First Impressions Matter
The design and placement of elements on your website will take hours, weeks or even months, but whether it works or not will be decided in an instant. That first impression from a new user will determine if and how he or she continues to interact with your site, brand or business. A visually pleasing design scheme will help that first glance last longer and retain users.
The visuals that will grab the most attention the quickest include a strong image or illustration, sharp contrast or something unusual on the screen, and a phrase or wording that is memorable.
You can use eyetracking studies and information to help you plan a wireframe that users will be drawn to. Here are the elements that people often look at first:
- Main image or graphic, particularly if it is large or oversized
- Branding or logo
- Main navigation to get an idea of what the site contains
- Text or a written message in large lettering
- The website footer or contact information
You Are the Image You Portray
Look at each of the websites above. Do you know what the sites or brands are about? Whether you do (or only think you do), every website is about the images it portrays.
Strong visuals and a clean, organized design lend legitimacy to a website. These elements can also help establish trust in your brand, which is especially important if your website is trying to convert a sale. A user will equate the experience he or she has on your website with the experience they are likely to have with you in person. (Think of it this way: if images of food aren’t appealing on your website, they will assume the taste is poor; or if you promote a concert venue and tickets are difficult to find or buy, the user might think the live event will be poorly organized.)
A more chaotic design or haphazard look to your website can tell visitors that you don’t care about or believe in your business. It can cause a user to pause before making an interaction or force them to shy away from your company altogether.
Users will make a million different assumptions about your company or brand based solely on the website design. It’s your job to make sure the site sends out the message you want people to receive about your business.
If you are unsure about how to proceed with a website design, the best advice is to stick to the basics. Hire a professional who has a good understanding of you and your business.
Tell Users What is Important
Good website design starts with hierarchy. A defined hierarchy is important from a business perspective because it prioritizes information for the busy user. If someone has a limited amount of time to interact with your site, you should aesthetically define what’s important so your message can be communicated at a glance.
When thinking about the overall hierarchy of a website design, group each new thought or page with structure.
- The most important thing you have to showcase. It helps to have a strong or unusual visual with a simple text block. Use an image or video, scale and color to make this element stand out more than anything else.
- A supporting detail. What does the user need to completely understand the most important element? Construct an element that is smaller and more subtle than the main element (often a secondary line or text, invitation to click or scroll, or even navigation). These elements often have a simple design that does not compete with the main design feature.
- Call to action. Every website should have some sort of user goal in mind. Make it obvious. This element can contain a special color or button or fun element such as a simple animation.
- Everything else.
Branding, Branding, Branding
A website is your public branding portal. Anyone in the world can learn about a company, individual or project with a simple online search. Your website creates an image of who you are and what you want the international community to know about you, your product or service. On your website, you control the message.
A good website conveys this information in an obvious way. It is also how you tell your brand story. While you can’t control all of the information out there, your website should contain information that shows users the type of brand you are. Images and text should come together in a way that reflects the mood and tone of your company.
Are you fun or serious? Do you work with adults or children? What products or services do you offer? Why are you the best at what you do? The content of your website should answer these questions in text or with visuals.
What About Mobile or Apps?
The technological needs of every business are different. But is it important to understand the mobile market that is growing daily.
I have a simple recommendation: every website you build or have should be responsive. If you don’t have the time or budget to think about an app, this is the solution. It also resolves branding issues with having two websites – one desktop and one mobile – that may not be completely in sync.
Today’s websites must be responsive.
10 Elements of Good Website Design
So what makes a great website that will keep users coming back? It starts with the basics of design, adds in modern technology, and is a site that is highly usable and functional. We talk about good design, and design practices and techniques, all the time here at Design Shack, so you should be able to learn a lot from the articles on this site.
Here are 10 elements to consider:
- Logo and branding
- Simple typography that is easy to read
- Defined color palette
- Easy user interface tools and elements that work in intuitive ways
- Navigation that moves users through the site
- Strong images that showcase your brand
- Concise and targeted copy
- Easy to understand calls-to-action
- Your brand story told in a way that connects with users
- Modern design techniques and interface
Every user may have a different idea of what makes a “good” website design because it is partially in the eye of the beholder, but by using basic design principles and thinking about usability and website goals, you can create a site that looks good and works well for users.
In the planning phases, think about first impressions, your overall image, importance of information, branding, and how the user will interact with a site to help ensure you create the best website design possible.