Proper Website Design is Critical
In the early days of the web, and continuing on today, the majority of the people responsible for creating the content and design of web sites are the techno-nerds of the world. These were the college kids who hung out all day at the computer labs who spent more time talking computer language then working on their English papers.
Because these techies had very little experience in creating and designing content, they turned to the only group they knew – graphic artists. And don’t get me wrong there are some very talented graphic artists in the world… but the problem is graphic artists are usually not great writers of content. And to be fair to them… that’s not why they became graphic artists in the first place. Their jobs are usually to take the written words and add graphic elements to them to jazz them up, give them a professional look and make them more appealing. They are more concerned with art, rather then being worried about whether the font choice is readable.
What’s the #1 thing people do on the web? They read!
Web site design and layout is not about artistic value. It is about content design and about laying out content so it is easily read. And it’s about creating content that is organized so it can be searched and navigated with ease.
Your web site is a place were people come to get information - it’s a functional place. They are not there to hang out - they are there to find information and move on. So if reading is the number one thing people do, readability is of critical importance to the success of your web site. Visitors must be able to search and navigate your site, and quickly find what they are looking for. And to do this, you must design your site around headlines and subheadlines.
The Biggest Difference Between Web Design and Print Advertising
In print advertising, interrupting and getting the prospect’s attention is the number one goal. In web marketing, you already have there attention - they have either clicked on your site address through a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing, or directly typed in your web address. They no longer need to be interrupted by catchy slogans, funny sayings or any of the other advertising methods used in print and television. On the web they don’t want to be sold…they want information.
You need to know who your reader is and design your site for them
You need to know who your target market is, who is searching for your type of company, what search criteria they are using and most important, you need to know what content they will want when they come. You need to know their hot-buttons and design your site like a newspaper with engaging headlines and sub-headlines.
Make sure everything in your design is easy to read, black type on white background, sans serif fonts for readability, reasonable font sizes, and don’t overuse white type on black background because it’s very hard to read in paragraph form. Test your design and layout on your target market and ask them what they think, you’ll usually get some very good feedback
Web layout has become uniform and structured, like newspapers
At the beginning of the internet, web sites had no uniform structure or reel to them. Remember those techies and graphic artists we talked about? Well at the beginning they had free rein to create anything their imaginative brains could come up with. And they went crazy. Background colors and designs were over elaborate, and more often than not very hard to read.
All these colors and designs were fun for the graphic artist, but hell for the readers. Over time web developers have found that it is much easier for the eye to read black type on a white background – just like newspaper print. Over the years newspapers have learned that there are only a few ways to layout content to make it readable, and have even made the size of a newspaper pretty much the same around the world.
What makes newspapers different is not their layout, but the content/stories that they include and how these stories are written. Companies should take this to heart and create their website accordingly.
The 4 Conventional Elements Your Website Must Have
Well constructed websites generally are designed using a semi-standard layout, and your website would be well served by doing the same.
- Site Navigation: This relates to the short selection of essential links that are presented on the top of every page. The most important one being “Home”
- The Masthead: This is at the very top of every page and includes your company name, logo, phone number, search box. These mastheads started off dominating the page, but have since been slimmed down to make room for content. This Masthead is used as a reference point for visitors coming to your home page or landing page.
- Two … Three Column Layout: Many designers have found that the two or three column layout is the most effective way to layout content. Three column layout is the most prevalent with the left column containing navigation links, the middle having recent content, and the right containing features and specials. In the past couple of years you are seeing the two column layout being used more and more. It allows for longer and more effective headlines and doesn’t have to cram important content into such a narrow space.
- The Footer: Every page should have a footer that includes contact details and copyright and privacy links.
Don’t think for a second that you’re giving up artistic style by following these conventions. These conventions are used because they work and it gives the millions of internet users a common reference point to work with…like reading a newspaper. Concentrate the design of your web site to enhance readability and you will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your site.
Graphics Are Important, But Shouldn’t Dominate Any Page
Pictures, graphics and illustrations are an important part of a web site, but they should be placed within your web site to compliment your content, not dominate it! Remember, people go to the web to read and gather information. One way to make sure that your graphics aren’t too domineering, is to create all of the content first, then have an experienced graphic designer add the artistic elements that will make your content shine! It’s really that simple.