Good design is good business
Your website’s design is responsible for more than just how it looks. It’s also responsible for how it functions and feels, but most importantly, it’s responsible for how people feel about your business.
Yes, brand loyalty and providing quality products & services are important, but people make decisions about online purchases and loyalty based mostly on a website’s overall design.
The point of having a website for your business is to help your business grow. If it isn’t helping you increase your customer base and revenue, it’s not doing what it should.
Designing an effective website isn’t easy. It needs to accomplish what both you and your target audience want it to, which isn’t always the same thing, and it needs to do this while being well-structured, beautiful, accessible, mobile-friendly, updatable, and fast.
It’s a lot of work, but it's an investment worth taking seriously because most people will use your website to decide if they trust you enough to do business with you. Business relationships, like all others, are based on trust.
If you want your website to convert potential customers into customers, your website needs to establish trust and credibility with them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do; if people don’t trust your website because it’s difficult, slow, or annoying to use, they won’t trust you either.
On the other hand, if your website is easy and enjoyable to use, people will spend more time on it, which will increase the likelihood they become customers.
Your website's ability to help your business is directly linked to how well it's designed. Keep this in mind while you weigh your options. A quick, cheap website might sound appealing now, but it might end up costing you more in lost business than a professionally designed one in the long run.
What is Design
Design isn’t just picking one color over another, even though the particular blue that Microsoft uses for Bing accounts for 80M in revenue per year.
It’s not just knowing how to write for the web, how to use images properly, or where to put calls to action, although these are important too.
At its essence, design is the marriage of form and function to achieve the desired effect in the most simple and frictionless way possible.
Good design begins with diagnosing problems and is the crucible that reveals the best solutions. It's where problem-solving, creativity, aesthetics, psychology, and more meet in order to improve the experience of using the thing being designed.
Good design is something we don’t notice when done right, but when done wrong, it’s all we notice. It affects how we experience things we interact with, and those experiences shape our opinions about those things and those who make them.
The same goes for your website. You aren’t just designing a website, you’re designing an experience, and people are going to judge you based on it.
The User Experience
When designing a website, you’re really designing what’s known as the user experience (UX). The UX is the overall experience people have, for better or worse, while using your website. Every aspect of your site either adds to or diminishes it, so you have to think about every detail, both big and small.
A website with good UX helps build credibility and promotes trust between your website (and by extension, your business) and the people using it.
A website with bad UX is frustrating to use, which leads to higher bounce rates, lower dwell times, and people leaving your site without taking the desired action. And the majority of people that leave a website because of bad UX never visit it again.
First impressions are very important and they last. There are no second chances when potential customers have unlimited options at their fingertips.
Your website must show them you are professional, trustworthy, and helpful, and it has to do this immediately.
You don’t need flashy animations, tons of information on your homepage, or videos everywhere in order to create a pleasant experience. In fact, doing those things can create a bad UX if they aren’t done correctly.
Creating a good UX is really just about designing your website from the user’s POV. If you can prioritize the actions your business needs them to take while doing that, then you’ve succeeded where most don’t.
By respecting the user, you can create a user journey that will help guide him/her toward taking the action(s) you want them to take. By accomplishing one, you accomplish both. This is what good design is all about.
5 Ways To Improve Your Website’s Design
Every aspect of your site contributes to its design, whether good or bad. The following is a handful of ways you can improve the UX of your site.
1 - Using Images and Videos Properly
Using media that’s relevant and high-quality goes a long way in helping people trust you. But there are some guidelines for doing it correctly.
Use authentic images whenever possible. Stock photos are better than nothing, but people don’t trust them as much as images of the real thing. Use them if you must, but try to use real images of your products and people when you can.
Before you use images on your site, be sure to enhance and optimize them.
Images that look great when you take them usually don’t look as good once they’re on your website. It’s like they somehow magically get darker in the process. Adjusting the exposure and doing some minor color correcting can make a big difference.
Optimizing images for the web mainly means ensuring file sizes are as small as possible. Large image files are one of the biggest factors in a website's speed. Any good image editing software will give you the capability to do this, and you really should.
As a rule, try to get every image under 200kb. You won’t always be able to do this, but try. One of my favorite tricks is to change the image’s physical size (after cropping it to only what you need) to a little larger than what you need before reducing the file size. You’ll be surprised how much more you can shave off the file size by doing this.
Videos drive sales 48% more than image-based ads, so using them where appropriate can be a great tactic. But before you add videos everywhere, make sure you’re adding them for good reasons. Videos take time to load and when talking about page loading, every second counts.
This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: make sure you have the rights or give credit when necessary for every image on your site. No exceptions.
