A web presence is a must-have for any 21st century business, but newcomers to the field can often be led astray by trying to do too much with their site.
In this guide, we’ll help you sidestep some of the common pitfalls that plague those making their first forays into website design.
7 Common Web Design Errors
1 – Busy pages make bad pages
Trying to cram too much on to a single page is a sure fire way of putting visitors off. Not only is this practice generally a bad idea, but it can actively impede users logging on via a mobile device (of which there are ever-growing numbers).
White space is a good thing and gives users valuable breathing space to digest content. Make sure you’re spacing out columns, graphics, text and especially links. Above all, don’t try and do too much on one page.
2 – Hiding your links away
Links are arguably the most important feature of your website, so don’t hide them away or obscure them. First and foremost, you want to be consistent with how you highlight links, then apply this format across your entire site.
The opposite also applies, so don’t make un-linked text look like linked text. Some easy ways to distinguish links from regular text are with colour, underlining or bolding.
3 – Needless navigation is a no-no
It’s hard to overstate the importance of navigation on web design. This element will impact how easy and ergonomic your site is to get around, so spend some serious time putting yourself in the shoes of a new visitor.
While arty navigation (e.g. turning the page on a virtual book) is both pretty and tempting – and was fashionable for a period – it’s remarkably unintuitive to use. When setting out navigation for your site, bear in mind the key tenet of content being easy to find with the least amount of effort.
You should apply this doctrine to every aspect of your site, from drop-down links to images and beyond.
4 – Where’s your call to action?
Having a brilliantly designed and easy-to-navigate site is all well and good, but if it doesn’t prompt visitors to do the thing you want (i.e. click on something, share something, sign up to something), then it’s of no use at all.
You need to make sure that you include a clear call to action in a relevant place. However, this should by no means be intrusive, nor should it annoyingly interfere with navigation.
5 – Search and ye shall find
If you’re running a website (and particularly an e-commerce site) there is no excuse not to include a search function. Whether you have the resources to create this yourself or outsource it to a specialist, this is a necessity in the 21st century.
Not only will this improve the functionality of your page, but it will also help to keep visitors who couldn’t immediately find what they were looking for on-site. One easy solution for newcomers to site design is Google’s Custom Search. By simply copying over the appropriate HTML code, you can incorporate a custom Google-powered search box for your users.
6 – Testing
Like GLaDOS from Portal, this should be your watchword. People will visit your site via a growing variety of means and it’s more important than ever to ensure an ergonomic experience for all.
7 – Keep your content coming and current
If you do opt to include a news, blog section or social media feed on your site – make sure to keep it up to date. If you fail to keep content relevant, it can make it appear like you’re out of businesses or are vastly behind the times.
Even if you have nothing to say yourself, it’s always possible to curate content you – and ideally your target audience – will find interesting and relevant.
Successful web design is more of an art than a science, but what doesn’t mean you can’t be empirical about the process. Look at your competitors’ sites and see what they do well – and badly – and then co-opt or discard these elements as needed.
Test the functionality of the site on those who’ve never used it and above all, have empathy. When viewing your work, try and put yourself in the shoes of a first-time visitor and alter elements accordingly.
This article was brought to you by Gerald Heneghan on behalf of Custard, a bespoke online PR agency, which provides a comprehensive range of tailored services.