This really goes without saying, but a major part of web design is the actual design. The appearance of your website can make or break it. A professionally designed site gives you more authority, keeps people engaged, improves social interaction, and creates better conversions.
Design covers a lot of things including the layout, the colors, the fonts, the graphics, and more. But even if you are creating a page with just text, you should take into consideration how it looks, and how you can make it look better. Headers, bold or italics, lists, and new lines are great ways to take something as plain as text and make it look just a little nicer, and a little goes a long way.
For some easy design inspirations, Pinterest is a great start.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you don’t know about search engine optimization (or SEO)… you’ve probably been living under a rock. In short, SEO is what gets your site ranking higher on search engines like Google. So yeah, it’s kind of important.
Whenever you add something to your website, you should at least consider your SEO goals. The bottom line is that not everything on your website is going to target your ideal keywords, but your goal is to give yourself the biggest advantage you can.
In some cases you might have to make exceptions and trade some term that you like for some term that will reach a larger or more precise audience on search engines. Make sure you study up on which elements play an important role in SEO. (Note that this mainly refers to on-site SEO, not really off-site)
Moz.com offers a great resource for beginners.
User Experience (UI/UX)
User experience kind of goes hand in hand with design, but it really deserves its own category. The reason being that while design focuses more on HOW a site looks and how to make it more PRETTY, user experience is all about WHY a site looks a certain way and how to make it more ACTIONABLE.
User experience takes purpose into consideration and should focus on making a site extremely easy and pleasant to use. This ultimately improves user interaction and conversion. Ideally, a user should come to a page, find the main call to action, and complete that goal quickly and with as little effort as possible.
Performance in a web design sense generally refers to how fast a site loads, but for the sake of this article I want to expand on that to include accessibility (is the information reachable by most people), responsiveness (does it work on a tablet and a smartphone), and compatibility (will it break on different or older browsers). Your goal should really be to keep the site loading as fast as possible, and serving consistent and accessible content in every environment. This is very important for user experience, and retention.
Now, I love improving performance because the results are immediately measurable. You make a change, you test the page. That’s it.
The issue with performance is that is often works contradictory to aesthetics. This is so beautifully represented by this satirical website (warning: crude language). Im not saying that every site should be like this example, but the point is that every new image or script that we add slows the pages down, and a lot of the latest cool animations or effects create compatibility issues. So keep that in mind when you are creating designs or content. If it isn’t necessary for functionality or value, consider leaving it out.
Here are some handy website performance tests:
Messaging or branding is one of those things that often go overlooked by small companies, but play a huge role for larger companies. Look at RedBull for example. They poor millions and millions of dollars into getting the right message out for their brand, and it works. But messaging is not just for extreme sports energy drinks.
It is a very subtle art which doesn’t seem like much, but does a lot. Sort of like design and aesthetics, messaging plays on a subconscious, psychological level that gives visitors a sense or impression about you. They don’t really know what it is, but they like you, they trust you, they want to work with you.
It doesn’t matter what field you are in, you need to make sure that your messaging is in line with the impression you want to give off. It might be funny, professional, romantic, high-quality, knowledgeable, trustworthy, spiritual, you name it. Take the time to look at your images and your words, and fine tune them.
With the advent of social media came a brand new way for businesses to reach customers. Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and with the right approach it can be a very powerful tool because so many people are engaged in it on a daily basis. For this reason, it’s more important today than ever before to look at your content from your visitor’s perspective.
So how do you do this?
Take steps to make your site more shareable. And no, just adding social follow links and/or share buttons isnt going to cut it. You need to look at ways to make people WANT to do two things:
1) View your content. Buzzfeed is a great example of this. Yeah, a lot of their stuff is just clickbait garbage, but they have viral content down to a science and a lot of it starts with just a catchy looking headline.
2) Share your content. Believe it or not, there is actually a lot of research that goes into why people share. It’s too much for me to go into crazy details, but basically people want to share for these reasons: entertainment, promote causes, maintain relationships, to feel fulfilled, or to craft their image. Here’s yet another infographic.
Does this help…?
Hopefully I’ve made some good points and you are walking away with some better ideas on how to improve your web design and content. Of course, if you don’t want to bother with doing it yourself, the easy way is to just hire a professional web designer to worry about this sort of stuff for you. Either way I wish you good luck and would love to hear from you with any questions or comments.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to share. People will think you’re awesome… at least I will ;)
Originally published on austingil.com.