” Web design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose. – Charles Eames”Click to tweet
One of the most important things for a brand, particularly of a business still starting out and looking for greener pastures, is good web design. Web design can be the one thing that pushes you above or pulls you below your competition. Design matters, because it can reflect how you and your brand do business, and ultimately how your clients and potential customers see and feel about you.
This is particularly important when it comes to websites, which are essentially the new storefronts and first contact points for an increasing number of businesses and brands. Make a bad impression, you lose a potential conversion. Make a good one, you gain a customer. Make a great impression, and you can potentially gain and keep a customer for life.
Ultimately, it all starts with design and how you present your text and visual content and the experience your users get. So, let’s talk about what you need to know about good web design!
What is “Good Web Design” Anyway?
If you ask a few designers to define what good web design is, chances are they’ll all give you a variety of different answers. However, when you look closely at some of the most well-designed products, services, and materials, you’ll begin to see similarities and parallels between quite a lot of them, and the reason for this is that the most well-designed things are based on web design principles that result in useful, beautiful products that ultimately give consumers a deep level of satisfaction and enjoyment when used.
While there are different schools of thought and a variety of approaches to web design, legendary designer Dieter Rams Ten Principles for Good Web Design is a great place to start off with whenever considering how to go about designing anything of significance to you, your business, and your customers.
Let’s quickly consider some of the principles most relevant to our subject at hand, and in the next section, we’ll talk about the very basics of what your website needs to have.
The Principles of Good Web Design
Good Web Design Makes a Product Understandable
Web design can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
Does your website serve a purpose? Is that purpose quickly made immediately clear to the reader when they land on your websites home page? Or are they confused about what the point of the page is?
Good Web Design Makes a Product Useful
Good web design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could detract from it.
Does your website make it clear to the reader the value that they can get from your products and services? Are the benefits of what you have to offer clear? Or is it simply a list of products or services, with a list of features and specifications and a price tag, with no description of how your potential customers can benefit from it?
Good Web Design is Aesthetic
The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
Is it made clear to the reader how to navigate through the different sections of your site? Is your website designed to make reading the content and absorb information easier and enjoyable? Is it free of unnecessary visual clutter and ads that can detract from the main purpose of your site and irritate potential clients? Does your site use images and other media judiciously, when appropriate, and not just because you can? Does your choice of font and typographic styling reflect the professionalism you want your brand to project?
First Things First
Let’s talk about your Home Page. This is the very first thing that people who go to your website see after they type in your website’s address. It’s also likely the very first page they’ll land on after they’ve clicked on a link from a search page result that leads to your website.
So it makes sense to ensure that when a reader lands on your website, you catch his or her attention and keep them there for as long as possible by providing them value for the time they spend there. You do this by providing content relevant to their interests that is organized in a logical and easy-to-read manner.
That said, let’s get started on the basics of web design, shall we?
The Five Fundamental Things Your Website’s Home Page Must Have
Davide Casali, a User Experience Director and Startup Advisor, writes that a good landing page or home page should have these five basic elements:
- A branding element i.e. the logo
- A descriptive element i.e. a title and a description
- A call to action i.e. a button
- A visualization i.e. a screenshot, video or mood image
- A navigation element i.e. a menu
Your Branding Element
This means your logo or logotype. Remember when we talked about How to Brand Your Business? Your brand in this instance, as represented by your logo is an important part of the home page and needs to feature prominently on it.
In most cases, you’ll want to have this on the top-left or top-center to serve as the visual entry point the very first thing that your readers? eyes gravitate to on page load when your website first loads in their browser.
A Good Description
This means a title that represents your brand and business, along with two to three descriptive sentences to support it. Your title should describe what your business does or what it has to offer the potential client, and the supporting sentences should expand on the title, ideally emphasizing, again, the benefits of your products or services.
Ideally, this should be placed near the top of the home page, perhaps in line with your branding element (if your logo is placed on the top-left) or beneath it (say, if your logo is placed on the top-center).
A Good Call-to-Action
What’s the ONE THING you want someone on your websites home page to do? Think about that after having read the description at the outset and having given a good idea of what you’re all about, you need to give the user a way to get the benefits you’re offering. This is called a call-to-action.
