Web design is a science-based art form. Yes, aesthetic appeal is central; you want to create visually beautiful designs that make viewers ohhhh and ahhhh.
But, just like with beautiful people, there’s got to be something below the surface. Sitting there and looking pretty is not enough.
This part is a science. Good web design involves calculated, strategized moves that are proven to increase business. And remember, the purpose of good web design is to get people to do what you want them to do.
At WebRev, we’ve conducted eye movement and user behavior studies, and the results may surprise you. Oftentimes, what you expect is the opposite of what happens (see Case Study).
Despite all that’s known about user experience (UX), we continue to see ineffective websites that make rookie mistakes with real monetary consequences.
Read on with this question in your mind: Is my site falling victim to these pitfalls? If the answer is yes, run (don’t walk) to your nearest pro designer for an overhaul.
Mistake 1. Too Many Options
Think of website visitors as overstimulated toddlers. If you give them too many choices, they may run around in circles and collapse in a crying tantrum…and you’ve just lost a potential customer.
An excessive amount of button choices will cause users to cruise around the various pages of your site like a window shopper, looking and touching but not buying.
Think browsers to buyers.
Solution: One Call to Action
What is the #1 thing you want visitors to do when they visit your homepage? Is it subscribing, calling, ordering or getting a quote? Pick one action and make it the star of that page. It should be hard not to click on that button.
• Choose a contrasting color that will make your call to action stand out
• Size: Not so big that it takes over, but not so small that it gets lost
• Consider using a relevant icon like a phone or shopping cart
Problem 2: Busy Design
Websites with too many images, colors, text boxes and buttons drive people crazy. These overloaded pages overwhelm users and force them to do too much work.
Your visitors are smart, but their time is valuable and if they have to spend more than a few seconds finding what they want, they leave.
Solution: Clean it Up
Take to your cluttered website like you do to your home. Get rid of unnecessary design elements that distract users from what you need them to see. More attention is given to anything that is surrounded by negative space. Make important info or images stand out by letting them stand alone.
Create a list of your absolutely non-negotiable components and throw out the rest. If you’re struggling with this, consider breaking things up and spreading them across multiple pages that each have their own purpose.
Problem 3: Autoplay Videos & Music
Websites that automatically play videos or audio remind me of MySpace circa 2005. It’s obnoxious for a variety of reasons.
First of all, it’s jarring. When you’re not expecting sounds to come out of your speakers, your first instinct is to press the “back” button. Chances are, this happens when you’re at work or somewhere else where unexpected noise is disruptive.
Also, it’s disrespectful. Making a decision for visitors without their approval shows a lack of professionalism. If I go to a site that assaults me with Kenny G’s soaring sax upon arrival, I’m out of there faster than you can say, “adult contemporary.”
Solution: Give the Option
It’s pretty simple: if videos or audio clips are an important part of what you do, give users the choice to hit the “play” button.
If, however, videos and audio are just for show then you probably should give them the ax.
Problem 4: Slow Load Time
Before you go making excuses for your page’s slow load time, think about your own internet habits. How patient are you with pages that take forever to load? Probably not very.
40% of internet users will leave a page that doesn’t load within 3 seconds. That means all of the hard work you put into making your site’s design and copy is all for naught. Almost half the people who visit the site leave before even seeing your logo.
Solution: Speed it Up
There are several steps to decreasing your website’s load time, but most of them require significant coding knowledge. Changes will have to be made on the back-end of your site. These include: optimizing images, compressing content and changing the location of certain html commands. If you’re not an expert, hire one…your minimal investment here will have huge returns.
Problem 5: Key Info Below the Fold
For laymen, “the fold” is the imaginary line that divides what can be seen upon arriving to a site from what you must scroll down to see. It’s the same concept as the literal fold of a newspaper.
In both newspapers and websites, whatever is most important goes above the fold. Research shows that users spend 80% of their viewing time above the fold. When key info and calls to action are below the fold, you risk people not seeing them at all.
Solution: Prioritize & Place
There are probably many things you’d like your website visitors to see. But you can’t throw all of them in their faces at once (see #2). Decide what is most important and make damn sure it goes above the fold of each one of your pages.
Although the space above the fold isn’t the same size on every monitor, you can use 520 pixels as a rule of thumb.
Problem 6: Inconsistency
I’ve seen some unfortunate websites that look like a 3rd grader’s Word document: a nauseating mix of fonts, colors, shapes and sizes. This isn’t a good look on anyone.
A lack of design consistency results in confusion and difficulty for the user. Each time a user visits a new site, they learn the language of that site. For example buttons are all rounded, blue rectangles and links that have already been clicked turn from gray to black. When each page speaks a different language, you cause a breakdown in communication and lose your audience.
Before creating your site, design templates that will stay uniform throughout your entire website. Make design decisions for everything and stick to them: font, colors, shapes, sizes, background, buttons, icons, etc.
I find that non-designers are worried that this static appearance will be “boring.” Trust me, it’s not boring; it’s beautiful and it works.
Problem 7: Appealing to Everyone
Websites that try to be all things to all people inevitably become nothing to anyone. When business owners try too hard to make the site appeal to every demographic out there, they end up with a jumbled, incoherent appearance that no one likes.
Unless you’re selling oxygen, your business probably doesn’t attract people of every type.
Solution: Target Your Audience
As a smart business owner, you’ve already identified and studied your demographic. You know exactly who you’re trying to reach and what they like. So…speak directly to them!
Make your design attractive to your target audience. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding what they like. Google is your friend – I guarantee that someone has written a blog about how to appeal to your audience. Use their knowledge to guide you in creating a site tailored to your ideal customer.
These design mistakes are simply that: mistakes. No one purposely designs a site that will repel users. But, sometimes even the best intentions fail to give us our desired outcome. Instead of beating yourself (or your designer) up, go back to the drawing board.
And remember: in design, less is usually much, much more.