While your internet marketing plan goes way beyond just website design, it’s definitely one of the most important aspects of your comprehensive digital marketing blueprint.
As it is such a significant piece of your marketing plan, it’s important to put a substantial amount of time and energy into your website design approach. How well your website performs will have a direct effect on the potential success of your business as a whole.
There are a multitude of design features that separate “bad” websites from good ones. However, by narrowing your focus and homing in on the most important website design features, you can take your website from good to great.
The opinions formed by visitors to your site and the ways in which they interact with it must be in the forefront of your mind when your site is in the design phase. Research shows that internet users begin to solidify an opinion about a website from the second it begins to load. While it can be easy to get caught up in some of the smaller, more intricate details of your website’s design and style, staying focused on the user experience is key.
Following are five of the most important ways to improve your website design features that will give you real, measurable results.
#1 Engage Your Audience Immediately
There are essentially two separate audiences that are viewing your website at any given time: new visitors and returning visitors. Your website design must take both audiences into consideration so that you can effectively engage and retain both audiences.
First time visitors are very impressionable; they are important because their initial experience will determine how much time they spend exploring the different areas of your site as well as whether or not they will decide to return to your site in the future. Visitors who have been to your site in the past (returning visitors), however, are just as important as new site visitors, but in a different way. When a visitor continues to visit your site, you have a better chance of converting them from a visitor into a customer. Your goal then must shift from grabbing their initial attention to building and nurturing a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.
Things to consider for first time visitors:
- They’ve never been to your website before – is there a search option? Research shows that an easy to find search bar function is one of the most features desired most by Internet users. New visitors do not know their way around your website yet. Unfamiliarity makes many people uneasy and a search function can help alleviate any apprehension.
- Make new site visitors feel welcome with a simple pop-up box that says hello. By giving new visitors a personal recognition and showing appreciation to them for visiting your website, you are helping them formulate a positive opinion of your business. This is also a good time to request their email address – if an email newsletter is part of your marketing plan.
- Tell them about your site and business with an easy to find ‘About Us’ button. Most savvy consumers want to learn about the who, why and how behind companies they decide to do business with. When you give potential customers a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes action, it creates a connection and translates into transparency and warmth.
How to continually engage returning visitors:
- This crowd has been to your website before – is there anything new and exciting for them to learn, watch or read each time they return? Research shows that websites that regularly share fresh, original content perform better in search results. In addition to performing well in search engine results, they also get better reviews from their regular visitors because they don’t get bored.
Keep things interesting by presenting your repeat audience with: up to date or ground-breaking news relevant to your industry, well-written, easy-to-read blog posts that contain trending content and your latest (and greatest) customer testimonials.
- To overcome the challenge of having a steady stream of fresh, engaging content, you can recycle some of your most timeless and successful posts or articles. By giving them a quick facelift first, you’ll add enough interest to justify reusing ideas you’ve already shared.
Try these easy ways to rejuvenate a popular piece:
- Insert new and interesting images – just make sure you are legally allowed to use them.
- Offer an update on information that generated a lot of interest (Ex: follow up on a topic that warrants a Part Two).
- Expand a post if there is new, relevant information that would be valuable to your site viewers.
- Create a Series Round Up (Ex: create a blog post that shares “the best of” all of the guest posts that have ever appeared on your blog).
- Take some of your best reader comments to create content that’s at least loosely related to a topic you’ve already covered.
- Alternatively, you can also promote your most viral content without making any changes whatsoever simply by giving it a new timestamp. Sometimes oldies really are goodies. While we don’t recommend doing this very often, as a one-off, re-sharing some of your most well-received stories is definitely acceptable.
Once you have successfully created a positive and rewarding site engagement strategy for both first time and returning visitors, you can work toward improving your website in other important areas.
#2 Make Your Website Easy to Navigate
One of the most important design features found in websites that convert well is clear navigation. Internet users who land on your site will quickly abandon ship in favor of a different search result (i.e. your competitor) if your site navigation is confusing.
While it’s true that a good first impression is critical, as we’ve discussed above, immediately after you have gotten a visitor’s attention, you must have a strategy in place to hold that attention. Today’s consumers demand immediate gratification, whether they are visiting your website to potentially make a purchase or gather information.
In order to give your website visitors a clear path to obtaining the information they desire, use these navigation tips:
- Use clearly marked, distinct navigation labels at the top of your home page, making it easy for anyone to take a self-guided tour of every page within your website.
