In our overview article on web design we talked briefly on several topics. This article will kick off a series where we examine those topics in more detail. Today we concentrate on what we said was perhaps the most important piece of the web design process, appearance.
Browsing any website, yours included, is intensely visual. The extent to which your website’s design grabs and holds a visitors attention, particularly in the first few seconds, is the single most important factor in determining whether they stay on your website or not. Obviously, if they are not going to hang around for more than few seconds the likelihood of converting that visitor to a buyer or client is slim.
The measure called conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that take a desired action. A desired action may be buying a product, signing up for a newsletter, reading a blog, or whatever you are appealing for them to do while they are on your website or viewing that specific page. So, we can say that unappealing design drives down conversion rates. Low conversion rates are sometimes misinterpreted by owners or managers as a pricing issue, marketing flaw, incorrect targeting and so on. While those things could be part of the issue, you should first determine if poor or mediocre website appearance is a contributing factor. If you are unable to keep them on the website in the first place, it does not matter how good your pitch is or how deep the discount!
We will examine some specifics in a moment but let me first say that, like all rules, design rules have exceptions. For example, your overall website scheme might be dark blue, light blue, and black Arial text on a white background. But a brightly colored banner or other graphic announcing a sale, other promotion, or new event on the calendar would be appropriate. If you keep these items to a minimum, you’ll be fine.
“So, we can say that unappealing design drives down conversion rates.”
Whether or not you make good use of color can make or break your website. That orange and purple scheme made you stand out from the competition for sure, but for all the wrong reasons. Your website color scheme should essentially match the colors used in your logo. Again, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. But even if you decide to have a different color scheme on your website, keep it simple and consistent. Does your website primarily use two or three colors in a scheme that blends well and creates a proper tone for the business? If not, your design is probably creating a negative perception in your viewers’ minds.
A good design will be one with a consistent layout. That is, the various pages on your website should more or less all have the same layout. Layout is location of the menu, number of columns, etc. You should not make your visitor have to figure out every other page as they navigate your website.
The text portion of your website content is called copy. The copy should be in a font and style that is easily read by the majority of viewers. Black text on a white background is the most easily read but other design choices can be effective as well. Mismatched fonts, loopy or cursive lettering, and anything animated detract from a professional image in most cases. Again, simple and consistent wins the day.
Graphics should relate directly to the copy on that page. Graphics or icons that tell the same story that lots of text would get a big plus in this category. It’s preferable for the graphics you use to come from a set or collection to ensure style, color and design are consistent.
A picture may be worth a thousand words but photos that seem random, poorly executed or unassociated with your business cast an unprofessional air to your website. High quality photography should be used throughout your website. Stock photo services can be a low, or no, cost alternative to employing or contracting someone for the job. That shot of an employee at the company picnic eating two chicken legs at the same time might be amusing around the office, but it sends a much different message to your website visitors. If it’s not a high quality photo, don’t use it.
Moderation in all things applies to web page design as well. Simple and focused text is the winning design. Pages should not be overloaded in an effort to impress. Take a look at your website. Are page layouts relatively simple allowing for adequate white space? Is there a minimum of text, graphics and animation to convey the message? Efforts made by the designer in this area are called reducing the cognitive load, otherwise known as information overload. The goal should be to place enough content to inform and motivate the visitor, and no more.
We must address the mobile user before we end. Most website views now happen on mobile devices like tablets and phones. Do you know what your website looks like on a mobile device? If it isn’t as appealing on a tablet or phone as it is on a big desktop monitor, you are losing many of your visitors right away. Proper responsive design is not a luxury anymore, it’s quickly becoming job one.
Small Biz Media uses our own proprietary evaluation system to assess current and potential clients’ websites. Overall design and appearance is one of the large block categories we concentrate on. Our in depth evaluation helps us identify the problem areas in specific ways so we can address the need the right way the first time. If your current website isn’t up to par or you are thinking about a brand new website and are intimidated by the process, relax. Contact us today and we’ll help make sure that your website’s appearance is something you can be proud of.
If you would like to read the other articles in this series you can check them out with the links below.
2. Website appearance matters