What Makes a Good Website Design?
First impressions count. And, with websites, first impressions are often critical – if users find your site confusing, you’ve lost them, potentially forever. If you’re running a blog or an online magazine, this means you’ve lost a reader. If you’re running a business, this means you’ve lost a sale.
So, how do you make a website that will grab your users’ attention and keep them engaged enough to read more articles, visit your business repeatedly, or buy your products?
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to designing a site, and there are multiple ways of creating a great-looking website.
However, there are some themes and principles that underpin great web design, and we’re going to help you apply them to your site.
The one mantra you should always remember is that the design of your website needs to work for your visitors.
We spoke to Saleh Kayyali, a Senior UX Architect at marketing company MVF Global.
Kayyali says that before you start building your website, you need to work out two things:
- What the purpose of your site is?
- Who the users of your site are?
These should inform every decision you make on your website, from its name, to the homepage design, to the content. If you’re not certain who is going to be looking at your site, or what the purpose of your site will be, then it’s likely to become unhelpful to any users and unsuccessful for you.
Kayyali points to Snapchat as a service that had a great understanding of its users and purpose – prior to its redesign in November 2018. It’s purpose was to facilitate fun, irreverent visual communications between 15-20 year-olds. In fact, Snapchat targeted this demographic so much that many older people simply couldn’t fathom its usefulness, or even how to work it.
Snapchat’s redesign at the end of 2018 showed that it had fundamentally misread its users and the purpose of the app. As it became more popular, Snapchat’s user base naturally diversified, and this newer user base was more receptive to sponsored and featured content, whether it be from Vice or the Washington Post.
However, its core user base wasn’t receptive. Snapchat also lost sight of its purpose – fun communication – and became obsessed with monetizing its platform. Its core user base reacted badly and it lost over $1bn in valuation. All because of a redesign.
Know Your Purpose
Understanding your site’s purpose sounds obvious, but Snapchat shows just how wrong you can get it. For example, let’s say you’re building a website for a company selling artisanal soap. Your site’s purpose is selling soap.
Of course, it may have other facets, such as talking about the sustainability of your soap versus traditional competitors. But, if you’re not selling soap, then your site isn’t successful.
Know Your Users
Kayyali explained that once you’ve established the purpose of your site, you need to look at the type of people you want to attract.
It’s likely, for example, that if you are selling artisan soap, then your target audience isn’t going to be 15-20 year-olds, like Snapchat’s was. Instead, your users might be 30-50 year-olds with more disposable income to spend on soap.
One useful tip is to breakdown your target users into different groups by creating what is known as a persona. These are “generalised, fictional people who represent a group of users” as Kayyali calls them.
The best way to create these personas is by researching your market. Look at other sites similar to yours: Is there another soap company you’d like to emulate – Burts Bees, for example? If you’ve already built your site, can you survey the existing users to find out who they are and what they like? Or talk to family and friends about your site and the image your site gives off.
By building up this knowledge, you’ll be able to find out the needs of your users. Do they want to buy fancy soap quickly and move on? Do they only buy from brands they have an affinity with? Might they even want to have a repeat soap order?
Whatever you find, you need to put these needs first.
Website Build And Application
But what does this all mean when it comes to designing the structure of your site? We’re going to stick with our imaginary soap store here, as an example.
We recommend using website builders here at DP1 These modern tools provide simple, cheap and easy ways to build websites yourself.
Sites such as Wix offer great templates, which will give you the core architecture of your site. Despite this, it’s still worth literally sketching out your ideal website, considering how users are going to get from the homepage, to choosing a product, to buying it.
You should be thinking about making this journey as easy as possible, whilst keeping in mind that people might want to add a product at the last minute, or come back to their order later.
Of course, this will vary for each website. As we’re only selling soap, we want to allow users flexibility to amend their orders, or jump back-and-forth between selecting and buying a product. But, if we were an airline, we’d need a much more regimented system that helps our users book their tickets correctly.
Kayyali says the best websites “remove cognitive effort”. This means that while users are fully aware of the decisions and actions they’re taking on your site, these should never feel like hard work.
You’ll likely be bored of us saying this, but think about your users.
If your users are looking for a soap company that produces sustainable, natural soaps, then they’re expecting to see that in your site. Think images of nature, wholesome-looking people, and references to your eco-friendly creds. However, if your soap company sells rigorously tested clinical soaps, you might want a more minimalist aesthetic, suggesting a scientific cleanliness.
It’s also worth studying design trends. For example, skeuomorphic styles used to be incredibly popular as computer-shy users could immediately understand the function of different elements. Skeuomorphism in websites is where on-screen items are explicitly designed to mimic real-world counterparts – the calendar and notepad on this page for example.
>> To learn more contact DP1 DESIGN today for all your digital marketing needs!