Some business owners think that just having a website is enough, but an effective website is actually a key component of marketing, branding, and overall success. We asked industry experts to name the do’s and don’t’s of building a website and why web design matters.
Take It Seriously
“Do make website design and development a priority. That means budget time and money and internal resources appropriately. Getting a new website may not directly impact existing business operations and systems, but that doesn’t mean you can treat it like an afterthought.
Designate the decision maker for the project. Too many voices participating in a website design and development project inevitably lead to conflicting priorities in the site design, UX, and functionality. It also often leads to mistakes and breakdowns in efficiency when you have to depend on six people to get together and make decisions.
Someone internal to the business should aggregate feedback but also have the authority to act decisively. Usually we recommend this be someone from the department with the most vested in a website (sales or marketing directors are often top of list for the type of sites we do).
Finally, don’t expect perfection from day 1. Websites, like businesses themselves, should evolve based on changing user expectations, business objectives, and industry standards.
In web design, its often important to decide what’s “good enough” before targeting perfection. You can spend countless dollars, hours, and days trying to fine-tune a new website before launch, only to find out that the latest in design and technology trends are moving faster than you are.”
– Jordan Brannon, President & COO, Coalition Technologies
Design With Your User in Mind
“Your website is a tool, and every good tool has a purpose. The design of your website (or tool) is important because it helps guide visitors to taking your ideal action. Defining your website objectives and ideal visitors will help you pinpoint what that ideal action is, so you can begin designing your website around that goal.
If you’re trying to sell stuff online, every aspect of your website design should help visitors through your sales/marketing funnel and into the checkout. Inversely, if what you’re selling online is your opinions and ideas via a blog, then your site design should focus on keeping people on your blog for longer and filling out a newsletter opt-in form.
Whether your objective is to capture email leads, sell products, incent people to download something, or anything else, your website’s design must reflect that objective, and help achieve its purpose.”
– Sepy Bazzazi, Marketing Ninja, RealtyNinja
“Web design is important because oftentimes, a website is the first interaction a potential customer will have with a brand or company. If the website is poorly designed or doesn’t reflect what the brand is, this gives potential customers a negative first impression. Here are some key pieces of advice:
- Make sure the colors are all in harmony with each other. You shouldn’t have more than three or four colors, because if you have more, the site gets cluttered.
- Your font choice is vital. If you use just the default fonts (Arial, Times New Roman, etc.), you’re not going to stand out. Create a custom font that allows you to be more unique and display your brand’s personality.
- You want your website to be easy to navigate. With that in mind, keep your verbiage simple. All information needs to be understood by everyone.
Make sure the website is mobile-responsive because most users today are viewing website on smartphones and tablets. If it isn’t responsive, users will have a different (and worse) experience depending on which device they use. Also, Google rewards sites that are responsive by ranking them higher in their search engine results.”
– Carlos Montalvo, Web Developer, GWP Inc. Advertising
“A company website should clearly communicate the purpose of the company, and its value to the visitor. Whether that’s a unique product, a professional service, a charitable cause, or something in between, the design should facilitate that communication in every way.
Website design often veers off course when the goals revolve around “what’s cool,” “what I like,” or “what THEY are doing,” rather than things like, “who’s our customer and how might they navigate through this information?” and “what do we provide that’s unique?”
Web design is a critical component to an online communication strategy. The designer will make choices at this stage that communicate the company’s brand, their ethos, their unique selling proposition.
Additionally, they will drive the organization and layout of information in a way that resonates with the target customer, helping them down a path that leads to a desired action, like a purchase or subscription.
Web design techniques may vary depending on the type of site, but it always comes back to the intended purpose of the website and how that website can provide unique value to the visitor. Armed with that information, the designer can research and execute a design to meet those needs.”
– Andrew Woods, Co-Founder, Duckpin Design
“When it comes to designing your professional website, users are everything. Ask yourself what they’re looking to find. Once you know the answer to this question, build an intuitive, easy-to-navigate site.
Secondly, consider your user experience. Relevant and targeted advertising is fine, but if your site is too busy, users won’t want to stay. Put navigation and site efficiency above aesthetics. Aesthetics are important, but a confusing or glitchy site (no matter how beautiful) is fairly pointless.
Blogs and ecommerce sites differ in an interesting way, too. An ecommerce site is all about product, so it’s crucial that the design constantly advertises products in a visually pleasing way. Additionally, the process of checking out should be quick and simple. An ecommerce site should tell users what to buy and create the immediate need to purchase products.
A blog, on the other hand, is less about product and more about discovery. People read articles for specific information, so a blog should feel organic and helpful. The layout should present a variety of options and answers to questions. Bloggers want readers to arrive at their blog and stay there.”
– Shawn Rubel, Founder & CEO, Vecteezy
Do Your Research
“Do ask questions. Perhaps most important, what are the goals of the site? Are you trying to be trendy and have a unique design, giving your company an edge? Or do you want a more classical enterprise appearance to target corporate clients? Designing a website relies heavily on the type of audience viewing it, as converting site visitors into clients is the main goal.
Don’t do what you think is best without asking the client or consulting with someone in the industry. Many designers think they know exactly what will work for every industry. In reality, this is not the case. People are different, and more often than not, your gut might not be right. Ask questions, do research, and never assume your design taste is the end all be all.
