Web Design & Development
Strong, effective web design can make a big difference to your brand and how you engage with customers visiting your site. The aim should always be to make it as easy as possible for your customers to navigate your site, contact you and view your services. Along with strong brand design, your web build can offer a great experience for your users and it’s important that the systems in place are easy-to use and efficient.
Never underestimate great web design as a tool to attracting more customers and making more sales. In some cases, it can be the first and only opportunity to make an impact and impression on visitors. There are so many web platforms available and with a variety of design options available, limited only by designer’s imaginations, it’s a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd and be different.
What Makes a Great Website?
There are many elements to consider when building a website, from development of the management system to the visual aesthetic design. Everything has to tie in with your brand message and appear fluid throughout the site. There are literally hundreds of tweaks and features you can add to a website, with additional plugins also available through certain CMS systems which allow further features to be used.
Here are our top 5 suggestions for a strong website design:
1. User Friendly
A website must be user friendly and this is probably one of the single most important elements for an effective, successful website. It makes sense that if people can access areas of your website easily and can digest the material quickly, that this will allow greater engagement and a higher chance of conversions. You may have come across sites that perhaps have a poor user experience which can be frustrating and feel like a chore to use; this could be because of poor load speeds, content not loading correctly, broken navigation and poor visuals. So it’s vital that your website doesn’t display those frustrating elements which can drag your brand down and give a poor image of your company.
2. Great Content
One of the most important elements on a website that should be refined and displayed effectively, for easy digestion by users, is content. Content is key, not only with engaging with your customers but also for effective SEO and for high relevance to what people are searching for. If your content is engaging and readable (and in some cases shareable) this can really capture the user’s attention and give the website an air of authority and topical mastery in the subject being discussed.
Content doesn’t have to be simple text paragraphs. In fact the more visually engaging you can make your content, the better. There’s no reason why any subject matter has to be boring and with infographics, visual designs and animations, your content can become something that people want to share on social media or use as a piece of authoritative content.
3. Responsive Design
One of the biggest changes to affect the web industry over the last 5 years has been the growth in the mobile market and browsing online via mobile devices, whether it be on tablets, mobile phones or through smart tvs. With more and more people using their phones and ipads to view online content, it’s likely that many of the visitors you receive will be from mobile devices. Therefore your site should be not only responsive but also mobile friendly. Responsive designs allow for the site to automatically adjust no matter what screen size or orientation the user is browsing with.
Mobile-ready sites are actually coded as such and take into account not only responsiveness but also image sizes (particularly file size reductions for load issues) and navigation variances for easy mobile use. It’s so important now that Google, amongst other online entities are recommending a website have two versions for indexing; the normal site currently being used and an alternative mobile version. In fact Google even suggest having the alternative indexed so that the mobile version is used appropriately depending on what device the user is viewing on.
4. Cohesive Design
Your users don’t want to be searching your site trying to find what they are looking for. They’ve arrived at your site either by recommendation, search engine search or through a referral link or ad and so now they want to just look at what they need. At this point you need to ensure you are delivering exactly what they want. No unnecessary distractions, no random linking out to other areas of the site that don’t make sense and no dead pages. The hard part is getting someone to your site, the easy part is engaging with them by displaying what you know, who you are and showing them how you are the right company for them to purchase or deal with. Let your personality shine through, from your branding to the end product.
The design must be seamless, with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation; all the basics. The navigation must make sense and the visual design must fit with your branding message and brand image. Consistency is key. If your website is slick, easy to use and ordered, the assumption is that your business will be too.
5. Focus Points
Conversions can be gained by giving users simple navigation to follow and easy links through to the right service pages. However, sometimes you need more and this is where effective logos or link images can help drive the customer forward. Having a focus point on the page to drive the user where you want them to go next is a popular method and can be easily achieved by creating an eye catching arrow design or a linkable button which stands out from the content and entices them to click through. Calls to action links are more successful when they are the focal point on a page through great design.
FAQs About Web Design
How many links should I have on my site?
