We are living in the age of the internet and chances are that one of the first encounters anyone has with your company or brand is going to be through your website. This means that there is no platform as important to your branding and image management as your website. That’s why so many marketing professionals emphasize the importance of good website design when it comes to marketing, brand management, audience engagement, and retention.
So first things first, what is web design and how can it help you and your audience?
What is web design?
Web design, unsurprisingly, is basically designing for the web. This includes website and webpage design, web graphic design, user interface (UI) design, user experience (UX) design, and more. Web design requires a range of different skills. Traditionally web design teams consisted of people from various backgrounds ranging from coders to graphic designers and content writing specialists.
Today with website builder platforms, web design has been made much easier and way more accessible to people from all walks of life. DIY websites have become a reality and it is possible to build a website today without touching a single line of code.
However, even with the best website builder platform at your disposal, building a successful website for your business and brand entails knowing the basic principles of web design. You need to understand how you can implement these principles to the benefit of your website’s audience in order to ensure the best user experience and maximize audience engagement with your website. This article will help you understand some of these things.
How good web design can help you and your audience
Good web design is not just important for your branding, it is also important for your audience. Good web design can objectively improve user experience and make your website more user-friendly. This improves engagement and in turn, increases your chances of making a sale or gaining a client/customer.
Here are some ways in which good website design can help you impress your audience and create a better overall experience for them.
1. Fast loading times
Did you know that a well-designed website can help you with your loading times? Web design is not just about making a site look pretty but also about improving functionality. This means that clean code, responsive templates, and loading speeds are as important to your website’s design as a color palette or a cool logo.
Your audience is more likely to simply abandon your website and move on if they find it loads too slowly for their taste. In fact, according to statistics, around 53% of all consumers will simply abandon a site visit if your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Google and other search engines take loading speeds into consideration when determining website rankings for the SERPs (search engine result pages). This means that if you have a slow-loading site, it may not rank well on SERPs and may not show up in the search results when someone searches a keyword related to your website. This can harm your organic web traffic through search engines which can put a big dampener on your marketing plans.
Fast loading times and by extension clean web design are some of the most important factors in audience retention and organic web traffic generation.
2. Intuitive design
Intuitive design practices ensure that your website is easily navigated and easy to use. These include using an F-pattern (text blocks arranged, left to right in an F shape) to improve readability, using clean color palettes and minimalist design, sticking to readable fonts and typography, using breadcrumb navigation and easily accessible menus and home buttons, etc.
Using intuitive design practices is important because you want site visitors to be able to efficiently navigate your website and find everything they need even if they are visiting for the first time. When you visit a website, you don’t want to sit around and learn how to use it, do you? You want to quickly figure out what the website is all about and then click on other relevant pages where you can find what you need.
Intuitive design makes sure that your audience’s experience of using your site is seamless and requires no extra problem solving or energy. This gives them more time and energy to focus on your website’s content and your products or services which are more important.
This way, by using intuitive web design practices you can increase audience engagement and retention on your site.
3. Integrated CTAs
You may have seen a ‘Call us now!’ appended to the bottom of print adverts. Websites usually have a ‘Sign up’ button displayed prominently but unobtrusively on their homepage. These are calls-to-action (CTAs) and they are meant to improve audience engagement and promote the conversion of site visitors into consumers.
What a CTA basically does is encourage your audience to take some action that can further lead them to buy your products or services or interact with your website or business in a way that is beneficial to you.
CTAs are the heart of marketing and advertising but that being said audiences generally don’t like to feel like they’re being marketed to. Think about those spammy pop-up ads that are the bane of so many websites. The CTA on these ads usually covers most of the banner space and the pushy, pop-ups can get a little too in your face. As you may understand, this is not a very good marketing strategy.
A good web design practice is to integrate your CTAs into your website design in a way that is helpful, not spammy or overly intrusive. You want your audience to sign up for your website or buy your products or services, but you don’t want to push this in their face too much. A simple button or a contact form can do wonders here by encouraging your audience to make a decision now rather than later.
Such integrated CTAs can boost your audience engagement rates and sales by promoting conversions of site visitors into paying customers.
