DISCLAIMER: I write blogs for an advertising company for lawyers, which is why this post is directed toward the law field.
As we all know, the days of using the yellow pages to search for a business are long gone. The internet, search engines, and websites are the new yellow pages! Having a well-designed website is crucial for a firm to continue growing their client base. To stay current, most experts recommend updating your website design every two to three years. Whether firms plan on using a website builder program or hiring a website design company, below are some helpful do’s and don’ts of web design.
Before jumping into website design 101, you should understand all of your options. Creating a website can be a fun process and we have done the research to determine the most popular website building programs. Following is a list of the top 4 choices:
Though Squarespace can be difficult to understand at first, it has sleek design capabilities and templates that really make your website stand out. If you already use WordPress to manage your content, you can easily migrate your site to Squarespace. The Squarespace website builder also offers the option to create landing pages or single-page websites. Squarespace is growing in popularity and has become one of the best website builders on the market. These features come at a decent price, ranging from $12 to $36 a month.
WordPress is an open source platform that can be both easy and hard to use, depending on if you decide to purchase a template or create your own website. You may download and install the WordPress on your own server or pay WordPress.com to host your site for you. WordPress has downfalls such as a lack of drag and drop creation, as well as lacking a preview format of what you are posting. You will also have to pay for your own hosting, and if you decide to buy a theme and plugins, you could end up spending $300-$500. However, because of its flexibility, integrations and customizations, WordPress is the best option if you have a web designer building your site for you.
Weebly is easy to use and is available on any platform to open and edit on the go. It has most of the same features as Squarespace but focuses more on blogging. They trump Squarespace by having thousands of templates, as well as the capability to download other templates that people have created. Plus, who can get upset at a price model that ranges from free up to $25 a month?
Wix is the website builder we suggest you try last if you don’t like any other option. It has limited templates, all which you can’t switch if you want to update. If you ever decide to hire a designer, they won’t be able to adjust your site because it does not offer HTML or CSS editing features. The upside? This website is purely drag and drop capable and is one of the easiest to work on if you have little to no design skills. Its pricing is from $7 up to $30 per month.
Now that we have discussed options for website building, it is now time to get into the details of what should and shouldn’t be done when designing a website.
- Use a Clean Layout
A website should be easily navigated and lack clutter. Choosing a layout design that works with content is the most important part of website design. The design should also always be responsive to effectively show on any device. Responsive design is so important that in 2015, Google began ranking websites higher if they were mobile friendly. So, choosing a layout that follows their guidelines will benefit in more ways than one. Starting from scratch, instead of manipulating an existing website, is the best route to go if a website isn’t currently clean and responsive.
- Use Non-Stock, Copyright Free Images
Nobody enjoys looking at stock photos, especially when they are overused. They look staged, make no sense and can really clutter a website. Instead of settling for something overused, try out these alternative photo options:
If you don’t like any of these options, try hiring a professional photographer to take photos around the office that feature your employees. This will give a personal feel to the website and puts relatable faces to the brand.
- Ensure High-Speed Page Performance
Did you know that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less? By having a website that loads quickly, losing consumers is less likely to happen. Want to know some ways to increase website performance? Try optimizing images by using the WordPress plugin called WP Smushor downloading programs like RIOT. Having too many advertisements can also slow down a web page, as well as make it appear to be more cluttered. Just adjusting these two things alone can significantly increase a website’s performance speed. Want to know where a website stands? Try out a speed optimizer like Pingdom and find out your score!
- Test The Website Often
Just because one person finds a website easy to navigate doesn’t mean that another person will. Doing extensive website usability testing is crucial before fully launching a new website. Whether someone uses people around the office to check out a website, or uses websites like UserTesting, you can’t afford to skip this step. Usability testing will catch any issues with forms, links, speed, browser compatibility, and more. Try going down this list of 25 things to test before your site goes live.
- Having Confusing Page Navigation
A users’ experience is very important when creating a website’s navigation. When mobile users visit a website, it is best to make sure that all buttons and navigation are easy to touch. If text links or a navigation toolbar is too small, mobile users will not be able to click effectively, leading to frustration and lost clients. A good rule of thumb is to literally measure with a thumb. Try making most links or buttons at least 44 pixels apart, brightly colored, and large enough to touch with a finger.
- Hide Page Content
When switching to a responsive website, it is tempting to hide page content to fit a smaller screen. But, if all content is shown without a responsive website, it is seen as being too cluttered. Just because someone is viewing a website on a mobile device doesn’t mean that they should get a dumbed-down version of the content. Therefore, it is very important to design for mobile first and then scale up for desktop and tablet versions.
- Worry About “The Fold”
Before mobile optimization, websites were normally created around “the fold”, or the point on a page where you have to scroll to see the rest of the content. It was in best practice to place a call to action or important information above the fold for better conversions. Now, the fold no longer exists due to the natural scrolling action mobile users have. This is why single page layouts are becoming increasingly more popular in the design community. Learn more about “the fold” here and why it’s not necessary to stress over.
- Use Too Much Copy
Though a company website should be informative, it should also be able to get the point across quickly. The more copy that is on a page, the less likely it is that someone will read it. Try using bullet points and limit repeating the same information as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a copywriter to revamp a website’s wording. And no matter what people might think, it is never good to use too many keywords in copy. Just write naturally, and remember, storytelling is a great way to humanize a firm.