Internal links are important for making sure your site pages are as visible as possible. They also help along with an XML Sitemap, in exposing all of your site pages. Having every page available and linked between each other creates a “spider-web” of content which is all connected and which Google will see as a thorough customer experience.
I see a lot of image-heavy sites with little content - should I focus on an image-based website?
Many sites rely on images rather than text content and these tend to be Ecommerce sites and image-focused businesses. It will depend on what type of industry you work in as to whether you promote yourself through images or a mixture of image and content. The other consideration is of course site speed. If you do use a lot of images it’s crucial that the image files are reduced in size so that the site speed isn’t restricted by loading times.
Are micro sites as good as larger websites?
Micro sites are used to give maximum impact in a short space of time. They are cost efficient, quicker to set up and generally they can be used to promote a more focused product or service. Being able to drive customers to a micro site enables a more focused approach without the extra baggage of surrounding pages and with this, it frees up the homepage from clutter. They also provide a great experimental tool for testing various on-page techniques.
Other popular functions of a micro site include announcing a product launch or to release study results. It focuses on one or two elements of your brand and it can then link back to the main site if necessary.
I don’t know what platform to choose - is Wordpress really the best CMS?
There are plenty of CMS systems to choose from with various functionality to suit any website requirements. Wordpress is the most used CMS system globally and with it’s open source software, free plugin availability and it’s ease of use for owners to be able to change content quickly, it has become the best option for flexibility. However, depending on what you need you may not require the in-depth functionality of Wordpress and so other CMS platforms such as Shopify or Joomla are good alternatives. Joomla in particular is similar but allows third party software and templates to buy. Certain platforms are better than others for ecommerce stores but for content driven sites, Wordpress is the preferred choice.
Should I just focus on a mobile site now, rather than bother with a desktop orientated site?
There is more benefit to running both a desktop site and a mobile site alongside each other, rather than focusing on one over the other. The chances are that most sites currently running are desktop oriented. The focus has shifted more to mobile sites over the last year, particularly with a trend shift in users across mobile devices over desktop users. Even Google are now preferencing the mobile site version if there is one, to display to users on mobile devices and encouraging site owners to add a preference tag to the mobile version.
Should keywords be pushed into content?
There has always been a concern over keyword stuffing and it’s strongly recommended to avoid this old-school tactic which only hinders a website’s performance. All content material should be relevant to the focus of the page and therefore any optimised keywords can be integrated through natural content creation. In other words, the content must be relevant to the keywords you want to optimise. Keep the subject of the page relevant and useful to the user search query.
Do I have to have a blog on my site?
A lot of sites have a blog section which is fine if your business requires it. Some website owners don’t have the time to populate a blog regularly and in which case they outsource it out to someone to manage. However, if the industry isn’t suitable for blogging or doesn’t lend itself well for social posts (for example the steel industry or perhaps plastics), you don’t have to spend time and money on a blog. Although any industry can manage a blog section and should communicate with their customer base regularly, if it’s not a priority for your business, then don’t waste time implementing it. However, we do recommend having some engagement with your user base, whether it’s through social media or a blog. Blog posts do also help enable a site to add content on a regular basis, which helps keep a static site relevant.
What do I need to supply to the web builder?
It will depend on the project specifics but during the initial meeting the developers will normally agree what content should be supplied. It will vary on any new build. Usually site development will need a plan-out of structure, design elements and content reviews.
Will I have access to my site or should it be managed by the developer? (and is it worth having training on the CMS for personal updates?)
It’s strongly recommended to take up any CMS training offered. This will allow you to manage your content changes personally without having to rely on developers making the changes, and in some cases paying out for them to do it. Being able to make the changes when you want is a quick solution and gives you complete control over your content.
Will the web builder get it onto Google once it’s complete?
The developers will launch the site and set the basic index processes in place. However, they won’t necessarily implement SEO elements unless this has been agreed previously. There will be an XML sitemap created and relevant tags installed in the site code but the XML file will still need submitting to Google through a created Webmaster Tools account, as well as performing indexing checks.