4. Branding and marketing
There is no better platform than your very own website for you to market yourself and your brand. Branding and brand identity are all about image control and distinguishing yourself from others by creating a distinct image. Since your website is entirely your own and the one platform where you have complete control it makes sense to turn your website into the center of your branding and marketing strategy on the internet.
A good logo, appealing color palette, brand story, testimonials, etc are all important elements in creating the perfect website that embodies your brand. Your brand is your answer to why someone should choose you over your competitors. When someone clicks on your website they know exactly who you are and why they should choose you over some other brand or business.
Good web design can help you communicate your brand better to your audience. It helps them understand your business and your values. It creates a sense of trust and credibility that helps build a better business-to-consumer relationship between you and your audience.
5. SEO optimization
As I mentioned earlier, good web design practices are not just about making your website look pretty, they are also meant to improve your website’s functionality. One way in which this can be done is through SEO optimization.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and what it means is to design a website in such a way that it performs well on SERPs. A lot of people discover new websites and businesses through search engines. By using good web design practices and proper SEO techniques, you can ensure a much more level playing field for your website’s marketing than many other more traditional avenues.
While SEO marketing requires a lot of time, effort, and consistency, it is incredibly budget-friendly as compared to other forms of marketing. In fact, with the right tools, you can do it all yourself. Using the right keywords, clean code, appropriate meta-data and tags, etc makes it easier for your audience to discover your website and your content. It also enables you to attract new audiences through organic traffic generated by SERPs.
How to create a website designed for your audience
When it comes to design, there are some basic principles that should be followed and web design is no different. Since design is a creative field it is very easy to get carried away by one’s imagination and need to be ‘different’ and ‘aesthetic’ while sacrificing good old functionality in the process. Good web design principles help you avoid that mess and keep your website clean, coherent, and easy to navigate.
1. Understand your audience
The first step to designing a website for your audience, unsurprisingly, is to understand your audience. What is the demographic that you specifically want to attract? Different brands in the same industry can have wildly different target bases and audiences. Think about the difference between Hot Topic and H&M. They’re both fashion brands but cater to different audiences and their website designs show this.
2. Visual hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is a simple concept that your web pages should always center on the most important visual or functional element. For example, Google’s search engine homepage is mostly white space with the Google logo and search bar front and center. Other buttons are placed towards the corner of the page. This is a visual hierarchy at work since the most important and useful element is the one that needs to be highlighted on the page. Visual hierarchy is a cornerstone of intuitive web design.
3. Grids and patterns
Most websites use some sort of grid and column mechanism to organize web content. While a lot of novice web designers may feel like grids and columns are old-fashioned and boring, experienced designers understand that grid systems are popular for a reason: they work. They are efficient, easy to set up, have just enough flex that you can play around with it without going overboard and creating a confusing mess.
Same with patterns. F and Z patterns are the heart of website design. They are an efficient way of directing your audience’s eyes to the most important elements on the website and are helpful in creating clean, coherent, and intuitive websites.
4. Fonts and typography
In general, it is a good idea to go for simple fonts and typography that is clear, legible, and scalable. Sans serif fonts are generally preferred for web design because they perform well on computer screens and are more readable overall. While it is acceptable to use more than one font, even encouraged in many situations, to make the page more lively and less monotonous, make sure not to go overboard. Too many mismatched fonts can make your web pages look overcrowded and clunky.
5. Color palettes
The color palette you choose depends on your brand but make sure to choose colors that complement each other and more importantly make for a legible and coherent web page. Everyone likes a splash of color but always remember that functionality should trump pure aesthetic considerations. Clean, cohesive and simple is a mantra that will never lead you astray.
The bottom line
Web design is an important aspect of your branding strategy. With the rise of website builder platforms, it has become increasingly easy and simple to create beautiful websites all by yourself, without touching a single line of code. However, this also means that understanding good web design has become an important part of being a brand owner.
It all may seem complicated but it really isn’t. All you need is the right tools and a little bit of time and research. I hope this article helped you out.
Guest author: Anisha Singh has experience of 10+ years in graphic design and content creation. She is currently working on content strategy and creation for Pixpa.com, a website builder for photographers, creators & small businesses.