What Every Business Owner Must Know About Website Design

When businesses want to know how exactly they can benefit from great web design, designers often respond with 'it helps you make a first good impression'. And that's a good enough reason.

An estimated 85 per cent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses. If your website looks drab, suffers from clunky navigation, and doesn't have compelling content, visitors will just move on to a competitor site. If your web design isn't good enough, you will fail to earn the confidence of visitors. You may have a top-notch product, a decades-long history of service excellence, or a niche skill, yet struggle to convert visitors to customers. It may seem unfair, but remember that first impressions in today's world are formed on computer and mobile screens.

Studies on the influence of design on behavior point out that certain issues create suspicion and lead to rejection. They include:

  • A cluttered, complex layout
  • Poor navigation
  • Pop-up ads
  • Boring design, especially with regards to color
  • Small print
  • A lack of proper search facilities/index
  • Slow-loading pages
  • Very text-heavy pages

A majority of issues are design-related and few are actually associated with the content on the site. For instance, did you know that nearly 85 per cent of consumers are highly influenced by the colors on a webpage or banner ad? Research in this area suggests that some colors are more appealing to certain groups of buyers than others.

Orange, black, red and royal blue have been seen to be irresistible to impulse shoppers. Shoppers on a budget are likely to be drawn to teal and navy blue shades. Traditional buyers have a preference for softer hues such as pink, rose and sky blue. Having said that, color is just one aspect of the whole website browsing experience. A website is a sum of a many conceptualized, designed and implemented parts. Together, they define the look and feel of your website, either encouraging or discouraging visitors to stay on your site and explore what you have to offer. As your website is your brand's identity online, it makes sense to thoughtfully combine form and function to present your company in the best light.

Is your web design in need of a fresh update?

When was the last time you took a long, hard look at your website and decided that it was time for a design overhaul or some new changes? That your website design is old and outdated will not be lost on today's internet-savvy consumer. If your website is not built on modern web design standards, it may raise a red flag in visitors' minds.

An old website with simple design and little focus on UX often creates doubts about the company's legitimacy. Consumers also feel that if you cannot afford to build a modern website, you probably don't have the money to secure it, and may therefore hesitate to provide their personal information or subscribe to your newsletter.

Aesthetic design, a modern interface, organized layout, intuitive navigation and a professional touch are all key ingredients that inspire confidence in your brand and make you stand out. If one or more of these elements is missing, you may want to consider a redesign. Here are some tips on figuring out if a design rethink is in order.

Responsiveness

Mobile digital time has overtaken the time spent on desktop, which means unless your website is optimized for smartphone and tablet screens, you may be missing out on new customers and conversions. If your existing website does not have a responsive design and cannot be viewed on all devices, an update may be necessary.

Feature and functions no longer in use

As your website evolves and scales up, some features may stop being useful or not perform to expectations. For instance, there is a debate on the importance of social media buttons on websites. While some argue that social sharing buttons increase conversions, others believe that they don't contribute much to website performance and can be done away with. Only by testing performance with and without social media buttons, and experimenting with their position, can you make a judicious decision on their utility and requirement.

If a large or important part/aspect of your site is under-performing or simply of no use anymore, a complete redesign may infuse new life into your online brand identity.

Slow loading times

One of the principles of responsive web design is that your site should load quickly and provide the most important information. Your consumers may be restricted by their smartphone carriers and internet service providers on the amount of data they can download. So, there's no point in bombarding them with too much text or imagery.

Another problem is that many full-sized images and a lot of unnecessary data can make your site slow. Web developers will tell you that if your website takes longer than five seconds to load, it must be optimized. That's because users won't wait beyond five seconds and leave your site. If slow loading pages are a problem, have a web developer investigate the problem and incorporate appropriate solutions at the earliest.

Dwindling visitors

Have you noticed a trend indicating a decrease in visitors to your website? This is a strong sign that your website needs a refresh and update, in terms of content, design or both. Search engines like websites that are constantly updated with new content, so you may be losing out in the search engine optimization (SEO) stakes as well. Give your website a facelift, and publish fresh content in the form of weekly blog posts or new landing pages, to keep customers and search engines happy.

Another suggestion is to use a website analytics tool to check if visitors are browsing other pages of your site after arriving on your home page. If they're not going deeper into your site, your home page may be the possible culprit, that is, it may not be appealing enough to encourage visitors to learn more about your business. In this situation, the visual quotient, layout and/or content of your home page will need to be enhanced.

How old is too old in 'website years'? A site that hasn't undergone any design updates in two years will need to be brought to current standards. Given that technology and marketing developments keep emerging, and new mobile devices are released all the time, your website must keep up to meet evolving needs and continue supporting your sales and marketing goals.

Website design priorities

  • Accessibility, across devices and bandwidth
  • Relevant, informing users what they want to know
  • Usable, enabling users to easily make their way around the site
  • Personalized, addressing individual needs and emotionally connecting with users

Good website design and development takes all these priorities into account to deliver enjoyable browsing experiences.

We have already talked about how accessibility on all screens is so important. On the topic of usability and navigation, businesses often make the mistake of choosing a common website template and trying to fit their content into the pre-designed format. The problem with this approach is that it can leave you with unwanted design elements and code bloat, i.e, unnecessarily long and wasteful code production. It is advisable to opt for a custom designed website put together with your unique requirements in mind.

For your website to resonate with your target audience, it needs to directly appeal to their needs, preferences and expectations. For instance, if you're an ecommerce store, product reviews and ratings are absolutely necessary. The layout and filtering options must make it easy for users to search for products, add them to their shopping cart, and expedite payments quickly and securely. If you sell a service or software, you may want to include a video or infographic on how to use your product or how your service works.

Depending on your product/service, you may either require a good balance of text and images, little text and lots of images, or more text versus images. If you decide to add image and video files, make sure that the multimedia content is optimized to offer fast loading while delivering high-quality imagery. They must be alluring to your audience, persuading them to heed your call to action – filling your online form, signing up for a free trial, or submitting their personal information. Instead of Flash, which most mobile device platforms don't support, consider using HTML5 video for accessibility and rich imagery.

Coding is another critical aspect of website design. The manner in which your website is coded will determine how your search engine listings appear, such as your web page title in search results and the description under the title. Coding best practices must be followed to optimize your site to search engines and make it searchable on the World Wide Web.

Finally, it is fine to do things a bit differently. If you think an FAQ section only pushes your sales messages instead of addressing queries and concerns users actually have, you don't need it. If you think a submissions section encouraging participation from visitors (such as sharing photos of their artwork) may be more appealing than a discussion forum or blog, don't hesitate to include it and test to see how it impacts your marketing efforts.