Part 5 of the Series:
How to Make a Great Website
Introduction: How to Make a Great Website
Part 1: Choosing a Domain Name
Part 2: Building Your Website: Evaluating the Choices
Part 3: Six Major Questions a Website Should Answer
Part 4: Fundamental Website Pages
Part 5: Is Your Website an Asset…or a Liability?
Part 6: How to Promote Your Website
We’ve all visited websites that are painfully slow to load, riddled with grammatical problems and broken links, or seem like they’re from another era. Don’t let your website become a liability — pay attention to these details.
Consider mobility. People are using their mobile phones and other devices more than ever. Ever considered how your website will appear on a small screen or a tablet? Make sure your web designer or website builder incorporates responsive web design so your site automatically looks great and works well on any screen.
Keep it fresh. No one wants to visit a dusty old website from 2005. Fresh content shows that someone is minding your store. (So, if you’re still talking about your Grand Opening two years later, visitors may wonder when you last visited your own site.) Stay current to attract return visitors.
Keep it simple. Technology is changing us — we want to scan and find answers fast. Subheads, bullets, and other visual markers help visitors process info quickly. Small words are better than big ones. Don’t make people have to think.
Include a call to action. Each web page should invite the visitor to do something: try your product, compare your prices, take a survey, sign up for your newsletter, complete a form, etc. What action do you want them to take? Then tell them to do it.
Opt for clean design. According to professional web designer Marianne Simmons, make your website crisp, clean, and easy-to-read. Navigation and calls-to-action should be prominent.
For example, check out these calls-to-action — which grabs your attention more?
Go for the flow. “Your website should have a “flow” to it, meaning your eye shouldn’t have to strain to view the website,” Simmons says.
Make use of these design principles:
- Contrast: Use colors, such as navy blue with cardinal yellow, for example, to bring contrast. Typography, imagery, and illustrations can also provide contrast and add interest.
- Repetition: Keep your website looking uniform by repeating typography, images, illustrations, colors, etc. While you shouldn’t use many different fonts, you can vary the font sizes to add contrast.
- Alignment: Use a tidy-looking left-side alignment for your text, and avoid centering large blocks of type.
- Proximity: Help the user follow the website. Align photos near their appropriate blog post, for example.
Carefully choose all graphics and placement on the website. Don’t load up the website with unneeded graphics or imagery, Simmons says.
Optimize your images. Use a photo editing tool such as Photoshop to optimize images so they load as quickly as possible. As a rule of thumb, keep graphics at 60 kb or less. And if you use your own photos, make sure your images are the best quality you can get. Consider purchasing professional stock images. “Nothing is worse than viewing pixelated images on a computer screen,” Simmons says.
Make good design choices. Avoid the following:
- Large blocks of reverse type. This can be hard on the eyes.
- Hard-to-read decorative font. Some fonts are better suited for a child’s birthday party invitation, and don’t convey a professional image. If you really must, use decorative fonts only for subheads or accents.
- Tiny font size. Make your website accessible. If your dad reaches for his reading glasses to decipher your website, maybe you need to increase the font size so everyone can read it.
Proofread your work. Use spell-check, read each page out loud to catch extra words or clunky sentences, and ask someone else to review. You may be surprised at mistakes that might have escaped your notice.
Check your links. Linking to other pages in your website can give visitors pertinent information and keep your website user-friendly. However, make sure all links work correctly, and re-check them periodically (particularly if you link to someone else’s website.) A single keystroke error can cause a broken link and frustration for the visitor.
The takeaway: Look at your website with a critical eye, and make sure nothing subtracts from the visitor’s first impression of your business.