[This article was written by Alexander Hassoulas.]
Your business website is the cyberspace equivalent of a storefront. It is your best chance to make the best impression on online visitors and win their business. A poorly designed site will damage your credibility and impact negatively on the bottom line.
With so many local businesses going online, just having a website is no longer enough. Your website design and functionality must stand out. In this new era, a website is no longer just an online extension of your business. Sometimes your whole business is online.
Therefore, how you approach website design matters to your business’ ability to survive and thrive. The quality of your website can help determine if your business gets left behind or if it occupies a dominant place in the customer’s consciousness.
What are the key principles to bear in mind when designing a website for your local business?
The two principal factors of a good web design
How well a website is designed depends on how much attention is paid to two important factors. Every other aspect of the site fits into these two factors. What are the two principal factors for good website design?
- Visual appearance
- Usability or functionality
A website must be aesthetically pleasing, that is, it should be able to win and hold users’ attention. Second, it should do what it is designed to do with ease and users should have no difficulty using the site. The design principles explained below will guide you on how to make your website both appealing and usable.
Principle #1: Keep it simple
A website with too many elements will overwhelm visitors and the site will be hard to use and navigate. Only absolutely necessary elements should be included, everything else is a distraction. Simplicity means the site is easy to navigate because the content is streamlined. It also means its purpose is clear and information is readily available.
Principle #2: Employ an intuitive architecture
The site must have a flow; users can easily navigate from one point to another. Important features of intuitive website architecture are the ability to reach any page from any page on the site such as a clearly labeled menu, user’s ability to know what page they are on, the presence of a search bar on all pages, the use of dropdown menus, an accessible sitemap, and proper use of web conventions.
Principle #3: Choose the right color combinations
Colors have a strong effect on the human mind. Different colors evoke different psychological responses in people; anger, creativity, lethargy, desire, positivity, happiness, sadness, and more. In addition to choosing the right colors, the number of colors is important, as well as, how those colors are combined. Aim for a visually pleasing effect that does not clash with the overall message of the site.
Principle #4: The 8-second rule
That is how long your website has to engage a visitor’s attention before they click away from the site. Internet users have an incredibly short attention span and their patience is getting ever thinner. To hold visitor’s attention, do these: make headlines short, sharp, and sweet; use relevant and evocative images; make your call-to-action clear and visible, and use interactive audio and video. In short, make the site engaging.
Principle #5: Use high-quality images
Never use low-quality unprofessional images on your website. People relate to images especially if the images have people in them. And the more relevant the image is to your target audience, the more engagement you will get. Young people are more likely to click on pictures of young people, and older people on pictures of older people. Additionally, the images must evoke emotions in users.
Principle #6: Employ the F-pattern layout
This relates to the visual hierarchy of the elements on your web pages. The F-pattern refers to how visitors often navigate a web page. They first scan the upper area of the page in a horizontal direction. Afterwards they scroll down a little and scan the whole area in a horizontal direction. And then they finally scroll straight down to the bottom of the page and exit if they didn’t get what they wanted.
Principle #7: Communicate effectively
This means three things:
- Organization – the website must have a clear and consistent structure
- Economics – the content must be clear, simple, distinctive, and relevant
- Communication – it must deliver its message without ambiguity
One more aspect of communication is that the site must have an overriding goal and that goal must be visible to visitors. The goal should influence everything on the website.
Principle #8: Must be mobile-ready
The website must be responsive and it must render equally well on desktop screens and handheld devices. This is critical because at least 90% of visitors will be accessing your website via a smartphone or tablet. And of this number, a significant 60% will actually complete purchases on their mobile devices. If your website does not offer users a good mobile experience, your site traffic will be seriously impacted.
If you implement these principles on your website and keep updating the site to keep it fresh and engaging, your business will be ahead of the majority of your competitors. Cheers!
Alexander Hassoulas is a digital marketing consultant and co-founder of Upkeep Media Inc. Upkeep Media specializes in working with the real estate industry to improve their online presence through SEO, Paid Ads, Content Marketing, Website Development and Reputation Management.