- Consistency is key – use the same navigation labels at the top of every subpage of your site. Repetition is a great learning tool, and you want people to become familiar with how to use your website so that they will be more likely to convert into customers.
- Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for by presenting them with a search option that is easy to find and presents them with accurate results. Integrating an search program into your website design that works quickly gives your visitors more time to spend doing what they came for. Ideally, this means becoming a member, signing up to your mailing list, or making a purchase.
- Follow the “Keep It Simple” rule of thumb when it comes to how many navigation options you offer. This is an area of website design where quality should come before quantity. Strive to provide visitors with just the right amount of navigation choices without risking overwhelming them with too many options.
#3 Give your Website Aesthetic Appeal
We now know that how site visitors interact with your website should be at the top of your priority list, but user engagement isn’t the only important factor that makes a website successful.
When it comes to branding, the message your viewers receive goes beyond words. The visual elements of your website design will have an effect on how users engage with your site and, consequently, with the ultimate success of your brand.
The concept that a website must be stunningly beautiful or devastatingly elegant in order to be successful is a misconception. A dazzling design is useless if your website doesn’t function well. Audience engagement and ease of navigation must be solid for visitors to even care about what your site looks like.
However, as long as your website functions well with ease of navigation, there are several research-based aesthetic design aspects that can further improve your user engagement. By putting a few simple style/design tips to use, you can take your website’s conversion rate and usability rating to the next level. Several of the most basic visual design concepts to implement into your website are:
- Color consistency – As visitors come to your site time and time again, you can instill brand recognition in them by the use of a consistent color scheme throughout your website logo and brand design. By implementing the psychology of color, you can also stir the emotions of your website users. Naturally, you will have to do some testing and experimentation with different color combinations, but utilizing the right color schemes (for your brand) can ultimately have an effect on your conversion rate and sales.
- Font – Believe it or not, different font styles and sizes have been shown to affect consumers’ decisions when visiting websites online. From readability and comprehension to encouraging customers to focus on specific information, studies show that font is definitely a factor in how well your website is able to engage both new and returning users.
- Symmetry – Your target audience will have a better chance at understanding and gleaning information from your website if your website design is displayed symmetrically. Symmetry and order, when used to present information, have been shown to increase comprehension and concentration levels.
Conversely, in order to draw attention to a specific area of your home page, you can utilize asymmetry to your advantage. The use of asymmetrical designs often interrupts the thought process to allow the brain to “figure out” the piece of the puzzle that is different. If your ultimate goal is for users to click on your Call to Action (CTA) buttons, make them stand out from the rest of your website’s symmetry so they demand attention.
- Emotional reaction – We’ve already discussed the fact that a website does not have to be bafflingly beautiful to be successful. However, evoking an emotional reaction or visceral response from visitors is not without merit. To elicit positive subconscious reactions to your site, work to create a website that includes elements that are memorable, fun and share worthy. How you evoke this emotional reaction will depend on the needs and wants of your website’s purpose along with its specific audience.
#4 Optimize Your Website for Mobile Devices
Today’s consumer is on the go. A large percentage of your website visitors will land on your site from their smart phone, tablet or other portable electronic device. When mobile users experience glitches, slow performance, and limited website features, you will lose their engagement almost immediately. To capture the attention of as many modern Internet users as possible, you absolutely must ensure that your website functions optimally on any type of electronic device – from a desktop computer all the way to the most compact smart phone on the market today. One day, your website may even need to prove itself by loading and functioning optimally on a device as small as the Smart Watch. Mobile web design is a must for all websites.
#5 Apply Effective SEO Strategies
It simply doesn’t matter how much time and effort you devote to audience engagement, site navigation, mobile optimization and making your website aesthetically pleasing if no one is landing on your site. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
In the same vein, if your website design is on point in every way but no one is around to see it, will it convert? Your website design is killing it, so now’s the time to show it off. By utilizing the right Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, your website will appear higher in search results. It’s important to work with a professional SEO team who is experienced at researching and implementing the right keywords for your business.
Ideally, you’ve improved upon the five website design features we consider the most important, including implementing solid SEO strategies. If you’ve followed our recommendations, when search engines analyze all of your website content – the results will put you on the top page(s) of search results – in clear view of your desired audience.