Great website design results in a positive user experience (UX) by optimizing the look and function of the user interface (UI) so that all the elements ‘flow’ together in a way that is intuitive, feels pleasant and solves the problems that the user is seeking. Visitors are looking for information that is presented cleanly, simply and clearly.
The following six sensory elements are critical:
Prospects arrive with a purpose, often impatiently. They have an instant impression, so your design has to engage them immediately. At the same time they are experiencing the look and feel of the site. You want it to exude a visual sense of high quality and credibility.
Your site must speak to and delight visitors in a way that matches or exceeds their expectations, while being relevant for your industry or service business.
It is now well-established that prospects will scan for relevancy first, before deciding to stay longer. So you need to focus their attention in a way that is obvious and self-explanatory. This involves practicing the principles of good design, including wise use of white space, making each element clear and having the right mix of distinctiveness and emphasis.
Your content, highlighted by bolded titles, graphics, and links, must interest the visitors enough that they continue to remain on the website.
Your site layout and navigation must be easy to figure out. If visitors have to work at it, they’ll get distracted and lose interest quickly. It’s a matter of a couple of seconds or so, and not much more.
Using already familiar icons, symbols and easily identifiable graphics will go a long way to prevent confusion for the new visitor. Innovate here only when it really enhances their visit. Testing various options will help you make the best choices.
Each page has to have some kind of visual anchor like, for example, the navigation being in the same spot on each page. This helps the visitor move easily, undistracted by unnecessary layout changes.
- pages are loading instantly
- individual pages are not overloaded or cluttered
- images are optimized for fast web loading
- plugins and add-ons are not slowing down the loading speed
- the coding and scripts are optimized to the latest web standards
- large files, like embedded videos, are accessed from off-site locations or in the ‘cloud’ (via a content delivery network) so your own website is not overly burdened.
- You have high quality hosting and critical plugins that offer outstanding performance
Focus your reader’s attention with moderate use of eye-catching elements like images, graphics, video, highlighted text, buttons, use of size, colours, contrasts and layout position. You want the reader to initially notice these attention-grabbing elements by somehow fading out the secondary elements. Help create your visual hierarchy with optimal use of white space. It’s practical implications are:
- the page loads faster
- it’s easier to read and absorb information
- it effectively moves the reader through the information.
Type size must be large enough so that content is easily read and dealt with. Your website is no place to overload the prospect with too much information, squeezed in tightly. There are other options for focusing attention such as using sub-menus, creating more pages, and downloading detailed content in pdf files, for example.
The next three critical elements deal with establishing sensory, emotional, cognitive and meaningful impact with content.
7. Quality Content
Content and design have to work seamlessly together. Your content must be intrinsically attractive, rich, relevant and well-written, in addition to being well-designed into the site’s pages.
Web content has to inform and connect in a useful, credible and trustworthy manner. It applies to whether you are blogging, describing your products, nurturing new client relationships or building customer loyalty.
You are establishing your expertise and authority, so you want your content to be original, to uniquely show how you can help your visitors. Of course, you also want to be in touch with the leading wisdoms in your field, so some credited borrowed expertise can be very helpful.
And, it’s much more than words on a page. In fact it is becoming more and more the key to developing and maintaining online relationships.
8. SEO-Friendly pages
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about optimizing your website’s design and content so it ranks higher in the search engines and gets more sites linking to your pages. This will increase your site traffic, lead generation and brand awareness.
You can have the greatest design with the best content, but if your desired client can’t find you, then you’ve wasted all that effort.
SEO is both an art and a science. Rankings are determined by the major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. And, they are continually evolving their algorithms (which are not publicly shared) that determine how these rankings are calculated.
A whole new industry has developed around SEO. Large companies typically spend a great deal of money tweaking their sites for incremental gains. For the small-medium business, however, knowing the basic guidelines, using common sense, and monitoring the effectiveness of your choices can go a long way to ranking well in the search engines.
And, of course, it is critical to be very specific in your messaging and keyword targeting so that you are realistically attracting your most desired clients.
Now, more an ever before, search engines are favoring natural, human-centered (personalized) content, when it is shared on a consistent basis.
You want a web platform that naturally incorporates the right information for the search engines to rank. Choosing the best keywords for your site and putting them in the right places helps you get your site favourably noticed.
Search engines place great emphasis on high quality, relevant and keyword-rich content. In addition, Google increasingly favours media such as video, images, blogging, news releases and presence on social media sites.
Getting Found In The Search Engines
Businesses wanting to get noticed need to integrate their websites with relevant social sites. They also need to produce a steady flow of fresh content that is inter-linked to other content and shared with the various media.
Along with inbound links and their degree of relevancy to the keywords of your website, the search engines are now counting your social presence (signal) and authority to determine how high to rank your business in the search engines.
For example, Google displays relevant site content below the original results listings in Google Search.
9. Social Media Savvy
Using social media in business is no longer an option. Marketers today are using it to achieve core objectives such as:
- building their brand
- reaching more people
- engaging prospects
- increasing customer loyalty
- improving customer service
- driving local business and
- generating direct sales.
Social media communications most commonly used by small to medium businesses include blogging from the website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, in addition to RSS and Email. Businesses also benefit from industry-specific forums, directories and news sites.
Evolving Social Communications Practices
Entrepreneurs who communicate from a deep understanding and sense of caring about their customers are reaping benefits from relevant choices of social media. Those who do not, risk alienating customers further and losing market share.
Taking a conscious holistic approach to creating your social media presence will go a long way to building your credibility, authority and gaining more business. This involves updating client information and engaging effectively with your current customers and prospects, before adding additional social media channels.
Find out where your current clients and prospects like to ‘hang out’. Start out by listening for their needs and wants. Then begin to contribute to the conversations in an authentic and natural way.
Your social media tone should match how you naturally project yourself at industry and client gatherings
The aim of results-focused design is to make your website your best marketing asset. In many cases it will be your prospect’s first or second contact with your organization. Design your website’s content and flow so it captivates and engages client interest.
Your web presence can become your best and most unique marketer by:
- helping prospective clients find your highly valued searchable content
- communicating the right messages
- differentiating yourself from your competition
- successfully moving prospects along the decision-making process, and
- interacting with, building and maintaining long-term customer loyalty
It is critical for you to take a conscious and integrated approach to designing your website. Done properly, it will become a living, breathing extension of yourself: your communications, your culture and your operations.