Ten tips for excellent website design

The first website appeared online in 1991; today it is estimated that 1.7bn websites exist around the world and this number is increasing by over 500,000 every day. There are an estimated 4.6bn people around the world who use the internet, which is around 59% of the global population. From a business perspective these incredible statistics mean two things:

  1. Use of the internet is only going to increase, so every business should have a website
  2. Competition online is only going to increase, so every business should have an excellent website

So, what makes a website excellent? Here are ten things to consider when developing an existing website or creating a new one.

  1. A website with purpose

Let’s start with a simple question: what is the purpose of your website? The answer may be a little more complex that you first think. It could be an online brochure, a lead generation tool, a trading hub, a place to share information with customers or employees, a place to show your opening times, or perhaps a tool to help with recruitment… the list goes on. Certainly the answer will vary from one business to the next, and the chances are that people in different departments will have different answers too. Agreeing the purpose (or purposes) of the website is the cornerstone of good website design; it gives direction and a set of objectives against which to measure success.

  1. First impressions count

When a visitor first lands on your website, in the first few seconds they usually make a quick assessment based on first impressions: Will this website provide me with what I am looking for? Does this look like a reputable business I might want to deal with? If the answer to either of these questions is no, they will click away and look elsewhere. If your website is well-designed and looks professional, with a clear positioning statement on the home page that tells visitors what your business does, you are well on the way to making a positive first impression.

  1. Understand your audience

Most businesses can segment their target market into groups according to what they want and what their role is in the purchase decision. Having identified the different groups and having understood what each group wants, it is possible to address those needs on your website. In the construction industry, for example, a supplier of building products may want to target architects and contractors. While the architect might be concerned with performance, aesthetics, durability and sustainability, the contractors may be more interested in price and lead time. What’s more, the communication style when talking to architects may be different to that when addressing a contractor. A good website would clearly direct each group to the pages of the website that are designed to provide them with the information they need.

  1. Check it and check it again

A website that is poorly written and littered with mistakes, makes a poor impression and may well put potential customers off. Taking the time to check through the content of your website is therefore important. It’s also a good idea to ensure that the language used and any acronyms or technical terms are going to be understood by your target audience.

  1. Website user experience

When designing and writing the content for your website, it’s important to consider the user experience. In simple terms, it should be easy for visitors to find what they are looking for. This means giving some thought to the structure of the site – what information goes where – and the use of menu options and links to make navigating around the site simple and intuitive. Think about the purpose of your website (see No. 1 above) and make it easy for visitors to fulfil this purpose with some clear calls to action.

  1. Make your website responsive

A responsive website is one that will automatically adjust the page layout to fit the screen of the device that is being used. It needs to look just as good on a mobile phone or tablet as it does on a laptop or desktop computer. A good responsive website will also take into account that when someone is viewing the website on their phone, for example, they may be looking for particular information, like opening times or contact details, whilst when viewing on a desktop they might be more interested in finding out about the business and the products and services on offer. It’s perfectly possible to design the site in such a way that the relevant information is prioritised according to the device that is being used.

  1. Speed

If a website is slow to load, it is not only going to adversely affect SEO, but it can be enough to make potential customers click away to look elsewhere. A website can be slowed down by a number of different factors, including image files that are too big, a bad server, poor or excessive coding, use of too many plug-ins and hot-linking – where a third party website uses the URL of images on your site to display images on their site. A good website will load quickly and respond quickly as visitors explore the different pages.

  1. Website SEO

An impressive well-designed website is only really useful if your potential customers can find it. Whilst it requires regular work to achieve and maintain high ranking for your defined search terms, there is a lot that can be done at the initial design stage to optimise the site. The first step is to compile a list of terms your potential customers might search for. The most important and relevant terms may have dedicated pages on your website to cover the subjects in question; terms should also be included in the metatags, meta descriptions and content.

  1. Keep your website visitors

If your website includes links to other websites, it’s always a good idea to open those links in a new window. This way, your website stays open on the visitor’s computer, and they can easily return to your website for more information, and to respond to one of your calls to action.

  1. Security for you and your visitors

An SSL certificate indicates that a website has been encrypted and is secure. A protected website will have a padlock symbol in the search bar and the address will start with https rather than just http. If your website doesn’t have a valid SSL certificate, it will be flagged as insecure, which can put people off from wanting to visit your website for fear that their data may be stolen; it also means that your website is vulnerable to scams and other threats. Obtaining the SSL certificate is a simple process, but one that is sometimes overlooked.

Here to help

The team at 49 Red are experts at website design. Whether you want a new website or just need to improve the one you have, our experienced team are on hand to discuss your requirements and ensure that your website is working as hard as it should be for the success of your business.