What makes up an effective website design?
There is a difference between just having a website and having an effective website. A website displays your goods and services. An effective website converts visitors into paying customers.
Two things drive the effectiveness of your website – mechanics and marketing. The mechanics are the technical aspects of your site: how fast it loads, usability, etc. Marketing is text copy that entices your visitors to stay and explore your site, buy your products or use your services, or at the very least promote your brand.
Your designer should have an understanding of the following topics and should be able to discuss any of them with you.
Effective Website Design
The mechanics of your website are the technical features that make it work and make it easy to use. Does the website load quickly, or do your visitors have to sit and wait? Can your visitors find their way around your site, or do they get lost trying to figure out your menus? Can all your visitors see your site, or does it get scrambled because they are using a different browser?
The long time popular Internet Explorer browser is no longer viable for browsing the Internet, for years they promoted the idea that they owned the Internet and all new computers came pre-loaded with it. Not complying to Internet regulatory rules, they soon found that sites would not display correctly. I.E. will be releasing a compliant version in 2015. for now Firefox and Google Chrome are the best because the agree with the standard of the Internet web browsing configurations. If you are using an old version of any browser you are not enjoying the standard features of browsing now available to everyone else. My advice is to upgrade immediately.
Research has shown that if your pages takes to long to load, you will lose a substantial part of your visitors before they even see your site. Internet users can be impatient, and there are too many competing websites around to wait for slow web pages.
Speed Penalty now in Force. If your site loads slow Google says, PULL OVER, and gives you a ticket, so to speak. Google Search Engine now gives weight to loading speed and will penalize your site’s search engine ranking for slow loading. Fast loading should be a major design driver for your site.
To get your pages loaded quickly, keep the number of pictures and graphics to a minimum. All images should be as small as practical and should be compressed to reduce file size. If you insist on have a large amount of pictures on your home page, you will pay the price with a lower search engine ranking.
Your site navigation scheme (menus) must be intuitive and easy to follow. By the time your visitors get to the second page, they must understand how your site is arranged and how to get around. Pages must be clearly labeled in the main menu, and sub-menus must be obvious. If visitors get lost in your site, they are much more likely to leave than they are to struggle with a confusing navigation scheme.
Your website must be compatible with all common browsers and with all common computers. The Firefox browser and the Google Chrome browsers both have unique features. They each recognize web pages that other browsers cannot read. Websites also look different on Personal Computers (PCs) than they do on Macintosh computers (Macs) and of course on mobile devices.
To be effective, your site must be designed to be viewable with either browser on any viewing device. Responsive software design will end the need for having a completely separate website for each size screen and will properly display your website on all screen size appliances, such as desk tops and mobile phones. Mobile phones are now as popular as standard computers for web browsing. If your site is not of a responsive design, you are wasting your time and money by being available to only half the potential visitors.
The word on special effects – Be careful! Special effects drive your development cost up and they drive some visitors away. Your visitors are looking for products, services, and information. They are not looking for “cool” effects, commercials, or things that slow page loading.
Finally, your site should be legible. Avoid small fonts and hard to read fonts (scripts, italics). Be sure that the font color provides high contrast with the page background so that it is easy to read. Poorly designed text display sites with illegible black text on dark backgrounds are all too common on the Internet and the mark of an amature designer. Don’t let it happen on your website.
Effective Website Design
Getting the mechanics under control is only half the battle. It’s what happens after the site is displayed on your visitors’ monitors that determines how well your website meets its goals. This is the point where your visitors quickly skim over the contents of the page and decide whether your site will meet their needs or not. A good measure of people logging on and leaving before visiting another page is called the BOUNCE RATE. An acceptable bounce rate would be below 50%. It is essential that you capture and hold their attention immediately or you will lose them forever. Your front page layout should give the viewer a reason to click elsewhere and become engaged.
This is why your site must be designed with a clear set of goals and a well-defined target audience. You have to know who your visitors are and what they need. Keep in mind that your visitors have come to your site looking for products, services, or information. Remember also that every visitor is only one mouse click away from leaving. If you can’t convince them that you have what they want, they’re gone.
Remember you need a good first impression. You only have a few seconds to capture their interest.
Effective Copy Writing
Fortunately, the techniques to do this are well-known. They are taught in every Marketing 101 textbook. The same methods that work in print, on the radio, and on television also work on the Internet. It is just a matter of knowing and applying them. A good website designer will be able to help you with this by writing your copy or rewriting your first draft.
The basic guidelines are simple – start with well-written and useful content. Give your readers the information they came for. Lay out your pages so that they can be scanned quickly, using headlines, highlighting, and short bulleted lists to emphasize key ideas.
Once you have convinced your visitors that you have what they came for, you have to deliver. If you don’t have anything to say about your company, you are not ready for a website. The information that you give them should be clear and concise. Paths to contacting you or to buy your products should be obvious and obstacle free. Do not depend on a website designer to write all the text. Effective website design must have knowledgeable text, not rhetoric.