Having a fantastic-looking and smooth-functioning website is essential these days. So whether you’re a developer or a client, making sure you understand the process and know what the best practices are, will inevitably stand you in good stead for achieving your dream website.
Doing something simply is often a harder challenge than originally intended but it’s important to seek out simplicity wherever possible. Making an intuitive and well-organized website requires simplicity at its core as this provides the best user experience as well as is a joy to navigate through. There’s nothing worse than a messy and confusing site that just puts you off using and interacting with it thereby losing customers.
There is a reason that website design has moved away from the early pages of the internet that overloaded screen space with irrelevant information and imagery. Nowadays most websites present their business or product as simply and clearly as possible, making the process of purchasing or interacting with the software really straightforward.
Simplicity also translates to accessibility, the idea being that your site is so intuitive that anyone can use it easily and efficiently. By making the site accessible it reduces any possibility of a loss of earnings as everyone can understand the content and can get to what they need without impediment. A direct click-through path on an eCommerce site for example is ultimately the site’s goal; there should be no roadblocks to a successful sale.
Understanding your Clientele
This will be related, in part, to the nature of your business. A technology firm will likely want to present technical information and high-resolution images over many pages and sections in a sleek and modern format. On the other end of the scale, a restaurant or bar will likely want an attractive homepage with photos advertising the place with only a handful of pages offering the essential information.
Of course, nowadays there is so much readily available information and metrics on user behavior that can help you identify where users are leaving the site, how long the average user stays, and much more. By applying this information to your website you can cater, as best as possible, to your client base. This can also inform the design and development of your website as you may want to focus on certain areas and have other pages plainer.
Consistency is key. Having an overall design theme that is clear and recognizable throughout the website is vital. Maintaining color schemes, typography, and style templates all create an overall cohesive feel to the website. Furthermore, once you’ve established the design language you can then apply this to areas outside of the site; email newsletters, social media profiles, etc. Creating a consistent visual identity is absolutely essential for quick recognition and in the long term, a positive association with your brand.
Even things like choosing symmetrical or asymmetrical templates for pages bear some impact upon the user’s experience so carefully consider how you want to present your business and brand.
Understandably, creating a website is a technical process that requires an understanding of coding, design, and also knowledge of certain platforms; for instance WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. Within this area, the most important technical aspect that affects website performance, and has a knock-on effect on traffic, is page load speed. As mobile networks and wifi offer such high internet speeds, we have come to expect instantaneous access to information and data. So by keeping your site’s load times low, it encourages users to stay and click through the site.
In order to keep page load speeds down, the best tactic is to compress files wherever possible. Software such as GZIP is essential for this as it compresses file sizes to 50% or more of the total which means that users aren’t having to navigate through pages with lots of megabytes of data slowing down the process. This in turn helps with search engine optimization as the search algorithms are increasingly measuring and ranking websites based in part on their webpage load time.
Alongside the technical side of creating a successful website is ensuring that the site is mobile-ready. Again this is essential for search engines to see that your site is mobile friendly and responsive as nowadays with the increase in numbers of smartphone users, the majority of search inquiries actually come from mobile. Google, therefore, wants to see that your site is able to cater to this significant market and as long as it can, the algorithm will favor the site that’s mobile-ready and it’ll be offered up high in the search results page which is exactly where you want to be.
Having logical and clear navigation on your pages is an essential format for even basic websites. It’s now quite common for a menu bar, whether expandable or fixed, to be a permanent feature of websites, often at the top of the page or along a sidebar. By having a menu that’s always present even when scrolling through, it keeps a ‘base’ of sorts that enables a user to easily access whatever section they want. A simple element of control keeps the website clean and practical which is exactly how you want it.
The navigation bar also allows for a bit of creative flair if you want to display an animation when it expands or if it’s permanent to show off typography, color scheme, etc. – another reminder of your brand’s identity through certain creative choices. Another important function to consider is a search bar. If your site contains lots of information and pages/ products it might become an essential item for precise navigation.
Obtaining the all-important padlock image beside the URL is a critical step for your website; in terms of getting your site seen and also safeguarding it for the users who visit it. Having an SSL certificate is a really simple process nowadays and can also be done inexpensively. It’s another factor that is taken into consideration when indexing and ranking websites so not only does it provide online security but it also helps your site’s visibility – there’s no reason not to have one!
Other means of security include a trusted web host that features server firewalls and encryption, and if you’re using a platform like WordPress or Squarespace, keep the plugins and other programs regularly updated to avoid any security breaches or loss of functionality. Making use of third-party plugins (if you’re using a site-building platform) is a great way to expand functionality but make sure that they’re safe to run on your site – user reviews are a great place to start as they’ll often give feedback regarding security issues.
Of course, there are plenty of other considerations when creating a visually appealing and intuitive website but the above is a great place to start. It also depends on the purpose of your site, as each is different the relevance of the advice laid out in this blog post will vary but as a starting point, I think the above will steer you in the right direction.
Jamie FitzHenry is the Director of Grizzly, a web design agency based in Bristol UK that specializes in building and enhancing clients’ online presence.