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So you’ve decided to launch a website.
You’re probably feeling both excited and overwhelmed — especially if this is your first time going through the process.
Without a background in design, it can be difficult to know if your website looks and functions in a way that encourages visitors to take the action you want.
But being purposeful with design doesn’t have to mean having years of experience — just look at the straightforward best practices and tips in our website design infographic.
Use intuitive information architecture
It makes sense to start by thinking about the general structure you want for your website.
You can organize according to the importance of your different elements. Before jumping into the visual design, you’ll want to create an outline for the content you’ll be sharing on each page. By using header formatting to establish topics and subtopics, it will be easier to understand how much emphasis you should place on each section.
Remember that in most situations, simpler is better. Websites loaded with all of the visual bells and whistles are cool to look at — but do they actually convert?
An overdone design might actually distract your visitors from the main goal of your website. It’s often the most basic designs that are the easiest to navigate and, as a result, help visitors make decisions quickly and confidently.
When considering each new page element, ask yourself this key question: “Will this help the user reach the goal or distract them from it?”
Part of this process involves creating a brand and style guide to limit your guesswork. By sticking to a maximum of three colors and two complementary fonts, you’ll limit design distractions on your website. Make sure that you’re not overlaying text on busy backgrounds, as the contrast between elements will be difficult to read.
On a related note, whichever fonts you choose should be easy to read at all sizes — especially if your website has a lot of written content (like a blog).
Don’t forget about images
One rule that consistently shows up in lists of website design best practices and tips is to use visuals to complement your copy instead of as your primary design elements.
Great visuals encourage visitors to read by breaking up text so that it doesn’t seem as long and overwhelming.
To really make an impact, make sure that your chosen visuals are:
- Relevant to the topic at hand
- Not stock photos whenever possible — custom images will have a bigger impact than something people feel like they have seen elsewhere on the internet
Experiment and solicit feedback
Any marketer worth their salt won’t recommend making a final decision between two design elements without testing them first.
It’s fine to make assumptions about your audience as long as you follow up to determine if you were right or wrong. In many cases, you may be surprised by what your audience actually responds to.
Harvard Business Review defines A/B testing, or split testing, as “a way to compare two versions of something to figure out which performs better.” Check out a free tool like Google Optimize to A/B test various website elements.
It doesn’t hurt to go straight to the source by asking members of your audience for feedback. User testing can be a great way to gain insight and make your fans feel heard and appreciated.
Final thoughts for non-designers
One of the most important takeaways is that over-optimizing your design to look “pretty” can sometimes get in the way of usability. Ultimately, functionality is more important than aesthetics.
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