Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Top 10 Web Design Tips

1. Have a strong, clear brand message
Your web site should project the image you want the world to see and the great news is that through web design you can control that image entirely. In terms of physical design this means positioning your logo or key message in the top left hand corner – the part of the screen our eyes are most naturally drawn to.

2. Provide a clear, concise navigation method
A good web designer will ensure that they use design techniques to lead the user around the screen and site. Clearly differentiated sub-sections and even a site map can ensure a concise, easy to follow navigation route, while good use of position, colour, contrast and size can all help focus the eye. Stick to one main navigation menu, remain consistent throughout the site, use sub-navigation and keep it uncluttered by avoiding drop down menus.

3. Make it intuitively easy to use
Visitors can be fickle and if a site is hard or slow to navigate they will be off. Ensure navigation buttons are obvious and easily identifiable towards the top of the page is good and have appropriate links directly from page to page so the user can quickly switch when something catches their interest. Finally, adhere to the functionalities people have come to expect. For example, if text is underlined your user will naturally expect it to be a link.

4. Keep it consistent
Users like to know where they are within a website and if the style of a page changes dramatically or somehow feels different visitors will become disengaged and can start to feel lost. Maintain consistency – and a professional image – by ensuring everything matches, from heading sizes and typefaces to design, colour and style of image.

5. Keep it simple
The whole draw of using a website is that it should be quick and easy to use. To this end simplicity is key.

Succinct, useful information should be available at the touch of a button. Today’s surfers won’t hang around so make sure the page is scannable. That means not being afraid to use (read: leave in) plenty of white space. There is a theory behind this – our eyes do not naturally work in a linear fashion. Given the chance they’ll take in more and then zoom in to an area of interest from the bigger picture.

6. Ensure it’s easy to understand
Visitors coming to your website typically won’t want to spend much time so ensure that every aspect is easy to understand; from the navigation to the copy. There are design techniques that can help make the information on a page easier to understand – think shorter sentences, larger font, sections differentiated by contrast and colour and, as previously mentioned, good use of white space. To this end, there are some common rules of thumb: never use more than three typefaces, or more than three different point sizes for a font and keep lines of text to 18 words - 50-80 characters – max!

7. Degrade gracefully
Not everyone has the latest pc and the fastest broadband so make sure your code is as simple as it can be without compromising on the elements you need. HTML code needs to degrade gracefully and not slow down or cause problems to lower spec computers. Cause an IT issue on your visitors pc and you can be sure that customer won’t be back again... or be recommending your site to anyone else!

8. Write it with your target audience in mind
When writing – or commissioning - the copy for your website, do bear in mind your target audience. Tempting as it is to use the medium to bombard the user with all the information you can, do keep it succinct in style and use laymen’s terms if appropriate – or include a glossary if technical terms are unavoidable. If you are hoping to attract visitors through search engine optimisation (SEO) you’ll need to consider the key words people will be using in their searches. Weave these into the copy as often as is appropriate to help propel your site up a search engines listings.

9. Consider usability
At the end of the day if your website isn’t usable visitors will be off – as quick as a mouse. So, when working on the web design, consider the end user’s experience of the site.
It can be a good idea to make a list of the things a user will want to use your site for and then checking that these are easy to achieve and if necessary are readily available from the homepage – e.g. Start shopping, Current offers, Book an appointment etc. Then test early and throughout the process test and test again. The only way to really check that your site is as user friendly as it can be is to test it out on people who know nothing about your business.

10. Make sure its compliant
A good website should adhere to certain guidelines. For example, all web sites designed by Alchemy Interactive – a London based web design agency – comply with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). This ensures their sites are suitable and accessible for people with disabilities and cover aspects of web design such as screen flickering - line with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

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