For example, if you want readers to get in touch with you, you could provide a link that says:
Get in touch with us now by clicking here!
If you want them to download a free eBook or file, you could say:
Don’t miss out, download a special eBook on the best Restaurants in the New York It’s free!
If you want them to subscribe to a newsletter by filling in a short form, you could say:
Yes! I want to get exclusive health and nutrition tips and tricks by subscribing to your free newsletter!?
These are just a few examples that you can use. For a more in-depth look at how to write great headlines, write good copy, and write persuasive calls-to-action by reading our Guide to Copywriting for Small Business Owners, if you haven’t already.
An Eye-Catching Visual Element
A quality image or photo to complement your branding and description can be a powerful visual tool if used properly. What are some factors to consider when selecting what to put in? These can be:
- An image representing your main product or service
- A photo representing the emotional effect that what you have to offer has (e.g., smiling people doing a specific activity, etc.)
- A photo or image of the prominent personalities of your team
Whichever you decide to implement, make sure that the image you select is a high-quality, high-resolution file.
Sensible and Obvious Website Navigation
The three key things about an intuitive navigation system is that they tell you where you are, and they show you where else you can go.” Mike Stern, User Experience Evangelist at Apple
The simplest way to ensure your readers get around your website easily is to place a navigation menu with links to the main sections of your site close to the top of the page, just below the branding (if it’s placed top-center). You’ll want to make it obvious to the user that the links are unique and in fact clickable. Make sure that these links are visually different from the regular text content for the rest of the site.
So we’ve talked about the home page, the very first thing users see when they open your website. Now let’s talk about some of the essential supporting pages and sections that you may want to include.
One thing to note is that there is always the option to include the information that follows below into the home page. The one-page website is a trend that’s been gaining traction as of late, but it’s important to consider the amount of information that you feel is essential for the reader to absorb. If you can condense that information into a few bite-sized chunks or concise sentences, you can certainly go ahead and put it all on one page. But where more detailed information is beneficial, you should avoid putting everything on one page for the purposes of organization.
That said, here are some of the sections you’ll want to have in your website.
An About Page
Write a few paragraphs giving a quick overview of who you are and what you have to offer the visitor. If appropriate, include a bit of history. It’s also a good idea to include a quick photo and profile of yourself beneath these paragraphs, as well as profiles for other members of your team, if there are any. Make sure to include links to the pages that follow below.
A Testimonials / What People Are Saying Page
One of the best ways to market your business, your products, and services is to let your satisfied customers do it for you. Ask your clients for testimonials or feedback, and prominently feature positive experiences and quotes on this page. Make sure to include a link to your about, contact, and offerings section at the bottom of the page, as well as a call-to-action where appropriate.
A Contact Page
Never forget to give your users a way to get in touch with you! Ideally, you’ll want to have a contact form that a user can quickly fill-in and send for feedback purposes. You can also provide links to any social media accounts as well. Depending on your where your business is located, you may be legally required to list down a valid business address and contact number (though it’s always a good idea to include these, regardless of legal requirements).
Your Catalog of Offerings
Where appropriate and depending on the nature of your business, you’ll want to place your products or services offered on a separate section or page of your website. If you have a large number of offerings, you may want to consider including search functionality and sub-sections or categories that can help your users browse through more easily.
A blog is a great way to market your brand and keep your clients up-to-date on your business and your offerings. You can use it to create content relevant to your industry that’s useful to your patrons, you can also use it to start discussions, and you can use it to get valuable feedback as well. Done right, publishing regular, well-written, and useful blog posts can do wonders for engaging the people who matter most to you (and therefore, your business).
Bringing It All Together
Now that we’ve gone through some of the most essential elements that you need to consider when it comes to website design, have you noticed a pattern?
In essence, good web design is all about what’s good for and beneficial to your client.
Good web design means thinking about the best ways to give your customers the most enjoyable experiences and give them the value and the benefits that your products and services offer. The easier and more enjoyable you make interacting with your business, the more inclined they’ll be to stick around and see what you’ve got.
What’s good for your client is ultimately what’s good for you!