The ugly little website
Knocked together hastily and thrown into the deepest depths of the internet, the ugly little website suffered nothing but disrespect. Its owners were dumbfounded – their business plan was sound, their expertise renowned, but their web design was… well, totally abject.
Good web design and user experience, or ‘UX,’ go hand in hand. It stands to reason that if your site is optimized, engaging, readable, and easy to navigate, visitors will come in droves and leave happy. Then again, that’s a lot easier said than done.
Trying to balance your own thoughts on web design against what each and every member of the public thinks is a real challenge. Everyone’s going to have their own opinion on your website, but fortunately, there are some common design pitfalls you can avoid.
Appeasing your audience en masse is an impossible task — such is life — but it’s still important to sidestep the classic web design faux pas. So, notepads at the ready: it’s time to discuss how you can avoid rolling eyes and deep sighs from the other side of the screen.
Does my nav look big in this?
Much like Lego blocks in the hands of toddlers, the internet is littered with derelict design. We can’t right the wrongs of every crime in a single post, but we can help you steer well clear of the routine speed bumps that many encounter:
Mobile Unresponsiveness is one of the most sinful and widespread offences when it comes to web design. Studies show that more than 60% of internet browsing now takes place on mobile devices over desktops. If your website isn’t mobile-optimized, you’re immediately alienating the majority of your traffic.
Most platforms these days automatically adjust your site to fit multiple screen sizes, but it’s worth double checking your site’s aesthetics and functionality from your phone, then tweaking the design where necessary.
Hidden Navigations may seem like an uber-trendy design fad, but all you’re really doing is damaging chances of conversion. From a web design standpoint, familiarity should always supersede fashion — people are impatient, and societal attention spans are shorter than ever.
Even small changes to your site’s navigation should be thoroughly vetted through user testing before being implemented. Confusion leads to annoyance, annoyance leads to high bounce rates, and high bounce rates lead to bad reviews. Don’t take risks.
Tacky Advertisements instantly devalue your website. You may look to use a free website builder when designing your online presence, but you’ll end up paying more in site traffic than you ever would have for a cheap premium plan.
Visiting a site with platform-branded advertisements is like walking into a restaurant with a cracked window-front. Sure, you can still eat there, but your experience is tainted. Even if the rest of your website is worthy of a Michelin star, first impressions still count!
Unclear CTAs can be deadly. Before someone decides to click on your calls to action, they should have a clear understanding of what’s going to be on the other side. Luring people into sign up forms or redirecting them to other sites without fair warning is one surefire way of providing bad UX.
It won’t do your click-conversion ratios any good, either. Visitors need to be aware of what they’re clicking through to, and be confident in the action they want to take thereafter.
A lack of Social Engagement is often an underplayed negative in web design. You may think you’ve nailed your website, combining the perfect blend of sophistication and simplicity (and you may well be right). But what if it’s so good that visitors want to tell the world about it?
Having social share buttons is an easy way of getting your website out there – it’s free advertising! If you have confidence in your brand, presenting visitors with an option to attract others should be a no-brainer.
Less is more
A lot of people try to stand out in a crowded web space. You want to get your brand message across, but shouting too loud will scare people off. In the context of web design, your pages shouldn’t be overpowering – the fewer words you can make your point in, the better.
Whitespace is one of the most important elements in good web design. You need to give your content room to breathe, or else it’ll be swallowed up by the surrounding noise. It’s easy to overdo design, whether it be through cool graphics, text on images, or an overload of colour variations. Try focusing on one element per page, and make that your centrepiece.
This way, the reader’s attention is always drawn to one specific area, under which you can embed CTAs. Research has found that people read an average of 28 words per web page – whitespace can attract your visitors’ eyes to the right ones.
Psychology also teaches us that people absorb information in an ‘F’ format when scanning a page. This doesn’t always ring true on websites, but it’s still worth keeping in mind when positioning content. You may, for example, think it’s cool or quirky to have a navigation bar running along the right of your webpage, but we’re creatures of habit, and the unusual does tend to confuse.
It’s best not to take chances. Familiarity is key, so you should try and find ways of being creative that don’t compromise your website’s memorable structure. From there, web design is much like beauty: a subjective matter. True, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are simple steps you can take to optimize your glamour.
Think of good web design as damage limitation. If someone’s not sold on what you’re offering, it can take a lot to win them over. Losing someone who is interested, though, can happen in an instant.
Research your consumer base – their interests, needs and mindset – and follow the above guidelines. In doing so, you’ll be better equipped than 90% of sites out there. If your message matters, make it count.