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Web design basics

When it comes to web design, most project managers tend to focus on user experience. Sure, there are others who try to fool search engines by using unethical practices, with the goal of getting more traffic to their sites, but these efforts are seldom rewarded. Forward-thinking designers will always prefer to optimize websites for people, and not necessarily for search engines.

So, how can you create a site that provides a great user experience to its visitors? The first step is to design a simple, and yet rewarding user journey.

Most websites can be quite complex these days. If you want to build an online store, for example, you will have hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of product pages, a complex blog which includes lots of articles that may belong to dozens of different categories, and so on. Therefore, it can be quite hard for a new visitor to locate the desired information quickly.

Fortunately, the designer’s main task is to help him or her find the needed piece of info without effort, by implementing a proper website structure and ensuring that the site menus, breadcrumbs and links are user-friendly.

Web designers will often make use of usability testing services to ensure that their projects meet the clients’ expectations. In this case, the designer may choose to purchase access to a group of 100 qualified testers, for example, people who will navigate an early version of the website, creating annotated videos with their interaction with it. This way, it is possible to see if the site structure is simple and easy to understand by anyone.

I think that it is clear why having simple, consistent website menus is essential. Visitors should be able to reach the desired resource using as few mouse clicks as possible; otherwise, they will lose interest and will choose your competitor’s site. It goes without saying that all the menu entries should be easy to understand, and that the menu should stay the same throughout the entire site.

Clever web designers will often optimize site structure based on their users’ needs. If a particular site resource attracts 80% of the visitors, generating 90% of subscriptions/leads, it is essential to make it easily accessible. It is always a good idea to give prominence to a frequently used resource, even if this means making integrating it into a small popup that follows the visitor at all times.

You should limit the number of links that lead people away from your site. While internal links are okay, because they encourage visitors to consume more of your website’s content, external links will diminish your chances of keeping the visitors engaged with your site. To minimize this problem, you should always open internal links in the same tab, and external links in a different window. This way, if people choose to open an external link, they will still see your site after closing the recently opened browser window/tab.

While we’re here, ensure that all links are valid. It is easier to do that when you are referencing local pages, but external resources may disappear anytime, so you should check their status regularly. We offer this service as a part of our website maintenance package, if you prefer to have a team of pros run these checks for you.

Great sites provide a search button/function that can be of tremendous help for people who are in a hurry or got lost. Some visitors may not want to navigate through your site’s complex menus; they may want to run a quick search for the desired resource, and then jump straight to it. This is why most websites have a search box/icon in the upper right corner of the page/screen.

Pages should be designed with simplicity in mind. You want to prevent information overload, which will make users feel confused. Complex forms should be split into several simple chunks, for example. Always give your visitors a reason to scroll down the page and read more of your text.

Images should be relevant and of the highest quality possible. This will often translate to big files sizes, which may take more time to load. Fortunately, there are several image optimization services and applications that can help you get small-sized graphics that have a good quality. And don’t ignore videos, because they can convey a very powerful marketing message as well.

Finally, add relevant call to action buttons, which encourage people to purchase your products, register for a product trial, get a free consultation, subscribe to your newsletter, and so on. Your site is useless if it doesn’t encourage people to connect with your business.