Throughout the years, the standards and expectations of a business' website have increased dramatically, and these days it's at an all time high. You have only mere seconds to capture a visitor's interest and the website design will play a huge role; it will either entice them to stick around or send them packin'.
The following is a small collection of web design best-practices...
- No spelling or grammatical mistakes - This should go without saying, but a website with spelling or grammatical mistakes can lose credibility and look unprofessional. Thoroughly spell-check and proof read anything before putting it live on your website.
- Avoid long pages - Whilst some vertical scrolling is tolerable, do not make your pages excessively long. If you have a large amount of content, consider dissecting it over multiple pages.
- Harsh, conflicting colours - One of the most hated things you can do is put black text on a white background, or vice versa. There is such a harsh contrast here that some people get headaches from looking at it. You need to make it easier on the eye for the user, so if you're using black/white, considering playing around with different shades of grey.
- Make sure your links are visible - The user should be able to easily identity what is a link and what isn't. Links will commonly be a different colour from the standard text and are often underlined.
- Optimise your anchor text on links - When you're creating a link, try to avoid making the link something generic like 'click here'. For example; rather then saying "For a professional business website, click here", I could say "Such and such company can create for you a professional business website".
- Avoid intro pages - The more steps a user has to perform to access your content, the more discouraging it will be for them. Quite often I see websites that have an 'intro' page, where all it is is their logo and an 'enter site' button. A pointless page that's only real purpose is to make the user work harder... avoid this!
- Keep your website simple - This means keeping your navigation user-friendly and easy to follow, and not cluttering your website. If you have a substantial amount of content, break it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. LESS IS MORE!
- Make sure your logo is clickable - Most users now have burnt it into their heads that clicking the logo will return them to the homepage, so make sure your's does this also.
- Include your contact details - There is nothing worse than a website that has no contact details. It should be easy for a user to get a hold of you if they need to so make sure you have a contact page with your details, and other various direct links to that page throughout the website. If you primarily want user's to call you, consider placing your phone number at the top of every page.
- Avoid audio - Most user's hate going onto a website that automatically plays off a video or some sort of audio. If you have embedded a video and music track, make sure it's up to the user to initiate it with a play button and don't force it upon them.
- Do not open new browser windows - It's seems logical that if you direct links to other sites to open in a new browser window that the user won't leave your website, but there is a reason why browsers have a back button on them. Let the user control how links are opened... they will go back if they want to.
- Grab their attention - Like I said at the start, you have only mere seconds to grab a visitor's attention. So whatever you have on your homepage, it must be compelling enough to make them want more. A great way to do this is with a slideshow or promotional banner of some sort. Keep the text short and to the point, and make sure there are links to the areas on the website you want traffic driven to.Also, make sure to keep the most important information towards the top and 'above the fold', as in, make sure the visitor can see it without having to scroll down. You want it to smack them in the face as soon as they hop on the website.
- Simple fonts go a long way - It's easy to format your content with some new fancy font, but is it readable? There's no point in making the text look prettier if the user can't read it... There is a variety of different web fonts to chose from nowadays that are simple and elegant, but still give your website that bit of funk. A good website will probably only make use of about 2 - 3 different fonts; 1 - 2 for the headers and another for the text.
- Font size - Whilst we're on the subject of fonts... make sure that the text is large enough so everybody can read it! Depending on the website, a smaller text might look better visually and fit in with the design better, however it won't be so easy for some people to read. I suppose it depends on your target audience... if its the older generation, perhaps the text should be a little larger.
- Avoid flash - Flash-based websites aren't so user-friendly and can cause major headaches for some users. The occasional flash-based banner is acceptable, otherwise, avoid it like the plague.