Having the best product, the greatest service or the most brilliant writers in the world means nothing if your website is poorly designed. People often judge a business’s credibility by its website design, and if your business is your website, then design is doubly important. First impressions count – and that statement has never been truer than in the short attention span, instant gratification universe of the Internet.
Content and keywords might make your site visible on search engines and draw visitors to it, but good design is what will make them stick around. Lots of traffic is great, but it’s no good if your visitors take one look at your site and decide to move right along. You want them to engage with your content, view several different pages and generally relax and feel at home.
To make this happen, your website needs to be visually appealing and immediately engaging. It needs to load quickly, and be responsive and obviously fit for purpose at first glance. Your visitors should feel that this is the site they’ve been looking for within seconds. The relevant information should practically leap out at them and it should be easy for them to navigate around, so that they can find exactly what they want.
It may seem natural to stack your website with as many features as possible in order to enjoy the widest possible chances of attracting and engaging your visitors. The more there is to choose from the more visitors will stop by, right?
Actually, too much choice generally puts people off. They don’t know where to begin looking, and that makes them feel anxious and confused. In reality, chances are that they came looking for one specific thing, and if your website isn’t all about that specific thing, they probably won’t stick around.
It generally pays to focus in on a specific niche, and to then strive to be the best provider of information and resources for that specific niche market that you can possibly be. For instance, Rotten Tomatoes has done extremely well by being a trusted go-to site for film reviews. Trip Advisor has cornered the market for travel advice and recommendations based on user reviews. Including sports news or beauty tips on these sites, no matter how popular such subjects may be, would only dilute their core strengths.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. A select handful of websites have established themselves as one-stop shops for a wide range of information – from sports to business news and movie reviews. You may go to get the latest celebrity gossip from BAEDaily, but you’ll stay for features on health, investing and technology among other wide-ranging subjects. The sites that do this well however still keep a clean, uncluttered look and maintain a consistent tone that establishes trust and authority, no matter what is being discussed.
The missing link
Too much text on the front page of your site is also a turn-off. If it’s integral to your site’s purpose to include long, wordy articles, then just include a teaser on the front page and an invitation to link through to read the full piece. A heading and a sub-heading to grab attention and convey what the story is about is all that you really need. It can also be effective to break off midway through a sentence; the reader naturally wants to find out what you are going to say, and once they’ve clicked through they’re committed to reading the whole article.
Also remember that the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” can be multiplied by ten on the Internet – and by a hundred if the picture happens to be of a particularly cute kitten. A picture will draw the visitor in to click the link and read the article.
Your site needs to maintain its figure and look good across a multitude of platforms – not just the one it was designed on. With more and more people switching regularly between desktop PC, tablet and smartphone over the course of a day, responsive design that adjusts itself to the viewing format is essential.
Navigation should also be easy and intuitive, enabling visitors to see where the information they need is and to get there in a swift, natural movement. Think about color as well – different color designs convey different messages. Do you want your site to be grave and serious or fun and light-hearted? Be consistent across all of your pages, and stick to no more than two or three different font styles as well.
Cluttered, over-complicated websites lose viewers because they feel too much like hard work. A website that feels easy and inviting will attract more visitors and will keep them coming back as well.