Everyone is talking about good website design, but do you know what it actually means? Do you know how to tell if your own web design is working? Do you know what to look for? Without having a clear metric for measuring the quality, it is hard to recognize the quality. There is more to a successful website than simply looking nice or being able to function. Ideally, a successful website would be built with a specific strategy in mind, it is focused on usability so that visitors can navigate the website with success, it incorporates a style that is pleasing to the user's eye, it is filled with content that is relevant to the users, and it is optimized for search engines. Keeping that in mind, these are a few of the key aspects of a strong website design, complemented with some questions that you may ask yourself when measuring the quality of your website.
Even the most user-friendly and attractive websites are not successful when they are not achieving the needs of the company. Ask yourself: will your visitors get a clear sense of what you offer and who you are upon arrival at your website? Will your design point your visitors in the direction that you want them to go? Is there a clear strategy that is informing of your design? If the answer to any of these questions are no, then your design is not at its full potential. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy in the website design, here is a checklist of questions to run through:
After answering these questions, you should be able to define your brand and then set the specific website goals. This will allow you to align your design according to the goals. When the website is informed by a clear strategy the likeliness that it will succeed raises. You should be able to answer all of the previous questions with confidence that the users will be able to take the action that is intended with very little opposition from the website's overall strategy. The strategy will directly influence the design, as they work hand in hand to ensure that the website's purpose is clear, and there is no confusion about the website. Outline your target audience. Once you know who this is, approach the website as if you are them. Is it obviously apparent that the website can accomplish what the target audience needs it for? If not, take a look back and refine your strategy.
This is all about the practical consideration of what makes a good web site design, such as user-friendliness, speed, security, site maps and other technical details, etc. Many of these details are not visually apparent—you will not see a website's security when typing in the URL. Even so, usability will make or break a website. If the visitor is not able to find what they are looking for because of bad navigation, the user will generally leave. If a page takes too long to load, not only will visitors notice but search engines will notice as well. To evaluate how usable your website is ask the following questions:
Think of all the ways that will make your website as usable as possible. Imagine that you are coming to it as a visitor and you are trying to find out more information. Additionally, take the extra step in terms of security and be sure to always protect the customer's personal data. The website should be safe to use and should protect the information of the users. If this is not the case, then there will be negative repercussions. Customers will not trust the website at all, and there is a possibility that they will leave negative reviews elsewhere on the internet. The most vital components call-to-action on the website should not be any more than just a few clicks away. If a user has to hunt for the action that they need to complete, they will likely get frustrated and leave the website. They need to be able to navigate smoothly and simply, without the need to guess whether or not they are even on the correct page of the website.
Accessibility also falls into the category of usability. It is vital to be sure that your website is accessible to anyone on the internet. This means that it needs to meet or be able to meet accessibility requirements. Anyone with any sort of mental, physical, or cognitive limitations should be able to use the website with little to no alteration. This means that words should be able to be read clearly with the color choices, font choices, and size choices. Creating ALT text on images will allow accessibility software to use the text to audibly describe the images to those with a hearing impairment. In addition to this, the website should be accessible with a keyboard, for those that lack the dexterity in their arms or hands.
The two main things to take into consideration when regarding content are its usefulness and readability. Content needs to matter to the readers or you will lose them. Readability is vital, because if the visitors cannot make sense of your content whether it be because it is too small or in a strange color or unreadable font, there's no way to convey the message. These are some questions to ask yourself when considering the content of the website and how to evaluate its quality:
Evaluate all of the text on the website. Is it conveying the message effectively? Will visitors be able to read the content? Is what they are reading important to them? Aim for a design that will make all of the content useful and readable. Aside from the aesthetic choice for the content, the quality of the content needs to pull the reader in. Speaking to the visualization that a website is a storefront, you wouldn't walk into a flower shop and find a small selection of flowers, but the walls are stocked with chocolates. This is indicative of a poor, or lack of, strategy. There needs to be some sort of passion behind the strategy to make it clear what exactly the content will be. It is fine to blur the lines of the content every now and again, but the overall message should be clear. Creating content that is consistently relevant will indicate to the visitors of the website that they can grow to expect what type of content can be found on the website, and will increase the chances that they will return to the website.
Some say beauty is relative, but that does not mean that there are not defined aesthetic principles that should guide website design. The best type of design will align with the brand, create a positive impression for visitors, be clean, and it will complement the content that is being communicated. To test the effectiveness of the website's aesthetic, ask yourself the following:
After evaluating these questions, jettison any stylistic choices that directly contradict with the brand's message. Ensure that the logo and website design align. Consider the target audience and let that influence the style. This should not be the most important component (strategy is), but it should go hand in hand with it. The style of the website should complement the brand's goals and intentions, and should never confuse the user of the website. Think of it as the “storefront” of your website. In real life, you'd walk into a professional's office and expect it to be clean, tidy, and quiet. You'd also walk into a party store and expect bright colors, music, and lots of people talking. Imagine if you walked into a party store that was like a professional's office and vice versa. That would leave the customers very confused and they would likely choose not to do business there.
There are a lot of ways that the design of a website will impact search optimization. SEO and social networking starts with a strong website design. For example, does the website have a lot of graphics? If it does, remember that the search engines cannot see them. You will need to add ALT tags to the image descriptions so that the search engine will know what is being shown. Is the HTML efficient? If it is not this will hurt search rankings. Consider asking yourself the following questions to ensure that the website design is optimized:
A huge mistake is to think that search engine optimization and website design are two separate matters. Consider the way that the design will affect the search rankings and make any adjustments accordingly. The benefits of asking these questions and designing the website accordingly work hand in hand with one another. Not only will adding ALT tags to images aid in the search engine optimization, they will also help in making the website accessible. This is true for all of the heading tags, title tags, and other metadata. A well thought out site map will make navigating the website easy for everyone, especially those that are using the website with the aid of accessibility software.
Based upon these 5 characterizations, how well is your own website design working? Think of the ways in which it can be improved. Ponder on the steps that you will take in order to make the design more effective. This could mean improving upon all 5 of the characterizations, or simply improving upon one. It all depends on how well the website was designed in the first place. You will want the website to perform at its absolute best in each aspect. These aspects are all distinctly different, yet they work together to make the website operate smoothly. When all facets of the website operate smoothly, the quality of the website increases, thus bringing more traffic and eventually leads to more conversions, or completes the task intended.