Does website design really matter? How much weight does a website’s aesthetic appeal actually have? As long as the content is relevant and useful, why should it matter whether the font colors complement the background?
What Is Website Design?
Website design refers to the process of conceptualizing, selecting, and rearranging the different visual elements of a webpage to create an overall cohesive appearance.
Although normally associated with color, themes, fonts, graphics, and images, “website design” also includes navigation, content division, and layout.
Why Does Website Design Matter?
The Weight of First Impressions
Your website is your online presence. If people know nothing about your company, they will most likely turn to the Internet for information. And the hard truth is that people will judge the quality of your company based on the quality of your website.
This doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the same reason why we wear suits to the office: appearances matter.
The first thing visitors will notice when they land on your site won’t be your welcome message or the title of your latest blog post. It will be your layout. Your color scheme. Those annoying pop-up advertisements at the top of the page.
When you want people to take you seriously, you dress professionally. This reasoning applies to websites as well.
A web user will visit your page for one of two reasons:
Purpose – They’re specifically looking for something.
Curiosity – They’re just browsing.
Purpose-driven visitors will most likely look for the search function or the navigation menu. Curiosity-driven visitors will most likely depend on links, images, and tab titles to get around the site. Either way, both types of visitors want clear, concise instructions on where to go and how to get there.
Lack of navigational aids or a complicated navigation system can frustrate visitors, and frustrated visitors rarely visit the same site twice. As you can imagine, this does not help your organic traffic or conversion rate.
Navigation should be simple and user-friendly. Otherwise, people may decide that the entire endeavor is not worth the effort and simply leave.
Your website is essentially a digital representation of your company. How you are seen online speaks volumes about your brand.
People tend to judge things based on appearance. Ergo, they’ll make their own assumptions about what your company is and how it operates based on what they see when they visit your site.
For instance, a crisp, organized design may tell them that your company is professional, and that you take what you do seriously. A clean and colorful palette, on the other hand, may tell them that your business is laid-back, but still very professional. You love what you do and you do it well, but you’re a little more casual than conventional companies.
However, a messy, chaotic design may tell visitors that you can’t be bothered to look presentable. You’re not invested in your online presence, and you don’t care about their user experience. This kind of message is loud and hard to ignore, and it can make users think twice about exploring your site further.
What Are Some Examples of Good Website Design?
Now that we know a little more about the potential impact web design can have on website visitors, what are the elements of a well-designed website? What should we aim to achieve?
Clean and Responsive
A good website has minimal clutter. Everything on it, from the buttons to the images, serves a purpose. Every page has the right amount of text and decoration to be visually appealing without bordering on excessive. Remember: less is more.
The lack of extra elements also makes each page load faster, which is another feature of well-designed websites. Visitors prefer to stay on responsive websites that load quickly.
Social Media Icons
Instead of including their handles or links on the Contact Us page, most brands now place social media icons at the bottom of their front page.
As a stylistic choice, this one works a little better than text. Most social media platform icons are easily discernible, and images have a better chance at drawing attention compared to text.
A cohesive website looks more put-together. If every page uses a different font style or a different color scheme, there is an obvious visual disconnect. As users navigate from page to page, the experience can be very jarring.
A single, unifying theme makes for a smoother user experience. This convenience is something they will eventually associate with your brand.
The 5 Bad Website Design Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you know what to do, here’s a look at the top five things you should never do:
Too Much Clutter
Why This Won’t Work: Slower Loading Time
We mentioned earlier that visitors love fast, responsive websites. For the sake of your SEO, you should know that Google loves them, too. In April 2010, they announced that they’d be adding site speed to their ranking algorithm.
If you have too many media files clogging up your pages, you’re attacking yourself on two fronts: In terms of visual appeal, your page will look too busy or too messy to merit further exploration. In terms of functional appeal, the sheer amount of elements that need to load on your page can negatively impact overall site speed. As a result, visitors won’t stay very long.
Wall of Text
Why This Won’t Work: Lack of Visual Engagement
Regardless of what they’re after, visitors aren’t likely to read a full-length article when they first see it. What usually happens is they’ll quickly scan the content, pick out what key information they can, and then decide whether the entire piece is worth reading.
If you don’t break up a lengthy piece of textual content into smaller, bite-sized paragraphs, the end result is this intimidating wall of text that lacks any sort of appeal. Remember your old textbooks and think of how much more boring they would have been if the chapters hadn’t been broken up into sections.
Why This Won’t Work: Confused Clients Leave Early
If you want visitors to stay on your site and actually explore it, you need to give them the tools to get around. For this reason, navigation plays a crucial role in the overall user experience.
Complicated navigation methods or a complete lack thereof can discourage visitors from digging deeper and eventually reaching the content that’s relevant to them.
Liken it to physical exploration—without a compass and a proper map, there’s no way you’d leave the campsite. Simple and effective navigation encourages visitors to go through the website extensively, and at their own pace.
Inconsistent Fonts and Colors
Why This Won’t Work: Aesthetically Unappetizing
Uniformity is key to a smooth, seamless transition between pages, which in turn positively affects a visitor’s experience.
If your About page uses a different layout than your Home page, and your Blog page looks like a completely different website, a visitor will be thrown off by the obvious disconnect as they move between pages. It’s even worse if the disconnect happens between elements on the same page.
Uniformity is visually soothing, whereas lack of cohesiveness can come off as just plain tacky.
Why This Won’t Work: Unprofessional/Lazy
Stock images can be very useful in designing a website. If you paid for the right to use it, then by all means, use it. However, bear in mind that some areas of your website need actual photos of your business.
If you use a stock photo of a group of businessmen in lieu of an actual shot of your team on your About page, you do yourself no favors. You only end up giving the impression of being a company that couldn’t be bothered to get proper corporate pictures taken.
Website Design Mistakes Matter
Overall, how your website looks can make or break your brand’s online presence. We are a visually-inclined species. We tend to draw our own assumptions and conclusions based on physical appearances. As long as you avoid these mistakes and invest in great website design, this inclination can work for you.