website needs to use flash these days; period. Search engines don’t like it and some Mobile devices can’t handle it (Adobe also announced that it will no longer support flash for mobile). Look to HTML5 to develop something you would normally use flash for. Also, stay away from music on your site – especially if it automatically plays. Unless you’re promoting your band or you sell music, this is just annoying.
Marketing: Having a marketing strategy in place as you build your site will help you hit the ground running with SEO and page rank for your website.
Do – Create content that is relevant for your website and the product or service you are selling. Use important keywords that customers will be using when looking for your site on search engines.
Don’t – Go overboard with Keywords. It is more important that your content read well than have a ton of keyword density. Even if that does help you get traffic to your site, it will turn off customers and cause them to bounce and go to your competitors.
Optimize: Work hard to optimize your website. This will ensure that it loads quickly for your customers, which will help keep them engaged and on your site.
Do – Optimize code, use Style Sheets (CSS) and speed test your site. These things will help keep your site fast and keep your bounce rate low. It will also make updating your site easier (which means cheaper for you!).
Don’t – Upload huge image files. You don’t want to get so caught up with image quality that you are uploading giant image files that slow down your page loads. Optimize your images for the web by compressing them – most likely, your customers won’t even notice.
Get Social: If you’re going to be proactive and update/interact regularly, think about implementing a social strategy to engage your customers.
Do – Add Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. to your site. You can do this in the form of links to your accounts or social sharing widgets. The important thing here is to engage your customers in the way that is most familiar to them.
Don’t – Add a blog or social feeds that you aren’t going to regularly keep updated. This will make your potential customers question your credibility. Also, if you are just starting out and have a small following on your social accounts, hold off on adding those to your site – these will also reflect poorly on your brand.
If you have any questions or need some help with your new project, give us a call!