A good e-commerce site properly organized products, making it easy for customers to sort through products and reviews and find the right product for the right price. When people are comfortable and the site they’re using is dependable, stable, and correctly executed, they will be more likely to spend their money!”
– Daniel Ali, Vice President, www.MyQuickStartup.com
“Designing a company website can be a difficult process. Many things come into play including branding, user navigation and experience, and search engine optimization.
Start your design process off by looking at leading sites in your niche to see how their website is organized. If you’re looking to be the best fashion blog, look at other successful fashion blogs for ideas on how your site should be set up. If you are an ecommerce site, look at established sites like Zappos.com to see how a proper online retailer site is constructed.
Next, create a full wire frame – blueprinting each individual page and defining how each of those pages will connect and interact with one another. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail; and thus, a wireframe is a necessary pre-requisite to developing your company’s website.
Finally, find a balance between user experience and SEO. Some things that are best for SEO aren’t best for the user’s experience, but may still be necessary.”
– Mike Sims, CEO, ThinkLions
“The most important thing to keep in mind when designing a new website is what your audience does and doesn’t know.
Too many small businesses have websites that don’t include their physical address, hours of operation, full list of services, service area, or pricing policies because they make too many assumptions about what their customers already know.
For most businesses, a website is the most fleshed-out piece of their branding experience. Other marketing channels and platforms don’t offer a ton of freedom: if you want to brag about your Taco Tuesdays, 50 years in service, or commitment to green tech, your business card, Yelp page, and uniforms can only tell small pieces of the story.”
– Joe Goldstein, Operations Manager, Contractor Calls
Keep It Clean
“Simplicity and minimalism are key when developing a landing page for your customers to see, whether its to help educate visitors on your services/portfolio or to purchase products. Think of it like designing a living room: colors need to work together, not clash, and you need to minimize the amount of content you’re presenting to avoid looking like a messy, early 2000s template layout.
One major difference between designing a graphic design landing page and an ecommerce business is the amount of backend development that takes place. Assuming you’re not plugging into Shopify or one of the shopping cart-in-a-box services, you’re going to need to outsource the development of a proper credit card processor that ensures end to end encryption.
For example with my site, I designed the front end myself, but hired a developer to not only integrate with a shopping cart (Braintree Payments) , but to build a secure login page for customers to privately access their digital laboratory slips and PDFs, all of which needed to be HIPPA compliant.”
– Dimitri Villanueva, President, MYLABFAX
“There are many things to consider when designing a company’s website. The more relevant, visually appealing, and helpful the website is, the higher chance that the viewer will convert.
Keeping the webpage clean with few distractions will help the viewer flow through the content without being uninterested and distracted. To do this, you should keep each page focused on one specific objective.
Find a balance of images, white space, and content. Using constant spacing through your page will keep your content organized and easy to follow.
Another aspect to consider when creating and maintaining your webpage is to keep information up to date, whether that be a phone number change, an updated blog post, or other piece of content. Your viewers want the most recent and accurate information.”
– Chris Madden, Founder, Matchnode
“Don’t chase trends, fads or the next shiny thing. Do stay true to your brand values and research your primary audience. Website design is increasingly important because it is usually your first interaction with a potential customer. A sloppy website is like a terrible salesman who never sleeps.
When designing for ecommerce, focus on the exploration and checkout process, reducing friction can lead to more completed purchases and happier customers. Keep language clear and concise, and make sure interactions follow patterns the user expects.
When designing a blog, keep in mind how the user will be consuming the content. For example, annoying ads can interrupt the reading experience and drive users away. Consider a comment system, and try cross-posting to third party publication services like Medium.”
– Ben Plum, Director of Design Development, Warschawski
Make It Accessible
“A major ‘do’ we would advocate for is making a company website accessible for users with disabilities. Web inaccessibility can cause an organization to lose out on users, and it’s like shutting the door on 20% of Americans who identify as having a disability. Not being accessible is a liability, as more businesses, especially those in the retail space are getting sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The positives of web accessibility are vast, beyond “not getting sued.” I work with a lot of web developers, and I’ve made recommendations based on usage by people with a variety of disabilities.
Consider what happens when you turn off your monitor or unplug your keyboard. Think about alternative usage if you can’t use all of your senses, like sight, touch, or hearing.
More people are using mobile, so we consider the aging population who are on these devices.
Have people with disabilities test your site. Even better, have them on your development team. Test with assistive technology like screen readers, zoom, voice recognition, etc.”
– Sharon Rosenblatt, Accessibility Partners
“Website design has become an essential part of any business’ success strategy. Having a website that is attractive, responsive, and easy to navigate, will ensure a great user experience for your visitors and make them want to return to you.
Use fonts which are easy for your visitors to read – there’s nothing more irritating to a consumer who is trying to navigate around a website than not being able to easily understand the written content. Select colors and fonts that are in line with your brand’s tone of voice, but ensure they are simple and clear.
It’s also a good idea to ensure you have a navigation bar at the top of your website, which is present on all the pages on your site. This will allow your visitors to easily navigate their way around and find their way back to the homepage.
Don’t include too much copy or media in your website; overloading your site with images or unnecessary videos will only clutter the layout and also make your pages take much longer to load.”
– Steve Pritchard, Managing Director, ItWorks
p.s. Launched your website? Learn more about designing effective referral pages and campaigns.