You want a great website, right?

Coming up with a great website involves a lot of elbow grease. For a site to be considered a success, it has to be well executed and functional. You’ll have to put a lot of thought into coming up with a design you can use as a springboard to create a great website. Though it’s a fact that each web project is unique in its design challenges, all projects follow the same basic design rules and practices.

Through this article, we will be discussing five guidelines to get you started with a great website.

Consider Conversion Potential

Design is not just about looking great. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to have a visually appealing site, but you must also consider its substance. That is the main reason why customers go to your site. They won’t stop and admire the scenery as they would in a park. They’re in there to get something done.

Understanding this customer need makes for an effective website. It should be designed in a way that can lead your customers to do what they’re supposed to while they are using it. This is where the website’s conversion potential comes into play. Conversion means turning casual browsers into leads, prospects, paying customers, site members, or subscribers.

All details of a website’s design have roles:

  • Pictures – these have to arouse interest, be distinct, and of excellent quality.
  • Color – Will the color layout attract customers?
  • Text – Includes tags, instructions, illustrations, calls to action, and messages.

These are just three of the ingredients necessary for converting customers. Simply put, all parts of a site’s plan have a role in conversions.

So, from a conversion standpoint, how will you know if your website followed the right plan? Throwing a Hail Mary pass and hope for a touchdown will not do.

What you should do is try out the design that you’ve decided on and be able adjust as needed.

If you have two versions of a website design, consider A/B testing to make better comparisons. For example, you have a prominent button placed on your site’s homepage. You want to find out which hue, font, and position would be optimal for that button. You can test the two versions by having two sets of users see two different options. This will allow you to see which of the two will have a better conversion potential. Making slight tweaks and doing more tests will help you decide on what the optimal button placement should be.

White Space is Your Friend

To the untrained eye, white space may seem like space wasted. However, putting white space to use is actually an integral part of website designing, as any web designer worth his salt would know. For these people, white spaces should be there by design. As Monika Beck, our lead web designer, once said:

“Whitespace is part of great design.”

Today, too many companies treat their websites the way newspaper publishers treat their newspapers – by aggressively utilizing every square inch of available space. Every inch of a newspaper is utilized because cost and finite resources (ink and paper) have to be considered, and that is understandable. With websites, however, these limiting factors do not figure at all.

Besides, people approach websites and newspapers quite differently. A typical visitor who finds sufficient spacing between page elements should find his visit more pleasurable. With less clutter, a visitor can put more attention on individual content without feeling suffocated by those around it. In other words, white space allows individual content to stand out better!

Many non-developers are turned off by the idea of parallax scrolling, since writing its code is a taxing technical exercise. However, there are tools available that can make this an easier experience. These tools, aka parallax scrolling plugins, are user-friendly enough to allow developers to add the effect without even writing a single line of code.

It’s All About the Fonts

Riveting videos and fantastic photos may hog most of the online attention, but at the end of the day, the Internet is mostly composed of text. With that in mind, it is your website’s typography that should get particular attention.

Since the dawn of the Internet, websites have leaned on a bunch of “web safe fonts,” which includes but not limited to the following:

  • Times New Roman
  • Lucida
  • Verdana
  • Impact
  • Georgia
  • Arial
  • Tahoma

These fonts were the ones you’ll typically find installed on your computer. Recently, however, font choices for websites have expanded significantly when @font-face selections were introduced. Note: @font-face is a CSS rule that allows you to input your own font to appear on a website even when the particular font is not installed on the visitor’s computer.

Now that you have a world of font choices, it is easy to go wild with your options. This is where your typography skills come into play. Choosing the appropriate font for your project can make or break your website. Typography is all about the small details.

Other than choosing the right font, you also have to consider its size, color, spacing, and the weight of the characters, just to name a few. In the end, what matters most is making the text content a pleasurable read.

Always keep in mind that websites are not just about awesome pictures. Whatever text content it has will be read. True, saying the right thing is your content writer’s responsibility, but good typography skills will help you get the word out by leaps and bounds.

When Less Means More

Monika Beck put it quite succinctly when she said:

“A web designer knows she has achieved the best possible design not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

There are times when you have this urge to add more content. If it’s not you doing the adding, it’s your clients. They can request for extra buttons, options, links, and the like, adding more into their website.

Chefs will always say that adding more ingredients will not necessarily make a dish better. The same is true about web designing. Extra content can sometimes add more confusion instead of clearing things up. With that said, look into streamlining your content instead of expanding it further.

Visitors who spend more time figuring out your website may find the experience exasperating. Reducing the number of links in your website should help ease them through. For example, if you have twelve buttons, look into trimming that down to eight. If you can somehow manage to bring it down to four or five buttons, you should be fine!

You can reach a decision faster if there aren’t a lot of options presented to you. Such is also the case with website visitors, who can be quite an impatient bunch. A website with fewer elements, such as tabs and links, will have the kind of clarity web visitors prefer.

Homepages are also subject to the “less is more principle.” Emphasize on just a few choice content when designing a homepage. Displaying everything in a loud and showy way can be counterproductive. Doing so can overwhelm customers and the message you’re trying to get across. So, if you want your customers to focus in on your content, apply the principles of white space that we discussed a while ago. Making everything bigger, bolder, and louder will only scatter their focus.

Have Fun, But Not Too Much!

If you want people to instantly recall your business, you want to leave them with a good impression. That is something you’d like your website to achieve. This is where the design element of “fun” comes in. When fun is added to the equation, it usually translates to an unforgettable experience.

Adding the element of fun on a website does not automatically mean you’re making it look goofy (unless you’re working on a kid-friendly site, then goof away). Your website does not have to sacrifice its professional atmosphere when fun is introduced. In this case, adding fun only means that you’re turning something ordinary into completely unforgettable.

Reading about legal issues is not something you usually look forward to. Your law firm could have a website that presents legal issues in a fun yet informational way without being goofy. A great attorney website could include the principles that we’ve discussed so far, such as parallax scrolling, and carefully laid out animation and illustrations. Blending these elements allows the website to engage visitors while conveying a serious message.

Tempering the fun is something you should also keep in mind. Too much of it and you will find your site veering away from its main goals. There’s also the potential to offend some customers’ sensibilities, so you have to be wary of that as well. In other words, fun is ok up to a certain point, and it is your responsibility as a designer to know where that point is.

Some Parting Words

If it’s a great website that you want, all you have to do is apply the five guidelines that we discussed in this article. Brainstorm with your web designer, share ideas about your website, and soon enough, your website should be on its way to differentiate you from the rest.