Like it or not, people do judge a book by it’s cover.
In the business world, people judge your business on the quality of your website. In most cases, people equate a good website with a good company that delivers quality products or services.
Don’t fight it. It’s just how things are these days.
So unless you want to drive away prospective customers, clients or patients you need to have a well-designed, modern-looking website.
Only problem is that building a website from scratch or redesigning an outdated website is a bit like writing a term paper. If it’s something you don’t do everyday, you can spend hours staring at a blank screen, frozen with writer’s block wondering where to begin.
However, I can help you with that. No need to reinvent the wheel or beat your head against the wall.
Since building my 1st website way back in 1999, I’ve learned a few things along the way about the most important elements of great website design. For me, it can be distilled down to the following 6 things:
1. Keep it simple.
There are so many bells and whistles available to add to a website these days that you might be tempted to use as many as possible to impress your visitors. More is better, right?
Not necessarily. when it comes to designing your website, always err on the side of keeping it simple.
Steve Jobs inspired a design revolution as a result for his love of simplicity, and it seemed to work out pretty well for Apple.
Also, stick with a website layout that will be familiar to the vast majority of your visitors. Don’t try and get all artsy-fartsy to try and impress people with some futuristic web design that’s unique and one-of-kind.
Sure, it might look cool. But if it frustrates visitors because your site is hard to read and navigate, what’s the point?
Remember, people visit your website to get information. So don’t make it a chore for people to find what they’re looking. Your website is for them, not for you.
2. Use pictures and videos.
The Internet has evolved from a primarily text-based environment to a multimedia environment. Therefore, people now expect to see pictures and videos on your website. So use them.
When I arrive at a web page that’s just pure words it scares me. My initial reaction is, “Oh man, this is going to be a lot of work.”
It’s ok to have a lot of written content on your site, just break things up a bit with pictures and videos to help tell the story, not to mention ease your reader’s anxiety.
Regarding pictures, don’t just throw any old picture on your site just to take up space. Take the time, within reason, to try and find the best picture that helps to tell your story.
Me personally, I usually purchase my images from www.iStockPhoto.com. However, www.ShutterStock.com has a lot of nice images, too. Both sites have thousands of quality images at very affordable prices.
Regarding video, make sure your video is HTML5 compatible, which means that they’ll play on iPhones, iPads and smartphones.
Nothing is more annoying than visiting a site that has a video you want to watch, but all you see is a black rectangle because the video is in an outdated format such as “Flash”.
The quickest and easiest solution is to host your videos on YouTube or Vimeo. However, if you would prefer to host your videos on your own private video server, I can recommend www.EZs3.com. I’ve been using them for years. They’re very reliable and affordable.
3. Provide great content.
Give ’em what they want. Help your visitor solve their problem by providing concise, useful information.
Although, as mentioned above, you want to use images and videos to help communicate your message, the foundation is always going to be the written word.
Therefore, take the time to write good, quality content and make sure to use good headlines to grab the reader’s attention to make them want to read more.
So how much content should you write?
The best advice I ever got on this topic came from famed copywriter, Gary Halbert. He said, “Write as much as you need to write, and no more.”
That means if you can get your message across in 2 paragraphs, then that’s how much you write. If it take 2 pages, then that’s how much you write. If it take 10,000 words, then that’s how much you write.
Also, lead with your best stuff. Don’t bury it way down the page. Get right into it.
In copywriting terms, this is known as keeping things “above the fold”, which refers to the fold in a newspaper.
Good writing is hard and takes time, which is why the Internet is littered with so much garbage.
So if you want to really shine and separate yourself from the pack, take the time to produce great content that will help solve people’s problems, establish you as a trusted authority and hopefully convince them to buy your product or service.
4. Invest in a great logo.
Unless you are a naturally gifted artist, do yourself a favor and spend a few bucks on creating a nice-looking, quality logo. It’s a small investment you won’t regret.
A good logo really sets the tone for your website, as well as all of your other communication … business card, stationary, social media, etc.
In most cases you’re going to want to place your logo in the upper-left corner of your website because that’s where people usually expect it to be.
How much should you expect to pay for a good logo?
Well, large corporations spend thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on logo creation because they know it’s that important.
Fortunately, you don’t need to spend anywhere near that much. $200-$400 should get you a really nice custom logo for your business.
If I remember correctly, I think I paid about $300 for the “Mark Brinker” logo you see at the top of this site. It was definitely money well-spent.
One of the best sites for getting a logo created (and it’s the site I used) is www.99designs.com.
The quality of graphic design is so much better and so much more affordable than it was 5-10 years. So I strongly recommend investing in getting a great logo created. You won’t regret it.
5. Provide a CTA!
This right here is probably the # 1 thing that people get wrong on websites. The Call-To-Action.
In other words, what do you want your visitor to do? Call you? Fill out an online form? Download a free report?
You can’t just assume that they’ll know what you want them to do. You have to be very deliberate and direct.
Don’t worry about coming across as pushy. You won’t. But you do have to lead your visitor by the hand and let them know the next step to take.
On one end of the spectrum you have website with no call to action, but on the other end of the spectrum you have websites with *too many* calls to action.
The problem with too many CTAs is that if you give them too many choices it’s easy to get overwhelmed or confused, then they choose *none*. So obviously that’s not good either.
The best-case scenario is to have just *one* CTA, possible two if you really have to. Any more than that you’re visitor will probably end up taking *no* action.
As mentioned in item # 1 above, keep it simple.
6. About us.
Back 10-15 years ago when the Internet was still brand new, anyone with a website automatically had clout and credibility just by the very fact that they had a website.
Fast forward to today, though, and that mystique is pretty much gone because people just expect businesses to have a website nowadays.
The bar has been raised, and people now want to learn about the *people* behind that business.
Even in our high-tech world, business is still transacted between *human beings*.
Therefore, the first thing you’ll want to do is put a picture of yourself on your “About Us” page. If you don’t have a current photo of yourself that you like, have someone snap one with their smartphone. That’s more than good enough.
Also, write a little blurb about yourself and your company. Don’t be formal and stuffy. Share a few things to let people know you’re a real person. Favorite sports teams, hobbies, etc.
From personal experience, when I visit a website to learn about a business, I almost always visit the “About Us” page. If they don’t have a picture or a small write-up about themselves, I immediately get suspicious. I think, “What are they trying to hide?”
If their “About” page is scant or lackluster, 9 times out of 10 I hit the “back” button on my web browser and go somewhere else.
And I’ll bet you do the same, whether you realize or not.
* * * * *
So these are my 6 website design “secrets” that I’ve learned over the past 14 years.
Yes, you can certainly dive deeper and explore even more subtle elements of what makes up great website design, but these are the 6 biggies.
And if you did nothing else than focus on the 6 items described above, you’re going to have a way better quality website than most.
I guarantee it.
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