Good website design isn’t rocket science; as long as you keep some fundamental principles in mind, you can design effective websites. However, if you aren’t aware of these principles before you begin, you will almost certainly fall into one of the many common pitfalls that trip up inexperienced web designers. Below are some of the most essential web design principles to keep in mind when designing and developing your business website.
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Search Engine Optimisation
If you want your website to be visible in search engine results, you need to pay attention to your SEO. If your SEO is an afterthought, you will have an uphill struggle to make your way to the top of the results pages. On the other hand, if SEO is a consideration from the moment you first start designing and building your website, you can put it at the heart of every design choice you make.
Considering SEO from the very beginning will make all of your subsequent digital marketing efforts much easier. That said, you shouldn’t be creating web pages just for SEO. Your content must be high-quality and organic. That doesn’t mean that you can’t target specific keywords and phrases, but your content still has to provide value to human readers.
Google is the biggest search engine in the world by quite a considerable margin; it is only natural to focus primarily on it when devising an SEO strategy. Google’s SEO algorithms are considerably more effective than they used to be; they can now differentiate between content written to exploit the search rankings and content written for people.
SEO isn’t just about your websites’ content either. The overall layout and design of your website also play a significant role in determining your SEO score. For example, page load times are an essential metric; the longer it takes your website to load, the lower your score will be. Page load speed isn’t just about the amount of data users have to request to load your site. By using creative design and coding techniques, you can load a heavyweight, data-intensive page relatively quickly.
Similarly, Google will factor in your websites’ bounce rate when calculating your score. Your bounce rate measures the number of people who land on your website after clicking a link in search engine results and then leave again without exploring your site further. The higher this number is, the lower your SEO score will be.
A responsive website is essential for delivering the best possible user experience. A responsive website is one that will automatically adjust its layout to suit the device it is being viewed on. With so many different devices and displays out there that users might view your website on, developing a separate version for each of them is an impossible task. Instead, web designers should utilise dynamic pages that re-organise themselves automatically.
Businesses used to have to develop entirely separate mobile-friendly versions of their websites for users browsing on mobile devices. Today, responsive designs mean that businesses only need to build a single version of their website that incorporates dynamic features. This development has made website designing considerably cheaper and easier for businesses.
Rearranging the layout of a web page is an integral component of responsive web design, but it is not the whole story. For example, image optimisation has a critical role to play. As well as dynamically altering the size of images to fit the users’ device, web designers can also use adaptive images to load an entirely different website if the original image won’t work well on the users’ display.
It’s hard to overstate how important a well thought out user interface is to good website design. If your website is difficult to navigate, most people simply won’t bother; they will move on to one of your competitors. Unless your website is offering something really unique, your users will always have other options.
Decluttering your navigation and stripping it back will make it considerably to use. Look at every design element in your navigation menu and ask yourself if it really needs to be there. If you can’t think of a reasonable justification for including an element in your navigation bar, you should remove it.
Navigation is another aspect of your web design that should be dynamic. Users browsing on a laptop or desktop have much more screen space to work with; you can present these users with more categories and page links than your mobile users and still have room to add in a search bar. For mobile users with smaller screens, the usual solution is a hamburger menu or similar collapsible interface which can expand to reveal navigation links.
If you have designed your navigation well, a new user landing on your home page for the very first time should be able to find their way to the content they need without any trouble. Navigation is one of the most important parts of the web design process; lacklustre user navigation will sink a website’s chances of success, no matter how good the actual content is.
A clear search box on your home page will make it easy for users to find whatever they need from your website; as long as they know what they are looking for. Navigation links are how users will find content that they would otherwise have missed.
A Lightweight Approach
It isn’t just your websites’ navigation that you should streamline. Throughout the design and development of your website, you should always ask yourself why you are adding elements to your website; if you can’t provide a satisfactory answer, chances are you should remove the bloat or modify your website significantly to make it as lightweight as possible. Remember what we said earlier about bounce rate and page load times; every unnecessary element you add to your website will increase your load times and reduce your SEO score.
You can make your website more lightweight by combining scroll triggers with a logical visual hierarchy. Scroll triggers will prevent content from loading unless a user actually scrolls to the part of the page where that content is located. Meanwhile, visual hierarchy is a design principle whereby you order content so that the most important content is at the top. Combining these techniques means that users never scroll further than necessary and never need to load more page elements than they have to.
Sharing is Caring
Giving your users the ability to share your web content on social media with a single click enables you to get your content in front of audiences that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. Adding a simple call to action at the end of blog posts is a straightforward but hugely effective way of encouraging your audience to share your content with others.
Every business should maintain a social media presence of some kind. Not only is social media a great way of interacting with your audience, but it’s also a vital lead generation channel. Combining social media with a full-fledged website creates a synergy between them both, making each of them more effective than either individually.
Test, Test, Test
Conducting usability tests will enable you to test key features and functionality on your website and ensure that everything works as intended. Whether you are considering your website as a whole or individual elements within it, extensive testing avoids embarrassing and potentially costly mistakes.
To thoroughly test the functionality of your website, you want to put it in the hands of as many different users and as many different devices as possible. It’s easy to underappreciate how differently the same website can behave on two different smartphones. We’re not just talking about the difference between iOS and Android, either. Not everyone is running the latest version of their operating system; some people don’t even update their browser apps. When you add desktops and laptops into the mix, the differences between users can be even more dramatic.
With these design principles in mind, designing a useful website becomes significantly easier. Remember, web design is an iterative process; don’t pressure yourself to do it perfectly the first time. It is only by building a website and releasing it into the wild that you can properly evaluate the quality and effectiveness of its design.