What makes a great website?
The best way to create a rewarding experience for your site visitors is with a visually striking, useful, and easily navigable website. A variety of programs make it possible for anyone to create a site with limited experience and no programming knowledge, but to make the site truly great, there’s a few things you should keep in mind…
1. Know your objective in having an online presence. Do you want to sell a product, or just inform? Either way, your homepage must focus on what you are providing your audience. Design the site around your focus. Spice up the page with a picture or two and include a short introduction to explain what your site is about. Include helpful and relevant links, but avoid cluttering your site with useless links and banner ads, which can distract your audience from what you want them to do on your site and make you look less professional in the eyes of your visitors.
2. Be consistent. Some elements can and should change from page to page – for example, a sidebar showing new products would be useful on most pages but redundant on your sales page. Most elements, however, should stay as similar as possible. This is especially true of navigation – you want your visitors to know exactly where they are and how to get where they’re going, rather than getting frustrated with a menu which jumps all over the page. Have a unifying thematic design or motif for your website which carries across each page and keep your site elements consistent within this design.
3. Use, but don’t overuse, colour. Colour is important as it can elicit strong emotions from your visitors. Associating the colour with what you are selling or offering can also enhance the appeal of your site. Overusing colour and drowning your site in fifteen different hues, however, will make your site look disjointed and chaotic. Use as few colours as possible and let the focus of your site, like products or information, stand out from your colour scheme.
4. Keep your fonts legible. Common and persistent type fonts and sizes are also important in creating a unified design. Few things are as confusing to read as a page with several font types. Prudent design rules limit your fonts to one or two, one for the title and one for the body text. Stick to websafe fonts, which are more likely to appear the same across all your user’s computers. Font size is more flexible and can be varied amongst sub-headings and sidebars.
5. Make sure your site pages have reasonable file sizes for fast loading. Another part of creating a good experience for your site visitor comes in not making them wait for your site – whether it be the main page or subpages – to load. While broadband internet connection helps with speed, it’s still useful to make sure your site will load quickly for those using dial-up. It’s good for page rank, too: even Google monitors how fast your site loads against average loading times.
6. Find the time to refine the elements in your website before posting it. If you’re designing on your computer, confirm the appearance of your site before you even upload it to the webhost. If you’re designing in your site’s content manager (e.g., in WordPress), preview the design before you make it live.
Software can automate the design process, but a perfect website isn’t developed in a single day. Creating a quality site takes time, but with focus and effort, you can achieve exactly the design you want.
Want to take your website design to the next level? Check out ‘CSS Basics‘ for tips on using CSS to customise a website.