Launching a new website is an exciting event, but it’s easy to lose focus during the design and construction process. Larger companies may have different departments arguing over functionality and key priorities, while entrepreneurs often get swept away by irrelevant or superfluous ideas put forward by design agencies and well-meaning associates.
To achieve the best web design, it’s vital to remember that a website is a corporate tool just like a print advert or a store front. It’s not the place to show off your IT department’s CSS knowledge, or demonstrate the reliability of your server.
These ten tips can help to ensure an optimal website design, regardless of your company’s industry or your own technical expertise:
- Always focus on the user experience. Before commissioning a design agency to recommend the best web design, decide what this new website needs to do. For example, an ecommerce site should drive people to a checkout via product pages. How can you optimize the item selection process, what features might encourage conversions (e.g. skeuomorphic features or animations that change the display as the mouse moves across the screen), and how can you build trust in your brand?
- Design for desktop and mobile. Modern audiences switch seamlessly between phones, tablets and computers. The best web design uses responsive page frameworks that automatically resize to suit the output device’s screen resolution, turning menu bars into dropdown hamburger menus and formatting images. Instead of focusing exclusively on desktop or mobile, create a site that looks equally good on both.
- Keep it simple. Avoid anything radical like right-hand menu bars or cryptic page titles. People won’t waste time trying to make the site work – they’ll just abandon it. Not only is each lost visitor harming your bottom line, it lowers the average period of time visitors spend on your site. This is an increasingly significant factor when search engines are compiling their rankings.
- Leave space to breathe. Building on the point above, the best web design won’t overload backgrounds with graphics and slabs of text. White space can make a site far more appealing than a cluttered screen full of GIFs and sidebar menus. This is particularly true of interstitial mobile adverts and desktop hover ads.
- Don’t leave SEO to the body copy. Title tag keywords, page headlines and meta descriptions are essential for boosting a site’s search engine ranking. Add a robots.txt file so crawlers can quickly analyze what the site contains, use obvious names in subpages and menus, and regularly update content. Also make sure you add Alt tags to any photos.
- Put key messages on the primary page. Most first-time visitors will probably arrive on the homepage, or a canonical URL identified as your preferred landing page. This is where you have to grab each visitor’s attention within a few seconds. Deploy arresting visuals, large fonts, key messages and a compelling call to arms. The landing page doesn’t need to say much – the whys and hows can be covered on subpages.
- Use high-quality but low-resolution images. Image quality is a tricky beast. Photos should be dynamic and eye-catching, non-generic and sufficiently high resolution to ensure they look good on a Retina display appropriate to different devices. At the same time, they should be compressed or resized to minimize their file size. JPGs are far more efficient than BMPs, while Photoshop contains a handy ‘save for web’ compression facility.
- Test, test and test again. Before the site goes live, ask friends and relatives to beta test it on their own devices. Their feedback on display issues or loading times will enable you to eliminate any issues that arise on specific platforms before the general public encounters them.
- Leave space to expand and diversify. Don’t pigeonhole yourself with a one-page site that doesn’t allow room for a blog, or assume today’s services will never be expanded upon. Ensure there’s space for a couple of additional pages in menus and sitemaps.
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