And don’t forget about accessibility. A bigger percentage of website users have disabilities than you may be aware of, and it’s your responsibility to enable them to use your website. Accessibility is important, and you should familiarize yourself with the steps you’ll need to take to let everyone use your awesome website.
2 - Navigation & Information Architecture
Having an intuitive navigation increases the user’s understanding and satisfaction while using your site, which is essential in creating a positive user experience.
But this involves more than just putting links to other pages at the top of your website or putting relevant buttons in the right place.
If you want your navigation to be intuitive and easy to use, your site must have a solid information architecture. You do this by making a site map, which is the visual representation of how the pages and content of your site will be structured.
Your information architecture is the backbone of the entire website. If it’s structured with thought, users will have a much easier time finding what they’re looking for. If not, your site is going to confuse them and waste their time, and that’s not good.
Of course, you want to show the user what makes you different and what products/services you provide, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you know why everyone is visiting your site.
You have to design for both your needs and your users’ needs. If you get this key principle wrong, your website is doomed before it’s built. So, always start by thinking of every navigational situation and build a solid information architecture.
3 - Responsiveness
People will use various devices to access your website, and you need to make sure the positive UX you painstakingly designed works well on all of them. This means changing the layout for each screen size without breaking from the overall design and structure.
Trust me, this is easier said than done, but 50-60% of all internet traffic is on mobile devices now, so not being mobile-friendly just isn’t an option.
Having a website that’s responsive doesn’t just show people you’re up-to-date, it shows them you value their time and energy, and they’ll appreciate that.
Not making your website responsive will hurt it in many ways, not least of which is Google will punish it in search rankings.
The reasons to make your website responsive far exceed the reasons not to.
4 - SEO
SEO (search engine optimization) is essentially how well your website ranks in search results. There are different kinds of SEO, but the one you have the most control over while designing your website is called on-site SEO.
You can bolster your on-site SEO in two main ways: including keywords in your content and - you guessed it - the quality of the UX.
Keywords are words and phrases people type when using search engines. Strategically placing these keywords on your site will help your site's chances of being found by those search engines.
But if you’re thinking of just spamming your site with keywords everywhere, think again. Google got wise to this years ago and now punishes sites that do this.
Unlike using keywords, which helps Google find relevant search results, the quality of your UX affects your search rankings using different metrics.
Google ranks websites based on over 200 factors, and your site’s UX is responsible for quite a few. This is because search engines pay attention to how long people stay on your site, and that depends mostly on whether people enjoy using your site or not.
Remember, Google’s job is to find relevant and helpful results for search inquiries. If people find your site useful, they’ll stay on it longer. Google will notice this, consider it a good result for that search, and reward it by placing it higher on the list.
Conversely, if people leave your site because it’s slow, annoying, directionless, has broken links, isn’t responsive, etc., Google will notice that too and punish it by bumping it down the list.
On-site SEO is an important aspect of your website. If done right, it can help Google suggest your site in search results. But remember, no keyword in the world can make up for a bad user experience, so take your design seriously.
5 - Write content (copywriting)
Writing for the web is much different from writing for other mediums. Even if you aren’t a great writer, you should still familiarize yourself with the basics, because knowing how to write for the web can make a big difference in your site’s UX.
People come to your website because they’re looking for information. If you want users to engage with your website, make sure its content is clear, concise, consistent with your brand, relevant, and persuasive.
And don’t forget to include those keywords if you want to maximize on-site SEO.
When writing for the web, remember that people don’t read websites inasmuch as they scan them while looking for individual words and sentences. Therefore, you should structure your content accordingly and stick to smaller paragraphs. Limiting them to 60-80 characters per line is a good ballpark.
You don’t need to be an expert copywriter to make your writing better. You just need to keep in mind that people are always a split second away from leaving your page, and it’s up to every word on your page to keep them interested.
Creating content is one of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of creating a website, but it’s too important to not do right. We are, after all, talking about the message you want to convey to potential customers - that you’re the best at what you do. Make them believe!
Your website is one of your business’s most powerful tools. It’s an educational, commercial, and advertising workhorse that never sleeps. Most importantly, it helps your business grow by showing people how and why you are the best choice out there.
It’s how potential customers make their first impression of you and it helps them decide if they’re going to trust you with their business. How you design your website will heavily determine how successful it is at doing this.
This article is just the tip of the iceberg - a point in the right direction. If you want to create your own website, I strongly suggest you dig deeper into this topic.
If you don’t want to spend the time and energy learning this and the other disciplines required to make a successful website, you could always invest in one that’s professionally designed instead.