OKYour website nowadays is often the first interaction between you and your customers (or audience, whatever the case may be). If it is your intention that people should look at what you've created for them, it's essential that your website should impress them. Building an impressive website requires either a significant investment of time and effort or a significant investment of money. Sometimes it requires all that and more.
You really shouldn't settle for anything less than a totally impressive website. In fact, your website should be kicking ass right from the get-go. In this article, we'll tell you the best things you can do to help you stand out from the competition. Here, then, are the essential elements you must have to achieve your goal:
1. It has to look good.
Well, call me Captain Obvious if you like, but it had to be said. If you want to capture and keep people's attention, your site either has to be visually appealing, or it must be so tragically awful that they simply can't look away. Actually the latter site is likely to get talked about and shared around more, but all things considered, that shouldn't really be what you want to be remembered for.
So you need to give really careful thought to the visual aspects of the design. This includes things like:
- symmetry and balance
- white space
- supporting media
All of these things combined make up the visual aspect of the design. They're extremely important because they create the first impression, and as everyone should know, the first impression is what counts the most.
2. It needs a clearly defined purpose
Visitors should be able to determine what your site is about at a single glance. If your site is about cars, that should be obvious. If your site is about UFOs, I should be able to see that. If your site is about Burt Reynolds, you shouldn't need to explain. It should be perfectly clear what your site is about, without any real thinking being necessary.
Yet you'll see dozens of yoga instructors adorning their websites with calming pictures of waterfalls or zen-like arrangements of pebbles. Yes these are beautiful and put people in a good mood, but… it's often the case you have to spend 2 or 3 minutes of reading time to work out that it's a site about yoga. That's not acceptable and it could be costing you a lot of clients if that is your website!
But since most of you who are reading these words are people who make websites for other people, if you are not creating sites that are self-defining with a really obvious purpose, you are more-or-less robbing your customers blind. That's unfair and unnecessary, because it's not that hard to make it clear what you site is about. If you're showcasing Burt Reynolds, put a nice big picture of Burt somewhere near the top of the page and have his name in big font, so nobody could mistake that it's a site for Tom Selleck, or Pink.
3. It has to be easy to use
For a website to stand out as a good one, it should be totally intuitive. That means somebody visiting the site doesn't really have to do any thinking at all in order to figure out how to find their way around the site or get to where they want to go. The very best sites make people forget what they came to see.
Designers must make sure their designs include:
- clear and coherent navigation
- links that give a good indication of what they lead to
- something that makes users want to explore further
- good accessibility features
- seamless responsiveness
Don't try to impress people with how unique and clever your navigation is. Try to impress them with how simple and intuitive it is. A well designed chair makes people want to sit in it, and a well designed website makes people want to browse it. The feeling should be that it's almost impossible to resist being drawn in.
4. Put the most important things in view
You should always try to lead the way with whatever is important. Don't tuck those things away in the corner and make people have to hunt around for them. Then whatever the user is trying to do or trying to find, it has to work as expected.
When something doesn't work, you have to make that amusing, offset any frustration that the user would be feeling. None of that is especially easy to achieve, but its mostly a matter of making sensible guesses about what your audience is likely to be interested in, what actions they are likely to take, and how they are going to respond to success and failure in whatever they're trying to achieve on your site.
5. Fully optimized experience for all users
There's not really much excuse these days for creating a site that isn't able to be viewed by all users. Sure, there are certain countries that block certain types of content, often for the stupidest of reasons, but other than those sorts of situations, your site should be available.
It should be available on phones, tablets, desktop computers, and wall-sized displays. Where there is a computing device capable of delivering web content, your site should be right up there getting its share of glory. To do this, your site needs to be responsive, it needs to have images that are not burdensome to load, it needs to avoid the usual annoying features of high resolution images, large numbers of plug-ins and widgets, autoplay media, and things like that.
If even one segment of the market is shut out and you don't have a really good reason for that, it has to hurt you in some way. Strive to be as all-inclusive as you can be and success is sure to follow closely.
header image courtesy of Martijn Broekman