Internet users instinctively recognize that some websites look better than others, but they seldom know why. Perhaps the reason is that the site shows good use of color. Or that it uses the most readable fonts. Then, again, the judicious use of white space makes it feel open and inviting. Whatever the reason, users will love it, hate it or be indifferent toward it.
Even for web designers, knowing the answers to why some sites are more appealing than others isn’t always easy. The reason is that good design does not necessarily follow strict rules. Nor does it amount to following a formula. In fact, sometimes following a system fails to achieve the desired effect.
So what does work?
Here are some tips that might help you design sites that connect with your viewers.
1) Project the right image
Your design should reflect the product or service for which it is designed. The site for a financial organization, for example, should not look like a site that promotes video games. A wise web designer will choose colors, fonts, and images that reflect the nature of the site and what viewers will expect from it.
Viewers will adopt an attitude toward the site. You want that attitude to be the one that portrays the product or service best.
• Instill the right sentiments
Among the feelings that you will portray for some sites will be trust, reliability, and safety. Images that give the wrong impression can mislead viewers about the nature of the product or service and even colors that are inappropriate can give a faulty impression of its stability and reliability.
At other times you will need to use humor, jazzy colors and discordant design to portray a certain effect.
• Use casual conversation
A trend that is sweeping many sites today is to use humor or casual conversation to make customers feel at ease with the site.
A statement such as “Great. You’ve come to the right place, now we’ll get you to the next step,” help to make the user feel the site is being run by humans.
Others help to ease frustrations, such as, “Whoops. Sorry, guess we goofed and sent you to the wrong place. Click here and we’ll try to get it right the next time.” Words like these go a long way in helping to ease the tension. After all, users understand that mistakes can happen and it reinforces their belief that humans are in control.
2) Make the site easy to use
It is essential that users be able to find their way around a website easily and effectively. Once they have gained the first impression of the site, they need to know instinctively where to go next and how to go there. They might want to find out more details about a product or service that are available on the site, for example. They might want to go to the next step, or they might want to buy the product or service advertised on the website.
Here are ways you can achieve ease of use:
• Provide clear links
A way to render a site easy to use is to make clear where the user can tap or click to go next. This goal can be accomplished by making the link stand out on the website. It could be in a different color, it could be in the form of a button, or it could contain words, such as “click or tap here.” A good web designer will know which to use in which circumstances, but, above all, it should be clear.
• Ensure uniformity
Another way to make a site more user-friendly is to make the design consistent throughout. When users move from one page to the next, they should not feel as though they have gone to a different website. Using the same master head and footer on all your pages accompanied by similar design on each page can help to provide consistency. Being uniform makes the site appear reliable and trustworthy.
• Use readable fonts
Above all, the text should be easy to read. Nothing is worse for a viewer than to struggle to read information. For example, a restaurant menu that is great in the establishment itself but is so small when copied on the website that it is almost impossible to read might as well not be on the website. It frustrates the reader and can drive potential customers away.
Some fonts, such as Verdana, have been designed for ease of reading on the web. But other fonts can also be easily read. A general principle in print is to use sans serif font for headlines and serif font for text, but this rule does not necessarily have to be followed on a website. The key must be to use the best font for readability. You might want to try out a font on someone else; when using it you might become so familiar with it that you are not sure how readable it really is.
3) Put the parts together in a meaningful whole
It is important that your web pages have a good balance that makes them easy on the eye and easy to explore. Various parts should relate to one another to create a total picture. Think of each page as being one image to provide a pleasing effect.
• Have a strong clear lead item
It should be obvious to even the casual reader what the most important aspect of your page is. A headline or a picture should make a clear strong statement, usually at the top or close to the top of the page. A page with many small elements is confusing; the reader has no idea where to go first or what you are trying to tell them.
• Each page segment should have a center of interest
Design coaches often suggest an image should accompany each segment or story on a page. Doing so creates an interest that words alone do not always achieve. But headlines, subheads and bullet points in text also help to attract and retain interest.