Are you already tired of hearing people’s “New Year, New Me” sentiments? What if you were hearing “New Year, New Site” instead? While the beginning of the year can make you feel like there’s lot of pressure to make resolutions and lifestyle changes, making the resolution to update your site is never a bad idea.
Alas, website design can feel overwhelming. In addition to choosing color palattes and an overall aesthetic, you’re also grappling with accessibility and useability. Thinking about expert-curated best practices is a good place to start.
Best practices is just what it sounds like. What’s the best way to go about designing your website? It’s the hub of your company, where customers and clients can touch base with everything surrounding your brand.
From upcoming promotional events to the latest products, your website needs to represent the face of your business. Keeping it fresh and interesting will convince loyal visitors and potential leads alike to make your page a regular stop.
1. Take the Time to Create Your Brand, and Use it Consistently
Creative, consistent branding has an enormous impact on website conversions. One of the best examples of this is Apple. Every piece of their equipment has a sleek, minimalist design, a simple logo, and a certain je ne sais quoi that keeps diehard fans coming back for more.
But this branding goes beyond their products. It’s echoed in every single aspect of their brand. The website uses similar minimalist aesthetics, the App Store mimics the simplicity of design, and even the product packaging is undeniably Apple, to the point that some people collect their boxes.
When you design your brand, you’re telling the story of you. That story’s first chapter is written on your website, especially if you’re an exclusively online seller. You need to make sure that it’s well-told, and one that customers don’t mind revisiting again and again.
2. Keep Common Sense Accessibility in Mind
All users to your site should get to experience your products and services, regardless of disability. Learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for business owners on their website. There, you can find a tool kit to help you audit your website.
Some major takeaways include:
- Allowing your site text to be viewed using custom browser settings
- Including audio descriptions and captions for videos
- Providing HTML and plain text alternatives to PDFs that allow text-to-speech programs to read these documents aloud
It should come as no surprise that mobile Internet access is overtaking PC access. In fact, according to Statista, 36% of all eCommerce sales are completed on mobile, and a whopping 95% percent of shoppers use their mobile device to look up reviews and comparison shop while in a traditional brick and mortar. If you’re not making your online presence known on mobile, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your marketing demographic.
Test your website on all the devices you can get your hands on, from iPhone to Android, Mac to PC, and any kind of tablet. Ask friends, family, and employees to take a few minutes to visit major pages on your site and report what they notice about design. Are there pictures they can’t see? Content they can’t access? Fix it before it causes a consumer to change their mind about completing a sale.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of White Space
We sometimes feel that we have to fill every crevice of available space with stuff that is going to convince a visitor to complete a sale. Product pictures, testimonies, mission statements, and anything else that you can cram onto a webpage can quickly become overwhelming for a visitor.
Make thoughtful use of white space and give your website room to breath. Everything from the space between letters to the margins between elements and the edge of the page need to be carefully considered.
Not sure where to start? Channel your inner Coco Chanel, who famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Before you publish your website, look it over and take something off the page. Keep doing this until you can’t anymore. That means that you’ve narrowed it down to the most critical elements.
From there, optimize those critical elements. Make them beautiful, branded representations of the message you’re trying to send your visitors. Doing so will allow you to create design elements that do the work of 10 other elements in a much smaller package.
4. Think Hansel and Gretel
Remember the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel? As they wandered through the woods, they cleverly left a trail of breadcrumbs to help them find their way home. Unfortunately, treacherous woodland creatures ruined their plan by munching on the crumbs, but you can use the same idea to make your website easier to navigate for your visitors.
If you’ve ever seen a subway map of New York City, you understand how difficult it can be to get from point A to point B without knowing where you’ve already been and where you’re headed.
Website breadcrumbs are handy navigational maps at the top of your page that show the path that visitors used to get to their current page. It also allows them to click within that “trail” to get back to a previous page. This is critically important if your website branches off into several categories from a single page.
For example, if you sell watches, you may have a general products page, which branches into men, women, and unisex. From there, each of those pages may branch into luxury, athletic, everyday, etc. Then, those pages could branch into colors, size, or brand. It can quickly become overwhelming to navigate so many paths.
Your breadcrumb trail will help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for.
5. Use Google to Your Advantage
There are nearly 70,000 Google searches performed every minute. Your potential customers and clients are constantly looking up questions, products, services, entertainment, and everything else under the sun. Many websites have cracked the code to being seen, and it’s called search engine optimization.
Google indexes websites based on their content. Create brilliant content, with thoughtful use of keywords, metadescriptions, and alt tags, and you’ll find yourself climbing to the top of the ranks. That’s good news, too. 75% of users go with a first page result to sate their curiosity or purchase needs.