How to create an effective website

Blog | 26th April 2017

We all understand how effective a well designed website can be. Whether you’re selling yourself, your business, a product, or a service; a cluttered, disorganised, slow, or unattractive web page can seriously dissuade potential visitors.

Clean, concise, and engaging layouts, however, can drastically improve traffic flow, increasing your potential customer outreach.

The truth is: The amount of time an internet user spends on a particular website can be ridiculously low. According to Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile 55% of surfers spend little over fifteen seconds on websites they visit. This user abandonment is usually due to dissatisfaction in how the website is designed, its complicated navigation, disorganised text and images, and over-the-top colour schemes, all of which result in visitors feeling over saturated or confused.

The time spent on websites can also reduce drastically if your website takes longer than three to five seconds to load. Research conducted for the journal “Behaviour & Information Technology” concluded that the main reason for page abandonment is slower page response; meaning that if your website loads slowly, you are losing potential customers.

As a company that specialises in website design and production, we have compiled a list of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ to help measure website efficiency. These are just some of the approaches we employ to guarantee an optimised user experience when visiting one of our created sites.

1. Don’t have content everywhere
Whilst having lots of rich, story led content on your site is great for audience engagement, and SEO rankings,  creating a streamlined approach to presenting your content is important.  Streams upon streams of text, video and images can overwhelm visitors if not properly presented, and give an unconsidered and unprofessional feel to a site. First impressions are key! So much so, it is thought that 50 milliseconds is all it takes for first time users to form an opinion of you from your website.

It’s good practice to maintain consistently proportioned space for text and images throughout the whole website. For example, having large sections of text sporadically placed on pages, rather than in columns, can cause confusion to the importance, relevance, and order that the text should be consumed. Having different design layouts for each individual page on your website can also be distracting. Most well designed websites will have all their content laid out consistently in the body of the page, centred, and in easily digestible chunks.

2. Do aim for an engaging, individual, visual identity 
The longer you can keep your audience on your website, the more chance you have of developing a relationship with them.  Whilst ensuring content is clear, relevant, and concise makes it easier for visitors to process information, the visual language you use goes a long way to defining who you are and what you do.

Generic sites serve a purpose in that they present information to their audience. A site with unique illustration, type faces, photography and video on the other hand, ooze quality and provide a media rich experience.

The website Bright Ivy designed for composer Gabriel Jackson is a good example of how working with illustration can lift a website into an entirely new area of user experience. In a similar way to visiting an art gallery and seeing pieces you’ve never come in contact with before, the Gabriel Jackson website takes the same approach.

If illustration is out of budget, an effective colour scheme is still essential for a good-looking site, and using colours that complement the message you wish to portray can drastically alter the perception of the visitor. Gardening websites, for example, tend to use greens and browns a lot in order to evoke emotions of nature and the great outdoors, whilst professional services favour the colour blue, which portrays an image of trustworthiness and security.

Correct use of colour is a useful technique in gaining viewers’ attention before they have even read any content. However, too much colour can be overwhelming. The solution? White space. Tech companies often use white space, and to great effect. It can give a website a clean, professional look, as well as really making the text stand out.

3. Don’t have complicated navigation 
Convoluted navigation systems are a distraction for people trying to find their way around your website. When surfing the web, most people are looking for quick answers to their very specific questions, so don’t make the information they require difficult to locate. Burying content behind a maze of buttons and links will cause visitors to abandon your site and go elsewhere. A well designed website will typically have a bar containing links to the various other pages at the top or left hand side of the page. Clicking on the link should either bring the user directly to the necessary page, or result in a dropdown list of related pages. Remember, if it takes any more than three clicks to navigate to a specific page then it starts to get taxing for the visitor, and therefore should be cut down for a smoother user experience.

4. Do optimise for mobile devices
For the first time in history the year 2014 saw the use of smart phones overtake desktops as the primary method of internet surfing. According to research, more than half of websites are accessed for the first time via a handheld device; be it a smart phone, tablet, smart watch, or handheld gaming console. Due to the increasing use of smart phones for surfing, it is vital that your site is optimised for use on such devices, making sure that the content is clear enough to be read on a five inch screen. Surfing on these devices should be as easy as it is on a desktop. Visitors to websites are less likely to remain engaged with the content if they have to pinch, zoom, squint, or adjust the orientation of the phone so the text can be read.

Smart phone optimisation can be difficult to achieve, as the layout can be drastically different from the desktop version. However, it is important to note that simplicity is key. Cut out all information which can be deemed as irrelevant, and once again utilise white space. It is still important that the visual language closely matches the desktop version of the site; cutting back too much may make it unrecognisable from the original design concept. Having a link that the user can press to access the full site is also advisable. Always trial your website on a range of mobile devices and screen sizes to be sure that the user experience is seamless, efficient, and as clear as using a desktop.

5. Don’t have slow loading web pages
An excruciatingly slow to load website will dissuade visitors. It is after all the most common cause of website abandonment, and will result in frustration for users. The first few seconds of exposure a user gets on your site is crucial in gaining a users’ trust and interest, making them comfortable enough to use your service and do business with you. Therefore making sure that people actually get a chance to see any of your site should be pretty high up on your priorities.

There are many causes of a slow to respond webpage, but by far the most prominent is poorly optimised images. Many images used on web pages can be reduced in size without compromising their visual impact, simply by stripping the image of any unnecessary metadata which may be attached, or by reducing the file size.

Another common cause for sluggish response times is over-the-top use of Adobe Flash. Many websites use Flash to display animations, rich internet applications or even games. One of the problems of using Flash is that it’s big and its bulky. What’s more, due to Apple’s on-going concerns over security, rapid energy consumption and poor performance on mobile devices, you’ll find that it currently incompatible with Apple devices, and many other makes of smart phones. As mentioned previously, dissuading mobile phone users could potentially mean a lot of lost business.

6. Do seek to be unique, but don’t be over-complicated
It is important to strike a good balance between convention and individuality when designing your website. Having a site that stands out (for the right reasons) is an asset. However, an over-engineered site can be distracting for visitors and get in the way. The site has to balance functionality with design. Web designers and engineers often battle over these two factors but ultimately, if the site doesn’t do what users expect, or need it to do, then no matter how pretty it looks, users will become frustrated. Making your site difficult for potential customers to engage with must be avoided at all costs.

I provide website consultancy, design, and programming for clients seeking a professional, elegant, and user-friendly experience. To get in touch about web services please contact me here.