Try naming three websites you love to visit and three that you don't. If you are having problems remembering the latter, thank your brain for sparing you from such an unpleasant experience. On the other hand, think about how meaningful that is from a site owner's perspective. If the overall user experience from visiting your site is awful, to such a degree that they forget about it the moment they close a tab, then you have a serious problem on your hands.
The point of any design that's related to websites is to make it stick with visitors. You have only one chance to make a first impression, and it needs to razzle and dazzle them, love at first click, if you will. Sure, we all want that, but how can it be achieved? With a bit of practical know-how and some helpful starter tips, you can start making a solid foundation!
1. Being user friendly is the top priority
It is easy to get lost in all those metrics, forms and design choices when you are building an ideal website. You want to make it the best as possible and, cram as much info in there as you can. When focusing on the individual items, we lose our focus and can't see the forest from the leaves. Try imagining your average Joe that's just discovered and arrived at your website. The place needs to be tailored made and user friendly for such users. If your users prefer to browse via mobile, which most do, then adapt your website to that. If they click more on certain areas, then highlight them. Metrics from users are the guidelines for how you can tailor-make your website. Follow that path, and you will reach the desired destination.
2. Logo and brand awareness
Logos and brands are not the same. Logos is just one picture or aspect of your brand. Your brand is the whole package involving your company, and brand identity is a key part of your site navigation. Look at it this way. People love to click and interact with content. Surely, your website has your logo located here and there. If it doesn't make it so that the logo is visible at all times. And make it interactable, that is to say, clickable. If it's just one more picture that does nothing, then people will get discouraged and associate that with the overall brand experience. The easiest and most intuitive function to add to your logo is for it to bring the user back to the main page of the website. That way your logo becomes a useful saving part of the site and enhances the brand identity and the overall on-site experience.
3. Site mapping
Ever gone to a large shopping mall and got lost? That's how your user can feel on your website if it is all tangled up. More so if it is huge with a video selection of goods, services or sectors. Think of a universal map or an anchor point those users can turn to at any time. That point can also serve as a valuable resource to display, unify and bind all of your pages to one place. Site maps also serve as a promotional point for your entire website.
When users are on it, they can see where they are or where they want to go, but they also see all the other parts. You never know what might tickle their fancy and what title may entice them to click on it. The longer they are exploring, the more they get invested. As they get invested, they start investing in your business which is the ideal end goal.
4. Site optimization
When your website takes longer than five seconds to load, it is game over from a user perspective. Modern-day lives are in the fast lane, and the online aspect is barely keeping up. Information travels instantly, and you must follow. There is no working around this as it is a prerequisite for becoming successful. Reducing your HTTP requests, minimizing and compressing your files, reducing your server response time, SEO website navigation and about a million other small pieces all add up to the overall speed.
5. Search bar
Google got us spoiled and set the standard. We've talked previously about having a site map, but that can be considered a plan B. Plan A is a dedicated, fully functional and fast search bar. Users want to type in a term and get an immediate link towards it. In and out in seconds is the name of the game. The search bar is also a powerful tool to aggregate your site into a single page. When users type in a term, everything related to it is on full display, and you never know where that may lead them.
6. Use familiar terms
There is no denying that all of this sounds very technical. Website design is on a whole other level. When you are designing and creating your masterpiece, it is easy to get carried away. What you use in your everyday lingo and terms that are all so familiar to you, may not resonate well with your clients. We take things for granted when we are surrounded by them, day in and day out. What norm and commonplace for you is not necessarily what your visitors will resonate with. Keeping one ear on the ground and listening to everyday interactions goes a long way in keeping you fully anchored with reality.
7. Strategical menu order
You have the data, now is the time to use it. Google Analytics is the easiest for what we are about to talk about, but you can use any other free tool out there. What it boils down to, is what's attractive, and most used with your visitors. Then splatter and nail that to the front page, front and centre. Some pages and segments on your site are red hot with visits and there is probably a reason behind that. They are what bring in the views and are most interesting among the rest of the crew.
From there, you can track where your users go and adapt the rest so that they follow. Site consistency contributes greatly to the overall navigation. Chances are you did something right with those first pages, and now all you have to do is apply the same recipe to the rest.
8. Adapt to mobile
To be sure we covered all basis and left no stone unturned, we need to say this out loud. Mobile is king and the current driving force of the internet. Gone are the glory days of the desktop where mobile played the second fiddle. Today, your site navigation must be tailor-made for mobile-first and to accommodate its specific nuances. Smaller screen, less workspace to go with, fast response, clear design, etc. People are always on their mobiles and your website needs to cater to that. If you look at your daily visits, chances are high that more than half of them are from any form of a mobile device.
9. Stick to traditions
What is considered an industry standard applies to you as well. It may not sound fair, but that's how it is. When you are in a highly technical field, then you should stick to professional expressions and other expectations. In short, the expectation is the keyword. When selling clothes, people want to see beautiful mannequins wearing them. Food items go with white, red, yellow, orange and other appetising colours. Researching industry standards for colours in specific fields is the start of what's expected from you. Site navigation has universal rules that can be seen everywhere and that applies to your website too. Failing to meet them causes user confusion and fewer conversion rates.
10. Improvise, adapt, overcome
Nothing is set in stone, even less so in the digital world. Constant evolution and adaptation are necessary for survival and staying ahead of the competition. Making the most out of your collected data, monitoring day to day interactions and visiting relevant seminars can make you the best in the business. Sure, following the leading trends is ok and suggested, but try imagining setting them. When you make the most out of your available resource, then your business results will surely follow.
While undertaking any new endeavour may seem daunting at first, the most important step to make is getting started. Any action is better than none. Bit by bit, step by step, you will be able to see the physical manifestations of your actions. Fruits of your labour need effort, time and dedication to growing but these are what make them so sweet and succulent. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
"Nick Brown is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged on projects for GWM. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby."