When Tim Berners-Lee first came up with the idea of the world wide web in 1989, could he have ever anticipated how some company websites have the power to divide the nation?
They’ve been described as sub-conscious influencers and very often our first impression of the business or service provider that we’re trying to reach is significantly influenced by the website itself. ‘Good’ websites which are easy to use and contain interesting content are a pleasure to view and interact with; poorly designed and difficult to navigate sites are a definite turn-off and leave us with a negative impression of the organisation concerned.
We’ve been lucky enough recently to work closely with two clients on the creation of copy for their new websites; these projects have highlighted some important points to consider if you’re thinking about designing a new site, updating an existing one, or briefing an agency to create a new one!. Here we share our top tips to help increase engagement and usability.
- Compare & contrast. Visit a range of websites and jot down what you like about them – and what you don’t! How easy are they to navigate? Can you locate specific information quickly and easily? Can you find the telephone number should you wish to call them? It’s amazing how many websites don’t even include a contact number!
- Keep it simple! Don’t over-complicate the design or try to cram too many features into the home page, the content, or the navigation process. Visitors need to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Use intuitive navigation – people will leave a page rather than try to work out where to go next.
- Think about the messaging. Keep it concise. Shorter content is easier to read. See what I mean?
- Invest in photography. A picture paints a thousand words, or so someone once said … and although you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune on expensive photoshoots, you should still invest time in selecting the best images. Make sure they’re properly lit and composed, and display your products or business to their best advantage. Happy people pictures are good too – they’ll help give your business the personal touch – but only if they fit with the overall tone of the website.
- Think carefully about the design. Too busy and it could give viewers a headache; too dull and they’ll be off to see what your competitor can offer. Ask your design agency to come up with a style and colour scheme that reflects the nature of your business, perhaps with contrasting accent colours for important tabs or buttons. Think about the fonts – are they easy to use across all devices and browsers? How your website is laid out could mean the difference between success (low bounce and exit rates, high conversion) and failure (high abandonment, low sales).
- Encourage visitors to stay longer. Include links in your content and suggest other pages to read next. This invites visitors to stay longer and view more of what your site has to offer.
- Share and follow. Make it easy for visitors to share your website by incorporating sharing tools in the design, and don’t forget to invite visitors to follow you through Twitter, Facebook or other social networks.
- And finally, test it! When you think you’re close to completion, ask friends, family and colleagues to road-test the new site before it goes live. Ask them to flag up any potential hiccups and highlight what works well. Fresh eyes can often provide useful insight!