Your website is the nucleus of your business; it is the representation of your company and is one of the most distinguishing branding elements in Marketing. Your customers make judgments about your company based on the effectiveness of the design elements in your website. These elements are things such as navigation, typography, accessibility and usability.
Many businesses run their websites much differently than they do its offline counterpart. Would you allow your sales people to be dressed in grungy clothes when they are dealing with your customers? When your sales force is dressed professionally you are telling your customers that you do care about quality. First impressions matter in business and you often do not get a second chance to make a good impression.
Equally, this is also true with your company website. If your website is put together poorly and looks like a cheap template job or a website your college nephew made you are shouting to your visitors that you are not professional and you do strive for excellence.
On the other hand, if you have a professional website layout, you are giving your visitors the perception that you have given careful attention to every detail and you care about your companies image. This shows you are serious about business and would conduct yourself professionally should they become a customer.
Here are some design elements that we consider pillars of effective web design.
- The Importance of a Sitemap – A sitemap is essential in the development of your website. A sitemap gives your visitors an effective tool for finding relevant information on your site. By stressing the importance of having a sitemap, you will be able to help your visitors find what they need. You should also have a sitemap designed just for search engines to help the search engine know what is important about your website and also keeps them aware of any new content that may have been added since they last crawled your site.
- Navigation Clarity – Your sites navigation should be clear and to the point. It is important to offer navigation on every page so that you visitor does not get stuck anywhere on your site without being able to easily navigate where they want to go without having to hit back on the browser. Avoid complicated Flash based menus or multi-tiered dropdown menus. If your visitors can’t understand how to navigate your site they will leave.
- Conveying your site’s premise – Your Visitors should be able to determine what business you are in and whether or not your services are relevant to them at a glance. Nothing is more frustrating to a visitor than not clearly understanding what the websites main purpose is. From a design perspective this should be done using headline tags such as h1 and h2. You can also do this with lists as well to break up heavy content into easier to consume bites.
- Use clear Calls to Action – A pillar of effective design is helping the user understand what you want them to do. Use a consistent call to action to achieve your goals and to also help the user take the next step.
- Site Optimization – Make sure your site is properly optimized for your visitors. Make sure you keep file sizes to a minimum to help web pages load fast in the users browser. Get a reliable hosting provider who can guarantee things like availability and bandwidth. If a customer can’t access your website even the best designed site means little.
- Maintain Consistent Styles – You want your visitor to have a consistent experience on your site. Avoid completely different layouts on different pages whenever possible. It is encouraged to have different inner page layouts for things like landing pages, product and service pages and portfolio pages but the overall style should remain the same.
- Commit to Continuous Improvement – The most important pillar is to commit to continuously improving your website. There is always room for improvement. Use a good analytics program to track visitors behavior. Focus on goals and how well you convert on those goals. Split test your changes to determine their effectiveness.
If you follow these 7 pillars you will have a website that is an integral part of your businesses success. You will clearly establish yourself and your company as a leader in your market. Prospective customers will have already established a sense of trust before you have made any human contact.