Having studied, designed, tweaked, admired and critiqued hundreds of websites over the last decade we’ve come to know good websites. And one thing is clear: good sites, in fact the best website designs, have a number of things in common. Here, we’ve put together a list of the essential elements of the best website designs.
Design – Keep it simple, fresh and in line with your message
First things first: the best website designs make good first impressions. Keep your market in mind – for example, cutting edge design is more appropriate if you’re in the business of fashion as opposed to being a local plumber. In all cases, it’s important that your design is clean, fresh and in line with your branding and message. Update your website look every three years.
Consider using a theme
Off the shelf themes are a cost affective way of getting high-end design at low-cost. There are thousands of themes available for all the major platforms and some of the designs will 'WOW' you. Themes can be customised easily with your branding, content and imagery to make them uniquely yours. By not designing and building your website from the ground up, agencies like us cut days off development time and can pass on cost savings to you. Check out Themeforest which is one of our faves for theme shopping!
Fast loading – Three seconds to grab your visitors
Ever closed down a page because it takes too long to load or you can't find what you're looking for quickly? Join the club. The rule of thumb is that you only have three seconds to grab your visitor’s attention, so use it wisely. A fast loading webpage encourages your visitors to start navigating through your site sooner, not to mention giving them more time to find what they’re looking for on your home page. There is a free tool at www.tools.pingdom.com where can you test the load time of your site.
Navigation & Userability – What good is a website if people don’t know how to use it?
Along with a good design and fast loading is usability. A top performing website will have the end-user in mind. The design, navigation and layout needs to be purposeful so your visitor can find what they are looking for, and quickly. When designing your site or shopping for a theme, look out for things such a 'Sticky Navigation' (Navigation bar that stays at the top of the page no matter how far you scroll down) and sub-navigation bars (appear just above the main navigation and are a great location for cart summaries, social media icons and your main phone number) which make for great navigation. Always walk through your site as if you were a potential new customer/client and test every process.
Home page – tell a story
Going back even 5-7 years, before the days of responsive design, it was taboo to have scrolling on the home page. Thanks to the Facebook era, we're now ok with, even expect, to scroll. So websites are following suite with home pages now telling a story flowing with a logical introduction to the business - a hero image, a statement about what the business does, an introduction to services, testimonials from people who have used those services, name dropping big clients / associations / media & a strong call-to-action.
Make it responsive and take it full width
In the age of responsive design, we no longer have to keep all the main content to a fixed width as the responsive design allows the website to respond to the screen size. So with that, we recommend taking the site design full-width and making the most of the full realestate available to you. If you're website isn't responsive, it's time to get it responsive. Google's algorithm updates in April 2015 mean sites that are not mobile friendly may be penalised - see our post here for more information on this.
Make it meaningful – Know your subject and provide well written content
Write your content as to make your visitor feel like it was written just for them - make it about the visitor's needs as opposed to your own. Write it with your target market in mind - use 'tone and voice' which will appeal to this market. For example, your language will be different if you're appealing to a 15 year old girl as opposed to a professional in his 40's. Don't fancy yourself as a writer? Then consider copywriting services as your copy and make all the difference on how well your website performs!
Analytics – Track your results and manage your performance
Essential to building and maintaining a great website is tracking your results through analytics. Know what your visitors are doing, address technical issues and track goals and events to analyse conversion rates.
Want help getting your website up to scratch? Contact us now.