This is the fifth part in a series called Creating Effective Websites. We’ve looked at how to improve your web strategy, how to create quality content, how to make the site usable to all users, and how to evaluate how well your website is marketed online. In this article we’ll delve into the wonderful world of front-end design, which is really about making your site attractive, and some best practices for a consistent “look”. Because, despite proverbs to the contrary, many of us do judge a book by its cover, and visitors will make snap judgments about your site the second they see it.
A key part of your visitor’s user experience is derived from the visual design of your site. Design elements such as contrast and color have significant effects on how users perceive and use your website. If the font is too hard to read or the colors used don’t support the desired psychological effects, your website will not be as effective as it could be. If your site has animated GIFs, bright 4-bit pallet colors and looks like a GeoCities freebie, your users won’t take your organization seriously. Here are some elements to focus on in your web design:
Color theory is critical, the colors should convey the correct emotions to elicit the appropriate responses from the viewer. In fact, I wrote a blog post in my Graphic Design series about color usage, and you should definitely check it out. Color can convey a lot of information and emotion, which is why our holidays have color schemes associated with them (Red & Green = Christmas, Black & Orange = Halloween, etc.) so picking the correct color scheme is important for what it conveys. Find complimentary colors, and find ways to repeat those colors for branding and unity.
Your logo is a huge part of your organization’s branding, so it should be featured clearly on your site. It’s the recognizable symbol that will build brand recognition in your clients’ minds. Logo design should follow good design principals and be readily identifiable on the website. If you are unhappy with your logo, a redesign is definitely in order, but weight the cost against any brand-recognition you may be sacrificing. It’s also common practice for site visitors to equate your logo as a home button. Most users assume that if they click on your logo in the top left of the screen it will take them back to your home page, no matter how lost they’ve gotten on your site.
Navigation is how your visitors get around your site. As a website evolves and grows, it’s important that your navigation system doesn’t get cluttered and overloaded. Navigation should be easy to find and use, and if in the form of a drop-down, should be limited to no more than two tiers. A good search system can offset the heavy lifting of the navigation. It’s like walking into a Home Depot looking for a hammer; you can either look at the huge signs at the ends of the aisles (top level navigation) to see if you see the word “hammer”, or you can ask an employee to show you which aisle to go down (search). Different users gravitate to different methods, so there’s no one right or wrong way.
I’m a self-proclaimed font nerd, and in the “Color” article I previously referenced I also talked about fonts for beginners. In web design there are some limitations as to how creative you can get with fonts and typography, but the basic rule of thumb is that typefaces should be sized, spaced, and colored correctly to achieve optimal readability. They should scale well no matter what device the site is accessed on.
Why Does Visual Design Matter?
Out of 2,440 participants
evaluating the credibility of websites, 46.1% said that the design was the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the presented material. If you’re site looks 10 years old at first glance, that’s a lifetime in the world of the internet, and it communicates a message that you don’t want communicated.
We have a team of super-talented front-end designers at Bit-Wizards whose only job is to make your website look amazing… and they do it well! If your site is in need of an overhaul, let us do our CURV Analysis on your site and give you a custom, detailed report.