Designing modern looking websites with today’s user in mind.
When designing a website it is important to talk with your web designer to ensure that you are all on the same page when it comes to the intention of the website. Some sites are just an online brochure, whilst others need to be a sales portal or an information hub. Some have strong social networking facilities or are heavily advertising-focused.
Whatever the purpose of the site, the goal should be achievable by the user as easily as possible. Fewer clicks and shorter time is usually the rule, but in the case of advertising sites the aim may be to hold the user’s attention for longer.
With the target user and website intention in mind, the following points can be put into action:
Make it about the user.
Generally speaking websites should be constructed to be as easy to use as possible. Navigation should be obvious, instructions should be clear and content should be written to be understood by the majority of users.
A user-friendly website will hold users’ attention longer, have them return more frequently and be more likely to lead users to complete the website’s goal.
Everything it needs to do and no more.
Some sites don’t need much functionality. A brochure site, for example, is likely to need only a few pages and perhaps a contact form or mailing list sign-up option.
Other websites may require other functions. Online stores are becoming increasingly popular and social networking is an integral part of many new businesses. Your company website can facilitate both these things. Some websites have Flash components with animated menus and introductions. Embedded video is more common with many users browsing from their broadband connections. Events calendars, site statistics, forms, links, media, integration… This is all a big part of the web 2.0 experience and your website should be as interactive and functional as it needs to be to achieve it’s objective.
It’s worth noting here that adding too much functionality to a website can confuse the user and detract from the site. Sometimes less is more.
It’s got to look like you.
The look of a website can encourage users to stay or return.
Your website would usually be branded with your company colours to ensure consistency in marketing. The layout should appeal to your intended audience. This could mean colourful, complicated designs for children or strong, solid designs for corporate clients.
Whatever colour scheme you choose, much of the feel of your site will come down to the images you use. In most circumstances photographs should be taken by a professional. It is worth spending the money to use a great photographer because the wrong presentation of your website can mean that the entire effort is wasted. Stock photography can be helpful, but most users these days have a pretty good feel for what is real and what is just thrown together, so you could come unstuck.
If you have a retail premises or a recognisable face of the business, be sure to include a photograph somewhere on your site. Users like to relate to an actual address or the person they will see.
Updating your website.
Who will update your website? Decide this early-on.
If you are planning to update your own website, but have little or no computer programming knowledge, then you may opt for a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or many others. These systems make adding or editing information on your website much simpler and can save you a lot of money over time, especially if you intend to update regularly.
Having your site designed in HTML will allow you much more control over the design, but unless you can code and design you will need to speak to your web designer for any ongoing changes.
Usually a CMS turns out to be a much cheaper web design option.