How do you improve your website? As technology changes and as client expectations increase, this is a question most businesses struggle with. In this two-part article we’ll look at some ideas that can take your website from good to great in the area of design and function. Since there is so much to talk about I thought we should stay focused, keeping in mind the needs of your visitors at every turn. I promise this list will get you asking yourself some questions and taking stock of what you have and what you need to change.
Simplicity Still Reigns!
No matter what type of business you are in, your online visitors want things to be easy to use and easy to find. The KISS principle still applies, but with changing technology and user backgrounds being so diverse, keeping things simple may be more difficult than it sounds. Here are some ways to simplify the design process to impact how you connect with your visitor.
1. Images & Icons
A picture can often be the best way to grab a users attention, but be sure that your images and message line up. A simple point but often forgotten: people want to see themselves in your business. General or abstract images may not get the user to take the next step. This may mean creating additional pages that focus on varying markets or industries. You may know your business services or products work in multiple industries, but new visitors may not, making it a a way to grab their attention.
Icons are still your friends when it comes to connecting with people online. People are drawn to symbols they know quickly. Use them with text to get your visitor to quickly connect your information with their needs. You may have noticed that this concept is used often on websites that work more like an online application or social platform, which leads me into my next point.
2. Online Familiarity
When it comes to design, many people like to get creative. My advice: don’t sacrifice design for familiarity. As I mentioned in my previous point, icons are a good way to connect your audience to your content. Today, we are all used to certain symbols, but we’re also used to certain functions being in certain places on websites. For example: Where do you often find the login or Logout link on a website? Or what page do you look for to find a company address or phone number? Creating a clever design or using a term not familiar to your audience for the sake of a cool design may cost you. Do not sacrifice form over function. There is a reason many of the online stores that came after Amazon emulated the website. People get used to certain things and it impacts customer satisfaction. Do not make your customer jump through hoops, especially when you’re a small business.
3. Buttons vs. Links
There is a time for buttons and a time for text links, and it’s important to know when to use each of these features. Designing your page to get visitors into a certain page or to execute a certain action is very important. If you really want your visitor to click on something, make it a button. If your website is not meeting the success you had intended it to, you may need to spend some time reviewing this tip.
Blending in versus standing out is a struggle we often face when we look at things purely from a visual point of view. You may like the color of your links and buttons to blend in, but if they stand out you will see an increase in your return. Try testing this out and see how it impacts your sales. Buttons and links also drip into other areas when dealing with your website, like search engine optimization and usability. It is important to find the right balance for your marketing initiatives and user experience.
4. Page Styling & Marketing Messages
This tip may be more technical than you realize. Today, many people use content management systems to manage content. But if your developer is not as design focused, you may be missing some important tools. I find there’s a dearth of people that call attention to elements of their content or create styles on their pages that invite the eye to read the information. Create consistent styles on your pages so your website doesn’t look like a hodge-podge of design, but pull out important marketing messages and information your visitor needs to connect with. This is a great opportunity to integrate tip 1: using icons as part of page styling. Think of it this way: how do you feel when you walk into a retail store with properly laid out departments and organized displays? Research shows organized displays make a difference in our buying habits, and it makes a difference on your website.
5. Page Goals
This is my last tip, but it should be applied to all the tips above. It’s my last tip because after understanding the items above, you’ll appreciate this tip much more. Define page goals for each and every page on your website. Why did you spend time creating this page? What outcome do you want your visitor to take on this page? Use tips 1-4 to help make your goal a reality.
This is just a taste of some of the proven ways to improve your website. Start off with these five tips and be sure to check back for more ways to make your presence on the web known.
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