As a part of my digital writing class, I’ve been working on a website for a small business to help create an online presence for that business. Having a website is a promotional staple among businesses, but an effective website design is just as important as the website itself. So that brought me to thinking, what makes an effective website? What design elements successfully draw the audience in? Here are some website building and design principles I’ve come to find are effective:
Often, a user stumbles upon a webpage not through the homepage of a site, but through a search engine that takes him directly to that webpage. Having a website that makes use of the same design and layout on each page will help a user more easily navigate through a site and not get lost. For example, in the website for a local cupcake shop called What About Cupcakes, the website makes use of the same pink design, the same fonts, and the same layout to make sure that users know where they are and how to make their way around that site.
Navigation is one of the most important principles in website design. Users who get to a specific webpage and browse through different pages in the same site need to know what specific page they are on. Highlighting or underlining the page like, as shown in The Next Web’s site, does a good job of this. As a user, I know that I am on the section that displays articles on Design and Development, and from there, I can easily go to different pages and make my way back to this page.
Links to Social Media
A strong online presence is important for maintaining customer awareness for a business. Often, a business will choose to build a website and create social media accounts to stay connected to their customers. An effective website provides links to these various social media outlet, as shown in the United Way website. The social media links are clearly visible, so upon visiting the website, users are invited to “like” the organization on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to them on YouTube, and grab their RSS feed to stay updated. Having users connected through various outlets, including websites and social media, is an effective way to keep the interest of customers.
Users get turned off by a cluttered website design. Most of the time, simplicity is the best way to go. A simple website design that doesn’t require users to scroll down very much (or worse, scroll horizontally!), is an effective way to grab users’ attention and invite users to explore the website. Usually, a webpage has only a few seconds to draw the user in, so too many gaudy graphics that take long to load, or too many elements on a page that require a user to scroll down to get information, are easy ways to make a user click the “back” button.
Website design must be intuitive, quick, and convenient for the users. For more examples of what NOT to do when designing a webpage, check out http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/. For more tips on creating an effective website design, check out the PSD page that offers a tutorial on good web design.