A successful website needs a number of attributes. It must be optimized for search engines, and be hosted by a company who can provide rapid page downloads anywhere – at any time.
The importance of website layout and design is often overlooked in pursuit of ecommerce efficiency or impressive domain authority figures. However, a badly designed or inefficient site will lead to high bounce rates, as people click away from the site or return to search results. Getting a website’s design and aesthetics right is absolutely vital for conveying the important messages, directing audiences to the right location or objective, and ensuring they take away a positive impression of the company in question.
Here are our key recommendations for designing an effective and user-friendly website template:
Conduct online research. Spend some time going through established websites, looking at how they’re structured and whether they’re easy to use. Consider any attributes that work well, and note down ideas with potential to benefit your own site. While sitemaps and search buttons are falling out of favor, blogs and prominent menus are increasingly vital.
Pursue objectives. It’s easy to get carried away with the design of a site, rather than considering how people will actually use it. Every page should be focused on directing people to a specific outcome, like making a purchase or getting in touch. Consider how each element of the site can boost the likelihood of audiences completing a sale or wanting to give you their custom.
Wireframe a sitemap. Don’t rush into page construction until you’ve written down or sketched out how the site will hang together. Every page has to justify its existence within part of a wider framework, like branches on a tree. Key decisions include which pages link to which other pages, and how to embrace external content without people leaving the site.
Think about functionality. Does the site need to display stock levels from a database, or have text that can be adjusted in real time via CMS? Should product image galleries autoscroll or be click-to-expand? Decisions like these will shape how a site operates, in turn guiding you towards particular styles or page layouts. Let function dictate form, not the other way around.
Use a template builder. There’s no need to program your own HTML or become a CSS guru. WordPress alone powers almost a quarter of the world’s websites, with numerous templates that can be customized to your heart’s content. Once you’ve added logos, text and images, there’ll be nothing to connect your website layout with others using the same template.
Embrace consistency. Imagine how frustrating a website would be if every page had its navigation menu in a different place. Attributes like headers and footers should be universal throughout a site, along with menus and social media buttons. Retain the same fonts and color schemes throughout; this will also simplify any site-wide changes made in future.
Don’t become obsessed with style. In the Noughties, website layouts became overly stylized, with moving navigation menus and slow-loading Flash content. Successful modern web design is all about simplicity – prominent menus with clear page titles, discreet backgrounds and small blocks of easy-to-read text. Less is more, and simplicity trumps complexity.
Avoid auto-playing content. Another Noughties trend involved synthesized music that started playing as soon as audiences reached the homepage, or videos that spent two minutes buffering before suddenly exploding into life with a loud soundtrack. This increases loading times, damages SEO, and is annoying and unnecessary. Drop the score and pause the videos.
Design for mobile. Most web traffic is displayed on mobile devices, so a site needs to look equally good on a four-inch smartphone or a 4K monitor. Responsive frameworks adjust a website layout to suit each screen resolution. Compress images to shorten loading times, swap standard menus for space-saving hamburger menus, and minimize text for a clean look.
Prioritize the homepage. This is the fulcrum of any website, where people make decisions in a matter of seconds about whether to read on. Place key USPs or selling points front and center, and don’t be afraid of bold text or large fonts. Make it clear why people should explore the site further, and what you can offer if they do.
Pick simple fonts. Numerous fonts are available nowadays, but obscure ones might not display properly on every screen and browser. Keep things simple with two or three popular fonts, and beta test your site on as many different devices as possible. Look for symbols that have become corrupted, while some fonts make the ‘ae’ character pairing look squashed.
Optimize readability. Well-chosen fonts are important, but so is effective use of content. Don’t put masses of text onto any page (particularly on the homepage), since modern (and online) attention spans are very short. Try not to have more than three sentences per paragraph, or three paragraphs per page. Bold text and subheadings can be arresting when used sparingly.
Include images. If you know your fill flash from your f-stops, take some stylish photos and incorporate at least one onto each page. If your pictures tend to feature thumbs across the lens, consider premium paid-for images on platforms like Getty or Shutterstock. There are plenty of copyright-free photos available, although they tend to be widely used and fairly generic.
Avoid pixelation. This might occur in several ways, such as fonts that haven’t been rendered properly or overly compressed photos. View a beta website at the highest screen resolution available, and look for blocky graphic edges or obvious changes in background shading. Crisp and sharp graphics will always generate a more professional ambience.
Add subtle flourishes. The days when audiences expected Flash animations and parallax scrolling are long gone. However, discreet mouseover animations or subtle clicks when a menu button is pressed can lend an aura of quality to a site. Inject some humor into the obligatory error page if content can’t be found, and ensure photo/page transitions are smooth.