10 tips for improving your website design
in a while, your website needs to be freshened up. And this is never an easy
task as it has to be in sync not only with your brand style and users’
behavior, but with other technology stacks and tools needed for it to be
accessible and optimized for users, search engines and various devices.
It does take time, skill and resources, but it’s also the perfect opportunity for you to reflect on its effectiveness so far. Keep in mind that a website cannot simply succeed by excelling in content and design solely. Great web design feeds into positive user experience. So, let’s dive into some details.
#1 Make a plan
Designing a website is not just putting up flashy elements like a big slider and a CTA in order for it to look good. No, it starts out with mapping out your user’s journey - from the point they visit your website for the first time to the moment they become converters. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself here:
- What pages are they going to view?
- What content should attract their attention?
- What is your conversion point?
By answering these, you are starting to visualize a sales funnel, the user’s journey. Understanding these funnels will eventually help nurture leads with a greater effect.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from both your users and experts in the field. Your website needs to be designed for the next step not for the final one. It’s all about answering the right questions and doing so in the right order.
Any professional web design agency will always ask you about your users, your style and your goals. They will help you design and visualize your website’s user journey before they draw a single pixel of a website page. So, keep that in mind when looking for an agency that provides professional web design services.
#2 KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid
Remove all visual elements which may minimize the impact and value of the message you are trying to convey to your potential converters. To name some:
- Big sliders
- Complicated animations
- Stuffy content
- Stock web images
- Full screen popups
- and more
Today’s audience has a short attention span - mostly up to 8 seconds. Knowing that, you’ll need to create a layout that will surely get the message across, with all main points listed, leaving a positive first impression. This is done with short and powerful sections of content, followed by custom photographs and icons sectioned with clear headers.
Even if you got these right, review it, test it with people to make sure it doesn’t contain jargon or otherwise difficult-to-understand terminology. It won’t serve you well. Flashy and power words like easy-to-use, top-notch, cutting edge, innovative, etc. have been used countless times by thousands of companies and small businesses. They won’t make your content any more appealing nor will ensure your message getting across. Sounds easy, but there’s an entire science behind it - it’s called strategic messaging and communication development.
#3 Remember the social sharing and follow buttons
I can almost hear your voice in my head saying “well, obviously” but it’s not rare to see these implemented poorly (or not implemented at all). Web users are used to sharing content on social media via the website’s social sharing buttons instead of copy/pasting the link in their feeds. However, there’s no definitive answer to whether these buttons should be implemented as they are by default in their colors and design or should you make custom icons for them. There are many situations where, in order to comply with the design of the page, designers made custom icons that fall into the design style of the page. And they are rarely clicked or noticed. Which variation to use is something you should test on you page layout with multivariate testing.
One thing is certain. Lacking social share buttons equals a loss of social media traffic generated by people already visiting your website.
#4 Careful implementation of CTA buttons
Call-to-Action buttons are a way for you to encourage your user’s next step on their journey through your website. And there is a whole science behind their implementation and design - poor implementation can lead to a fail in guidance and loss of conversions.
Focusing on BOFU (bottom of the funnel) is where most designs fail and make the whole website look spammy. You need to properly nurture you users with other CTAs which are more middle-to-top of the funnel, and secondary CTAs that lead to educational material which helps them solve their pain points. This will ultimately lead to the conversion and significantly impact user retention. How will you know if you’re getting it wrong? Just answer this - do most of your pages/posts have a CTA leading to a single point of conversion (sign up/buy/schedule/donate)? If so, then the answer is yes, you’re doing it wrong.
Take your time to rethink and test different call-to-actions. Try offering your users different breakpoints in their user journey that will ultimately lead to the final conversion point. Some examples of this can be:
- Click here for more information
- Signup for our webinar
- Watch the demo
- Check out our offer
- Download the eBook
- Sign up for our newsletter
#5 Focus on the right images
In order to get your message across, you’ll need to follow it up with a proper visual. And not every image would help you achieve this. Fortunately, you have a lot of options for getting the right image - both paid and free. However, stock photos are just what they are - fake, staged and unnatural. It’s a mistake to have your website plagued by stock imagery just because there are those that seem fit.
Ideally, you should use genuine images of your company, team, offices and products as they will evoke trust in your visitors. However, if real photographs are not an option or are out of your budget then stick with the stock ones or hire a designer to create unique images for your website. Just keep in mind that the images you use reflect who you are and the content they’re explaining.
#6 Navigation is 60% of the design
There is nothing worse than a website with poor navigation and inefficient structural organization. Nothing. Navigation is the key to any successful web design. If your users find your website difficult to navigate, there is no flashy design that will keep them around. They will simply bounce and go off to another result in the SERP. And that would definitely be your competitor.
When designing navigation, you need to make it lean. The navbar needs to include and reflect:
- streamlined content
- navigation hierarchy
- responsive design
Well-designed navigation feeds directly into great user experience.
#7 ‘Above the fold’ is old
Don’t be afraid of designing a long landing page. Not everything needs to be placed in the first fold of your website. By including several sections that help direct users to proper website areas and pages you would help create better user experience. Here’s a quick list of elements, some more important than others, to help you achieve this:
- Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
- Introduction or a demo video
- Short overview of services or product features
- About us
- Testimonial section, reviews and/or case studies
- Additional resources
Users today don’t mind scrolling and this has been proven with several case studies.
#8 Don’t be negative, use white space
White space is an essential design element even though it’s just empty space.
It helps you break up the page in sections and emphasize more important elements of the page. If used properly, it increases the readability of your presented content and its impact on the users.
Check your pages. If any of them lack white space you’ll know it immediately as they would probably be hard to read. Strip the unnecessary elements and break the content sections so the purpose of the page becomes clear.
#9 Don’t design with only desktop in mind
Focus on mobile first design. It doesn’t matter if you’re designing it for different user agents or just plain responsive design just make sure your website is mobile ready. Why? Here are a few facts:
- 80% of users now own and use a smartphone
- 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they have trouble accessing
- 40% of those same users are likely to visit a competitor’s site instead
These are facts presented by Google.
It’s an absolute must to have your website’s design optimized for mobile devices. If you have a huge website with large volume of content and complex navigation, you should probably reconsider creating different design and layout for mobile devices and present them to users via user agent rather than simply making it responsive. This is a big investment, but it needs to be taken into consideration in order to provide seamless user experience.
#10 Design content to appeal to your target personas
If you don’t know what these are, then you’re in trouble.
And I recommend you get familiarized with the concept on the Buffer blog, since they explain it in great detail.
TL;DR, a target persona is Dan, Michael, Lucy and May, people whom you are selling your product/service/idea to. And when designing and creating content for them, you, as many before and after you, may make the same mistakes over and over again.
Usually, when presenting your company, business or idea you probably focus mainly on words like “We” and “Our”. Such examples are:
- “We bring value to”
- “Our services include”
- “Our products are known for”
Lose the “WEs” and “OURs” from your content and replace them with “YOUs” and “YOURs”. Your potential customers, the personas you’re trying to target and convert, are expecting to be met eye-to-eye. Understanding their pain points will help you design personal messaging, a more effective one.
Try visualizing it this way. Which one of these is more compelling to you as a user?
- Our Case Studies
- Your Potential Success Story
This grammatical switch may seem insignificant, but it’s the way to go and get personalized with your users. It subconsciously affects the way users see your business.
When redesigning your website, you need to collect as much data and test EVERYTHING.
You may never know upfront which design will be most effective for your users and potential converters unless you have real data to back it up. And again, don’t be afraid to consult an expert or ask for a different opinion.