1. Make the structure and navigation of the web design instantly clear
People lead extremely fast-paced lives these days and everyone is competing for their attention. Your site, if it’s lucky enough to attract the right kind of customer, needs to outline your business and services in as clear and simple a way as possible. The home page should outline everything that is most important to your business. If you make your website difficult to understand, your potential customers will leave within seconds. To achieve this you need to put yourself in the shoes of the visitor – forget what you think and try to imagine what other think and feel.
2. Colour should be used sparingly
A common mistake in web design (especially by inexperienced designers / clients) is the use of too much and conflicting colour. A good web design should make allowances for a range of colours and possibly patterns and textures, but that shouldn’t mean using five different colour themes on every page. Pick two or at most three colours that best suit the tone of the site and are not so garish that your viewers will need sunglasses to experience the site. Use colour carefully. A good way to start is to see how it looks in black and white or shades of grey and start adding colour to highlight certain key areas.
3. All content should be quick and easy to ‘scan’ and absorb
Each main point should be broken down into smaller paragraphs with bold subheadings. You should make sure there is plenty of space around each heading and paragraph separation should be enough that it is easy to distinguish between them all at a glance or quick scan of the page. Visitors generally like to quickly scan each page for the information they seek – especially on their first visit to a site. In your layout, a good plan is to use bullet points, small paragraphs, bold headings and subheadings to make text easy on the eye and therefore more likely to be read.
4. Make sure your content is readable / legible
The options these days for font usage on web sites has exploded. Many sites like fontsquirrel.com or Google.com/webfonts offer a huge array of possible font styles which mean you can go crazy with fonts in basic web page design like never before. With all this power comes great responsibility though – the correct style of lettering for any project will always be the one that can be easily read. Things to avoid are fancy fonts that are almost illegible, overly small and blinking text. The aim of your site should be to make the time people spend with you as easy and enjoyable an experience as possible – don’t bombard them with too much clutter.
5. Searching should be easy and simple
The internet is a hub of information and is primarily driven by search engines providing information on topics which people decide they want to investigate or seek out. Your website visitors should be able to do the same thing on your site. Some websites can easily build into hundreds of pages and blog archives soon stack up so it’s important that you have a method to sort through that information. If you don’t provide a good search on your website you could be losing out on potential business because people will come to your site, quickly scan the navigation and if they can’t see what they want within a few seconds they will go back to the search engine results and check another site.
6. Opening pages (or any kind of link) in a new window is bad practice
A well built website should not include links that open a new window or tab as it makes browsing slower, confusing, and probably wont operate properly on mobile platforms. There are current web standards guidelines ( http://www.w3.org/ ) that suggest you should not employ this as a practice at all. Search engines like Google will take this into account when indexing your site.
7. User privacy should be respected to gain trust
8. Internal linking helps
Internal linking will make your site user-friendly. Search engines also really like relevant internal links if they serve a purpose. All of your internal links should use the link name which is relevant to the content they are placed in and link to a page which is relevant to that subject – it’s useless and very annoying if all your internal links point back to your home page. Avoid creating orphan pages. This means pages that are not internally linked anywhere.
9. Remember to include the basics
This really is common sense – don’t forget to include all your basic info about your business or product on your website. Some websites will fail on this front – make sure your main info is in the top level navigation, a map of your location, business hours, full list of contact details. Your website must make this information (as a minimum) clear and prominent.
10. Design for people if you want to get found by search engines
Search engines are built to find what people want. If they don’t provide that then people wont use them. So they go to great lengths to make sure that they provide good quality results. If you try to trick a search engine into giving you a good rank, you will get found out eventually and then you will see your site get relegated from the search results. That means the best way to make your site findable is to design it for people (not search engines). The aim of your site should be to solve a problem or provide good information. You shouldn’t be thinking about making art or setting up a soapbox. Your main concern should be to provide a website that is easy to use and packed full of what they’re searching for. If you manage that, the search engines will find you.