If you don’t have a dedicated website for your startup or small business, you’re in danger to fall further behind your competition.
You might think that you’re building a fan base on Facebook (if you’re buying fans on Facebook by advertising, you’re very likely wasting your money), sharing small bits of content on Twitter and posting images to Pinterest. But without a central digital home, you’re scattering your efforts and missing an incredible opportunity to engage and connect with your customers and potential customers through a dedicated site. After all, your customers ultimately will want to learn more about your company’s products and services, and a dedicated website will help them do so.
Today, we’ll cover web design best practices and tips. We’ll point you to great resources and examples and highlight recent changes in web design. And if you already have a website but are considering a website redesign, it’s a good idea to start with your homepage.
Here are our top 10 tips to help you create an awesome website design in 2016:
1. Keep the design simple, fresh, and unique.
Your website reflects your brand. It is the first impression a visitor will form when they visit your site for the first time. If you use an off-the-shelf template and your website looks like thousands of other sites on the Internet, you’ll miss an opportunity to create a unique impression. Why would a potential customer remember your site when she has seen dozens of other sites that look just like your site.
In the past few months, we’ve been hearing form numerous business owners who initially created their website using one of the existing template sites. As their businesses have grown, those business owners realize that they need to stand out from their competition. The template sites no longer meet their needs.
This is not surprising. The homepage is typically the most important page in a business website – your potential customers will likely see that page first when they visit your site. Moreover, because most small business and startup sites have fewer than a dozen pages total, the homepage is an important anchor for your overall site. It must answer several important questions – including who you are and what you do. Template sites simply can’t do this properly. Some of the templates look visually pretty, but functionally, they lack many elements that make a website useful and informative for potential customers.
Consider the impression you want to make and the message that you want to communicate to your customers and potential customers.
As you consider your site design, be sure you have a professional logo design. A logo created from clip-art or a template won’t be unique and will create a poor impression. Even worse, it may expose you to substantial legal risk. Some business owners invest in a new website design but forget to create an original logo (or to update their old clip-art based logo). This is a missed opportunity.
When you consider the content to include on your homepage, keep one very important fact in mind: users typically read only 28% of the words during an average visit. Don’t overload your homepage with a lot of text and images. Consider the most important content and images you want your users to see and get rid of everything else. Many people mistakenly try to include too much content on a homepage – and this creates confusion and a poor user experience. Add less, not more.
Consider too that your visitors might be visiting from laptops and mobile phones, so try to avoid designing pages for a large monitor size or pages that use more complex features such as flash animation (you should NOT be using flash in 2016) or complex navigation.
Tip: You can implement modern design trends to make your site look current. For example, flat design has become popular. If you’ve used iOS 7 and later versions of iOS on an iPhone or iPad, or Windows 8, you’ve seen flat design first-hand. Flat design eliminates gradients and shadowing, making images and fonts smaller and easier to read. Other 2016 design trends include simple animations (including cinemagraphs – live animated images/video), bigger images, illustrations, more scrolling, and bigger fonts. For even more about 2016 design trends, I recommend you read Top web design trends for 2016.
For a more sophisticated look, consider illustrations. Although images have dominated web design, more sites are incorporating creative illustration in their homepages. Illustrations can often engage the user in more personal ways. For example, take a look at how Basecamp uses illustrations to show their support team members. Basecamp could have easily included photos of each person, but illustrations are more fun, unique, and reflect some personality.
Advanced Tip 1: Once you design your homepage, you can run very simple tests to figure out which buttons, colors, and pieces of content earn the most clicks. After all, marketing is as much a science as it is an art. For more about A/B testing, I recommend you read 7 Dead-Simple A/B Tests You Should Run on Your Homepage.
Advanced Tip 2: Particularly on your homepage – but also on any pages where you’re trying to persuade the user to take some action – think about what action you want the user to take and create a prominent “call to action” button. For tips on creative effective calls to action, I suggest you review 10 Techniques For An Effective ‘Call To Action’. You should incorporate minimal textures and subtle gradients, where appropriate, to highlight different areas of the site.
The call to action (CTA) on your homepage is an important element to draw visitors deeper into your site. You should consider a few important factors when you design your CTA, including: (a) location (above the fold – visible on the monitor when the page first loads is typically ideal), (b) make sure the CTA stands out from the other content on your site (notice how the crowdSPRING “START A PROJECT” CTA is pink?), (c) create a link to another page so that your call to action will draw the visitor deeper into your site, (d) create a less-emphasized alternative variation (notice the “How it works” link below crowdSPRING’s primary CTA, (e) and test design, content, and placement.
It’s important not to overload your hompage (or any page, for that matter), with CTAs. Pick one or two and focus on those. If you have too many, you’ll create a tremendous amount of noise for users and that will lead to much confusion.
For some good examples of landing page designs, I recommend you read 15 of the Best Landing Page Design Examples You Need To See and 15 of the Best Website Homepage Design Examples.
2. Showcase your products and services.
You’re selling a product or service. Make sure that you clearly showcase that product or service on your homepage. I’ve seen many small business web designs that failed to effectively show their products or services and many others that tried to showcase far too many products or services on one page.
You have only a few seconds to make a first impression and you should make sure that the impression you make is professional.
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