If you’re setting up a new website or just breathing life into your old one, you need to know the basics of web design. Even if you’re not doing it yourself, it can help to know a little.
Of course you can take the easy and often the most effective route: our simple website builder can help you make the difficult decisions, and gives you drag and drop functionality to take the pain out of web design. It will even build fully responsive page templates, meaning the website will display beautifully across all devices! If you’re feeling brave, though, you can also opt to modify a WordPress template or build your own from scratch.
Whichever way you want to go, there are some things you should know before you strike out on a fresh design:
1. Keep it simple
So many designs are much too complicated and actually get in the way of navigation. This is style over substance and it will cost you in the long run.
Think of the user experience. If your website looks beautiful but is actually a nightmare to navigate, then you have failed. If it looks basic, but works like a charm, then it’s undoubtedly a success.
Therefore, don’t automatically go for the most complex design you can find: keep it as simple as possible and add layers of complexity as you need them.
2. Keep it short
You might think your readers will want a 1200-word potted history of the company on your ‘About us’ page, but the reality is they just don’t.
Writing for the web is a skill in itself, but as a general rule you don’t want too much copy. Long blog posts can be hugely effective when it comes to your SEO, but for the static pages you’ll be much better served with 200-400 words of copy and a striking image.
David Ogilvy, often regarded as the master of advertising, found that 250 words of copy, a picture and a stunning strapline was the magic formula for print ads.
3. Make it obvious
You might have clever names for your sections, but if the reader has to work out what they mean then they are actually a hindrance. This is especially true if English isn’t their first language.
Give the reader a chance: stick to common terms for your sections and make your navigation obvious, clean and simple.
Too many colors can make a website look childish, which rarely encourages customers to press the buy button or clients to pick up the phone and hire you.
Stick to two main colors and the general trend is to use black copy on a white background. Black backgrounds and white text were in vogue for a while, but they simply don’t convert as well so it is wise to stick to the tried and trusted formula. Whatever you do make sure there’s contrast: barely legible copy in a tone-on-tone format is a bad idea. Don’t do it.
As far as the other colors go, stick to your corporate branding if you can, with two main colors and potentially one accent color for hyperlinks and other material you want to draw attention to.
Think about complementary colors and get a color wheel, or use this one from Adobe if you are not sure where to start. You might find that the colors you’ve selected for your new company simply don’t work and you’re back to square one. It’s better to find out now.
5. White space
Novices often try to fill up the whole page with material, naively thinking this is essential. It isn’t. Give your copy and pictures space to breathe, even space out your lines. There is nothing more intimidating than a tight block of text filling the page. Give the reader a break with some soothing white space.
6. Contact information
Contact forms are clever and, in some cases, essential. Consider how annoying it is, though, when you’re presented with a lengthy form requiring all kinds of information just to query an order. Keep your contact forms down to the absolute bare necessities and, where possible, provide real contact information like an email address and phone number.
If you rely completely on a complex form, you will lose business.
7. Calls to Action
As well as easy access to the contact information, use call to action buttons where you can. Every separate service and every separate product can have a powerful call to action and you should test variations. That will boost your conversions, as well as improving the user experience. Think of them as shortcuts as well as gentle prods to get your customer to act.
Once you’ve designed your website, make sure to check out WestHost for all your web hosting solutions!