What is Good Website Design?

“More than simplicity, great design is about clarity. If each piece, each view of an application or site is focused, concise, clear, easy to use, and reduced to its core purpose the product becomes more usable, productive, and effective as a result.”
– Robert Hoekman, Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design

Have you ever visited a website and found yourself not sure what to click on… because there were too many choices? Your website is successful when it achieves your goals. So before you hire a designer or make any decision about design style for your website, clarify your goals.

Before you build a website, consider what you want your website to accomplish. Is the primary purpose of your website to:

• provide business credibility?
• attract new business?
• provide a service or information to clients?

Do you want your website to attract and generate business? Then, focus on:

1) delivering the information your prospective customer needs, and presenting your business and information in a way that encourages the visitor to do business with you (so that your site functions as a “virtual salesperson” and get results).

2) attracting prospects to your website (through search engine optimization)

Simple Website Service follows these 5 principles of website design:

1) Marketing Focus & Purpose
2) Design & Layout: Keep It Simple
3) Do Not Make Your Visitors Work (too hard)
4) SEO: If You Build It (properly), They Will Come
5) Build Your Website for the Long Term

1) Marketing Focus & Purpose

Most websites are ‘brochure’ websites Most of the websites we visit – especially small business websites – are simply online brochures for the company. They aren’t designed with a marketing focus. If your goal is simply to be an online brochure, or show a portfolio of your work (artists, photographics, designers) then you might focus primarily on graphic design.

If your intention is to attract new customers, then think of your website as your “virtual salesperson.” In this case, you’ve got to design and write your content in a way that makes it easy for a visitor on your site to quickly see and hear your marketing message, and then take action (such as sign up for your newsletter, call you, or email you).

Your website can be a ‘virtual salesperson’ for your business – if you include these elements:
• simple and clear navigation
• uncluttered design, white background, free of visual distractions (such as flash animation)
• well presented, succinct copy that highlights the benefits of your products and services
• clean and simple code, minimal graphics on each page (1 or 2) and fast loading pages
• search engine optimization

If your intention is for your website to broadcast your opinions or ideas to a wider audience, your focus would include online advertising approaches, or possibly pay-per-click advertising.

Do you want a strong online marketing presence? Then make sure your website combines these elements of simple design, marketing focus on content, and search engine optimization.

Graphic Designers Focus on Design – Not Marketing
In the early days of the internet, the people who knew how to build a website were computer techs and programmers. They lacked design skills and the result was a proliferation of poorly designed sites. Then graphic designers started building websites, and we ended up with beautiful graphics (slow loading and poorly performing for search engines), but sites that lacked a marketing focus.

Too often, a graphic artist building a website, or a business owner, assumes that visitors on their website are going to carefully consider or navigate all the content on their web site just because it is there, and because it’s visually artistic. Many websites are built by designers who are more interested in creating a visually stunning and interesting design – than in building a website that stimulates the visitor to contact you for business. And too often, websites are built without any regard for search engine performance.

While fancy graphics and flash animation are interesting, it’s not going to sell your company, or your services and products. Do you want visitors to your site to be impressed by your fancy graphics and flash animation images – or do you want them to read and hear what you have to say and contact you to do business?

Most web designers don’t know know anything about marketing – or how to get prospects on your website to want to do business with you. They do know a lot about design and how to put your website pages together technically – and so if you’re like most business owners, you’ll hire a graphic designer to create a nice looking design. But this is backwards!

2) Design & Layout: Keep It Simple

Visitors to your site should know immediately the products and services you offer. They should be able to understand what you offer within a few seconds.

  • Does your HOME page have a marketing focus?
  • Does your copy talk about the benefits your products and services offer?
  • Does your content encourage and make it easy for the visitor to contact you?
  • Do your page headlines create reader interest?

When you write content for your website – most importantly your ‘Home’ page, make it easy for visitors to quickly understand the benefits of your products and services and contact you. For example, if you want visitors to call you immediately, then make sure your phone number is prominently displayed on every page of your website.

Gain Your Reader’s Attention
Remember, visitors to your website want instant gratification. They want to know what you can do for them. So don’t confuse them with too many links and choices.

A great headline enters the conversation that is already going on in your reader’s mind, and leaves no doubt about how he or she can benefit from reading the rest of your message.

Marketing experts know that the headline is the most important thing about any form of media, including all forms of advertising, editorials, press releases, signs, etc. Yet, business websites rarely make use of great headlines on their web pages.

It doesn’t matter how good your content is – if nobody reads it. We recommend you use headlines written to attract and draw the visitor in to reading more about your products and services.

3) Do Not Make Your Visitors Work (too hard)

1) FOCUS: Many people forget when they design their website that an important purpose of their website is to generate new business. If you want visitors to your website to contact you, keep this in mind when you build your website. Then, keep the focus of your website on your company and product benefits and on the action you want the visitor to take.

Statistics show: You have only 7 seconds to make an impact.

Take a closer look at the Apple, Google, and Yahoo websites as well as some other hugely popular sites. What do they do right? They keep their design very simple, using minimalist design and acres of white space.

Users demand ease of use and the ability to find good information quickly and efficiently. Statistics, and research about popular websites, prove that users rate believe the quality and credibility of a site to be far more important than fancy graphics, flash imagery, music and complex backgrounds (which appeal more to teenagers than busy professionals).

Search engines read text, not flash or images, and a good design should utilize this fact. If your site is stuffed with high-end graphical design and imagery, but is not built for search engines, or to maximize the visitor experience, it will not be successful.

3) DON’T MAKE THEM WORK: Do Not Make Your Visitors Work (too hard)
Your website should make it easy for visitors to find, quickly scan and read relevant information. If you make the information hard to find, they will go elsewhere.

Your content must be well-organized and concise, using one or two sentence paragraphs, headings, subheadings and bulleted lists whenever possible. Navigation via menus and links must be easy to find and use. Do not be tempted to use complicated drop down menus or links. Keep the navigation simple and instinctive, encouraging visitors to explore further.

The bottom line is that your website design should manage users’ attention and gently guide them towards the desired action you want them to take. You can do this by using simple page layout design, providing an easy navigation structure, including relevant images and, most importantly, providing well-written and concise copy.

4) SEO: If You Build it (properly) They Will Come.

SEO = Search Engine Optimization

Simply having a website does not mean that you’ll have visitors. It takes time and work to bring customers to your website, and ongoing work in order to keep them coming back.

Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN are the main sources of traffic for almost every website. If you want to generate traffic to your website, you must have your website designed and optimized in specific ways, ensuring peak performance across the complete spectrum of search engines.

The best thing you can do to facilitate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to design and write your website while thinking about your target audience of clients and visitors.

The second best thing you can do is to hire a website designer who knows how to build your site with the search engines in mind. SEO doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes weeks or months or years (depending on much time and effort or money you put in to your site) to get good rankings, and your page rankings can change daily or even hourly.

5) Build Your Website for the Long Term

BUILD SMART: Build on current technology, on a CMS (Content Management System)
Ensure that your website is built to last well into the future. Be careful that you’re not buying a template or technology that will be outdated in a year or two.

There are many types of technologies available and utilized when building a website. Some of them are outdated, others make it difficult for you to edit your content later, others still will not provide you with the original source code files (which can cause a problem for you if the website company later goes out of business).

In summary, make sure your website is designed using the latest technologies and design style, with longevity and practicality in mind.