Websites are big business and while designing one can seem like a daunting task, this doesn’t have to be the case. Whether you are a designer or a developer, or even just someone wanting to get an online presence with little experience, the web design process can be made much easier with a bit of forward planning.
These are some of the key things that you should consider when you design your website to make the process easier, we hope you enjoy our simple refresher guide...
It’s vitally important to start by understanding who you are designing your website for. You need to ask yourself ‘who is my target audience?’ and take some time to understand the demographic that you have in mind. Imagine that the website you are about to create is for a clothing brand selling to young people. In this instance, you are likely to be looking to pop culture for inspiration.
Once you have determined who your website is for, the next step is to plan the structure. Think of this as the blueprint. At this stage, you will be creating the site map and you need to start at the top with the homepage. From there you need to create a map to all the other pages in the site. Every page will need to feed back into the homepage but ask yourself where else they need to go. Contact pages, about us pages, further content, blogs? You need to consider the scale of your website and what information you will display.
This leads us nicely onto the content of your website. This may not be top of your list when you consider the overall design, but it certainly should not be underestimated. In 2016, when users were given 15 minutes to consume content, 59% said they would prefer it to be beautifully designed so the combination of the two is important. Think of the website like a blank sheet of paper. Just having a few words on this piece of paper will be very boring and not great to look at. You need your content to help to keep people on your site. A lack of a clear message is the biggest turn off for consumers, with 46% claiming this to be the reason for leaving a site. Good content can engage your audience, help you from an SEO perspective and convey your key messages to your customers. It is vital to use your content in a way that is ‘beautifully designed’ so that it is effective in delivering this.
Once you have your content, you need to think about images. In particular, you need to consider where they are going to come from. You have a few different options that you could use. You could take the images yourself, and this is the quickest and cheapest way of getting imagery for your website. However, you may not be the best photographer and do you want your site to suffer just because you wanted to scrimp on the images? Alternatively, you could hire a photographer to get all the images you want. This is an expensive solution but, if you have a high quality brand image which needs to be maintained, this might be the only way that you can get the right quality of image for your needs. The final option is to use stock images. You can get some images to flesh out your website for a reasonable price and there is a very wide library of images available online for this. However, these images can be generic and might not represent your brand powerfully enough.
This brings us neatly onto branding. Some brands only exist as a website and so this is their only visual representation of their businesses. It is vital that a brand’s image is considered before the website even begins to start taking shape. A website isn’t something that should be ad-hoc, you should carefully consider any pre-existing branding or, if this doesn’t exist, a brand identity needs built from scratch. This is where you can really flex those design muscles.
Here are a few questions to consider:
This is where you might want to start as you could use elements of the logo to start structuring the brand image.
Sans serif fonts are currently the most popular due to their readability. In fact, serif fonts don’t even make it into the top 20 most popular fonts to use on websites. There are plenty of free fonts available online and the likes of Google Fonts would be a great place to start. According to Google, ‘Open Sans’ is currently the most popular. However, in 2016 Photoshop users are said to have adopted ‘Roboto’ as the number one web font.
This is where you should maybe consider colour theory. A website for an eco-friendly housing company, for example, should consider using green to represent the ‘green’ nature of the brand.
Icons are all the rage right now, acting as little visual cues for the audience to absorb. These could form an important part of the brand image through your design.
Speaking of visual cues, usability is vital to the success of your web design. One of the main considerations is consistency. You need to break down all the elements that you are going to use, such as buttons, hover states and menus. If you include clickable elements in rounded rectangles, then all your buttons should be rounded rectangles. In 2016, rounded shapes reigned supreme in web design and 87% of all Photoshop shapes had rounded corners (84% of all shapes designed in sketch). Avoid using this visual cue for any other element. It is all about using subtle indicators that train the user to use your site instinctively. Think carefully about menus too. Hamburger menus have become the norm for lots of different websites but, from a usability point of view, they still aren’t as intuitive as simple header navigation (unless on mobile where they are more common). The simpler you can make the journey, the better user experience you create.
Designing a website has the same basic principles to those used when laying out a poster or front page. It is important that you organise your page so you get a good balance of images and text. More than half of users feel that good design is important when viewing content online. When you are designing the website, you need to give it a simple structure so that it is far easier to digest for the user. The more distinct the hierarchy you have, the better navigation your website will have. Keep visual cues to a minimum as you don’t want to confuse a user with your layout. By keeping it simple it makes it far easier for the user locate the content that they want. You should consider wireframing the site before you go ahead and design the actual interface. That way you can easily chop and change the layout and test how the design works.
We consume the internet in so many ways these days, with people choosing to access the web from many different devices. From smartphones to widescreen televisions, there are so many screen sizes for a website to appear on. According to one study, consumers use an average of five different devices each and that gives you some perspective as to how important it is that your website is suitable for each of these different devices. Having a responsive site ensures that the user experience is so much better and this will help to keep people on your website. Indeed, it’s said that 62% of companies who designed a website specifically for mobile increased their sales. With this in mind, you are going to have to consider how your design will lend itself to a condensed space like on a smartphone.
There are plenty of places online that you can turn to for inspiration. Sites such as Dribbble, Behance and Awwwards are terrific resources showcasing amazing web design and are great to turn to if you are ever stuck for ideas. By exposing yourself to different design elements that you may not have even considered before, you can be inspired to try something new.
Quite simply, with a bit of planning and organisation, designing a website can be so much easier. One of the most important things that you should take away from this article is the importance of being responsive and making sure your website is ready for multiscreen viewing. Keep in mind all of the above tips to enhance your site’s user experience through smart design.
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