27 Sep 5 Must-Have Qualities for Business Websites
Great website design: You know it when you see it, but it can be hard to quantify what exactly makes it “great”. While we don’t claim to have the final word on this subject, we’ve seen our share of great (and terrible) websites, and we’ve compiled a list of five qualities we consistently recognize in great design.
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If a site is well designed for human users, the designers have usually paid close attention to details, and this includes things “behind the curtain”:
– ALT tags: There are graphics that looks great, but then there’s images that actually increase contribute better search ranking because their labels signal to search engines that the site is organized around a clear theme.
– Heading tags, meta descriptions, title tags: They’re filled with relevant keywords, because the purpose of each page, each image, each paragraph has been well-defined, and that purpose is aligned with a vision for the entire site.
– Sitemap: There is no best layout for a site, but the best sites all have a consciously designed map.
A great website is fast, secure, and user-friendly. These are also details that exist behind the curtain, but the consequences are more evident: If the site is slow or hard to use, visitors will bounce. If the site isn’t safe, the user’s browser or security software will trigger a warning. Here’s a short checklist to assess usability:
– How longs does it take for the page to load? One tool to test this is Google Page Speed Insights , and the current (2016) benchmark for page load speed is 2 seconds/page.
– Is there an obvious organization of site information?
– Is there a search function?
– The W3C Link Checker makes it easy to check if all the links work.
– Does the site work in different browsers?
– How does the site display on mobile devices?
– If the page collects personal or ecommerce information, does the site communicate how that information is secured (like a prominent security certificate or link to more info)?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that shouldn’t be license to collage style elements without any organizing principle. The best sites have a strong sense of brand aesthetic which is centered on the site’s audience.
– The style should be consistent across all pages.
– The site’s colors should match or complement the colors in the logo: If there is a strong graphic style in the logo, the visual elements of the site should mirror that style.
– The photos, videos, and visual decoration should contribute to the message of the site, not distract from it.
– Even if the brand of the site dictates a “busy” design, it shouldn’t appear messy: The more elements active on a page, the stronger the organizing principle needs to be.
A hallmark of poor website design is text that is difficult to read: Too small or text color too close to the background color or fonts that are animated or unreadable. A second hallmark is text that doesn’t contribute anything. In both cases, the designer has failed to ask some important questions about how text is displayed and what purpose it serves:
– How readable are the fonts I’ve chosen?
– Is the contrast between background colors and font colors sufficient?
– Is the text big enough to be easily read?
– What purpose does this individual text serve, and is it relevant to the site visitor?
– Attention spans get shorter all the time: Even if the text is useful, is it concise?
One theme has emerged that ties together every quality we’ve identified: Strategy. A clean, simple site with a clear organizing strategy is more effective that 1000 flashy disorganized sites (see: Google). If a site has been designed with a clear strategy, the following things will be apparent in the first few moments a visitor lands on the site:
– What the business is and what services/products are offered.
– What action visitors are meant to take (search, schedule an appointment, shop, Like).
– The target audience, and the main style principle that has been chosen to speak to that audience.
Again, we don’t claim to have the final word on defining great website design, but this is a list that we evaluate all of our projects against, and it has served us well. How do you feel your website measure up to these criteria? If you’re not sure, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org , and we can help you set-up a free website assessment.
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