7 Principles of Effective Web Design for People Who Can't Code
User-Friendly Web Design
So you can't code and terms like PHP/mySQL sound really strange to you. That's just fine, but there's value to being able to evaluate web design in more articulate terms than "ooh, pretty" or "that's confusing!" It's not a secret that having a company website is no longer optional. 74% of Americans are now plugged-in, and why flip through the yellow pages when Google is so much more convenient?
Over 88 percent of online Americans ages 14+ are using the web to research or browse products, so your website needs to be able to stand up to the demands of the web in 2012. If your design isn't user-friendly, your potential business will likely bounce back to the search engine instead of converting into leads. Whether you're an aspiring inbound marketer or a small business owner, knowing the bare bones of web design is must. We've compiled some of the basic, bare-bones principals of a website that's user friendly and easy on the eyes:
1. No Sleuthing Required
The architecture and navigation of your website should be simple and make a great deal of sense. First-time visitors have a lot of questions: they're trying to determine whether your company can meet their product or service need. They're probably curious about your reputability and pricing. They shouldn't be distracted with the question of "how on earth do I use this website?"
eCommerce tea retailer Adagio has achieved an outstanding balance of simplicity and ease-of-use while still allowing website visitors total control of where they land. While their approach doesn't work for everyone, the visual elements in their navigation bar are unique without being confusing:
2. Don't Use Up People's Patience
"A free trial of your software?" Sounds great, until you discover you're required to complete a 25-field form that asks for everything from your social security number to a credit card. Um, no thanks. The trick to designing a website that converts is to convey lots of value, and then ask for the minimum amount of information possible.
HubSpot has researched the ideal amount of fields for a landing page form in-depth. The short consensus to every marketer and web designers' constant struggle with designing landing page forms is "it depends, but as short as possible." Think in terms of removing barriers - prospects give you their contact information for a trial, free sample or TOFU content offer. And for the love of conversions, don't force your users to create an account unless necessary.
3. Direct Attention
You know why video content is such an effective marketing tool? It's because it demands attention. You can scroll down the page, but then you still hear the sound. You can turn off your speakers, but you know it's there. Think of web design in the same way. Human eyes don't necessary work in linear ways, so you need to inform people where to look. In the example below, business card printer Moo uses the positioning of their product to direct your eye towards the text:
It really goes back to the fact that people don't want to work hard to spend money. Direct their eyes towards the critical, value-driven information.
4. Write Effectively
See that image to the right? Research has indicated that's the typical reading pattern of a first-time website visitor. The news is a little tough to swallow for us content marketer types, though there's also some helpful insight in that image. Your on-page copy needs to be well-edited, value-driven and informative, and it also needs to be very easy to scan. Here's some ways to make on-page copy easy to digest:
Be Short and Concise. What's the point and how quickly can you get there? No extra words needed.
Make Your Text Layout Scan-Friendly. If you have a lot of information to share, use every available tool to break up the text, such as H1, H2 tags and bullet points.
Be Objective. It's hard to be modest about how awesome you are, but try your best. Focus on conveying value in neutral terms rather than utilizing sales-driven language.
5. Keep it Really Basic
The focus of a website is on the product, not intricate and complex web design. With rare exceptions, people are there to scope out your company's offerings, not web design. Your site serves to enhance and showcase, not distract. Giles Revell, a London-based photographer achieves an exceptional balance of usability and simplicity, while still showcasing his work:
6. Don't Be Afraid of Room
Whitespace is an underutilized element in web design. The color of your background doesn't have to be white, but it's a figure of speech used to describe the concept of drawing the eye towards an image or text by surrounding it with lots of space. If you've got the option of surrounding a value statement or informative image with additional design elements or blank page, it's better to utilize whitespace. Apple is a brand known for their minimalist aesthetic. Their use of whitespace on the company homepage is both an effective branding tool and a powerful way to showcase their latest gadget:
7. Communicate Clearly
Web designers and developers have a lot to worry about. In addition to page-load time and user experience, there are issues of readability, color, texture and typography. Visual communication expert Suzanne Martin recommends you use no more than 3 different fonts in a maximum of 3 sizes to avoid overloading page visitors.
What elements of web design do you believe contribute to a user-friendly experience?