At last count, there were over 767 million active websites, according to Netcraft. How does one lonely brand or company website make a dent amid the 767 million others? Good inbound marketing helps, to be sure, but all the SEO in the world won’t do anything for you if you can’t get visitors to stick around. Amazing web design is a key component of a good inbound marketing strategy, and there are five things well-designed websites have in common.
Creativity and innovation will definitely help you stand out. Here are some ideas of things you can play with to give your website a unique look and feel:
- Turn unexpected elements of your website into interactive tools. Ride For The Brand does this with their side-scrolling page layout. A hand points to the right, inciting visitors to play around with the scrolling feature.
- Present your product or your brand in a new way, such as by drawing an arresting metaphor or giving it an unusual theme, like Luhse Tea does with tea.
- Use memorable images and backgrounds. Edward Carvalho Monaghan’s website does this well.
Being original doesn’t mean that you have to come up with a convoluted web design and pile element on top of element on your page or crowd the space with text. In fact, doing this could hurt your website, because if visitors can’t find the things they need on your page or don’t understand how to interact with your page, they’ll do what’s easy: leave your website and go to one of your competitors’.
- Easy navigation: Visitors should be able to locate your navigation menu and the pages they need to get to quickly. Although Designsensory’s website has a double-layered navigation menu, it is simple, CSS-based, and easy to use.
- Clear copy: Avoid jargon in your text and use a conversational tone. Pretend you’re speaking directly with your visitors. Help them get a sense of who you are.
- Effective calls to action: Clear, enticing CTAs help move the visitor towards the pages or the actions you want, but don’t clutter your page with CTAs — that would dilute their effectiveness.
The home page for Karma Wi-Fi achieves simplicity in text and layout. You know exactly what the product is and where to go next on the web page.
Are all the web pages of your website aligned with your brand? Do all the elements on the page, from text to layout, typography to images, foster the brand experience you want your customers to have? Could I land on the page, not look at the logo, and still know it’s yours, if I was already familiar with your brand? And if I wasn’t, could I now recognize it at a glance?
The elements on a_collective’s website all flow into one another. If you click on one of the four images, the images move aside to show more options, examples of their work, or some text, but no matter what comes up, it all has the same feel. The website’s “About” section declares that the company “strives to create architecture that comprises the elements of elegance, boldness, purity and livability,” and that is exactly the sense the web design conveys.
One of the first things I heard when I started getting into marketing was, “Don’t write your content with search engines in mind; write for the user.” The same principle applies to web design. The one who will actually see the elements on your page and use them is the human being who lands on your page — that is, if your design allows them to.
User-friendliness can mean any of the following:
- Easy navigation (again!): Visitors should be able to find what they need.
- Contrasting colours: If you have no trouble reading light grey text on a dark grey background, that’s awesome. But for most people, even with decent eyesight, poor contrast strains the eye. Look at the example below from Temper: the white text on green background is easy to read, but the green on green might be difficult for some.
- A mobile website: With 40% of the time we spend online being spent on a smartphone, you can’t be user-friendly if you don’t have a strategy that takes mobile devices into account.
- Fast load times: This is the age of the instantaneous. If your web page takes too long to load, visitors are likely to get annoyed and leave.
Whoa Nelly Catering’s website uses contrasting colours, loads quickly even on a smartphone, has a simple navigation menu, and the span of the text is rearranged in the mobile version so that if the user zooms in to make the text span the length of the mobile device, they can still get a comfortable reading size without constantly scrolling the screen left and right to get to the end of the line.
Blink test: pass
The blink test is the 3-5 seconds it takes an online visitor who has just arrived on a web page to decide whether they want to stay or leave. If they stay, you pass. If they move on… something is wrong. Aside from working on beautiful, user-friendly design, it helps if you can convey at first glance what your company does and what the visitor should do on the page. These components will help achieve that:
- An informative, concise headline: Only 2 out of 10 people read past the headline, so it’s crucial that the headline convey as much about you as possible in as few words as possible.
- A value proposition: This is a single sentence, usually either the headline itself or a separate short sentence below the headline, that quickly tells the reader what unique benefit (or value) they would gain from your product.
- Images that complement the text on the page: Because images are much quicker to take in and process than text, you can use them to provide the visitor with extra information quickly.
As Hubpost notes, Fit For A Frame’s homepage passes the blink test: the headline quickly tells the reader what the company offers, the value proposition is clear, and the products are neatly displayed and taken in at a glance.
If you keep placing yourself in the shoes of your visitors and design your website for them and their preferences — not for you and not for search engines, your web design should naturally evolve into something that works well for visitors, which would be good for search engines, and therefore for you as well.