These days, everybody needs a website, and nearly everybody has one. The internet has gotten faster and better at displaying hi-res images, graphics and videos. Platforms like Wordpress, Wix and Squarespace have deployed vast catalogs of templates to make good web design more accessible to anybody who wants it. All of these things are great.
Unfortunately, these positives have also had a negative side-effect. Many people don’t have an appreciation for truly good design, or the work that a great web designer does. The ubiquity of personal and professional websites has led to the belief that websites are a commodity item, which they are not, and that it’s basically impossible nowadays to screw up your website’s design – and I assure you, it most certainly is possible.
Here are some easy and terrible ways to employ poor web design – EVEN IF you are using a fantastic template.
1. Bad or Confusing Navigation
A great template might prevent or dissuade you from flat-out neglecting to include navigation on your site. It might even make sure that your navigation bar or menu scrolls with the rest of the page or pops in and out from the side or has some kind of cool animation. But what a template can’t do is force you to label the navigation buttons clearly, and to organize your website in a way that is intuitive to the average visitor. Take extra care when setting up your site’s navigation, and make sure that nearly anybody will have an easy time finding their way around. If a visitor clicks on one of your nav buttons and doesn’t know where it’s going to take them, or even worse, it takes them somewhere other than they expect, they are likely to head for less confusing pastures of the internet.
2. Missing Contact Details
Think about why you want people to come to your website. Sure, you want to provide them with information, or showcase your work, maybe you even want to entertain people using videos or your blog. But at some point, your website is going to come back to self-promotion. You want people to come to your site so that they will eventually decide to hire you, do business with you, buy something from you, or maybe you just want them to start following you on Twitter. In any of these scenarios, your website’s visitors need to be able to get in touch with you, and it has to be easy for them to figure out the best way to do that. Whether you are displaying a business phone number or just throwing out some @socialmediahandles, that information should be displayed prominently, be easy to find, and ideally in multiple locations on your site.
3. Text Explosion
We get it. You’ve got things to say, and your website is the place you want to say them. And look, we’re all for that. But there is nothing that offends the senses quite like opening up a webpage and being assaulted by a wall of text. First, people won’t read it. So, not only is putting all that text out there a wasted effort, it’s also not getting your message across. Second, it looks awful. Now, text doesn’t have to look bad. It’s even possible to display a large amount of text nicely. Good, clean and consistent font choices will help this tremendously. And a good template can help you organize your text in blocks, columns or a grid that makes sense. But – it’s still up to you to be judicious with your words. On most pages of your site, when it comes to text, less is more. Use just the amount you need to get your message across clearly and efficiently. It’s okay if you leave your visitors wanting a bit more information. That’s what your blog is for.
4. Stale Content
Your website is alive. It does not exist in a static vacuum where you can build it, put it up, and let it just sit there. Not only would this be detrimental to your SEO, from a design perspective it starts to look stale much sooner than you’d think. Old and outdated information has a way of sticking out. Images become tired and boring to look at. And if you have a news, blog, or recent work section, people will only come back to see the same material so many times (once probably) before they decide that you don’t update your site frequently enough that it is worth checking. You don’t need to do a major site overhaul every three weeks, but you should make sure to keep text and images fresh, and always be adding new content.
5. Poor CTAs
A Call-to-Action is one of the best ways for you to encourage your visitors to perform a specific behavior. Downloading an e-book, signing up for a newsletter or checking out an on-sale item or product line are all great examples of CTAs. However, your CTAs have to be quick, clear and concise. They are a single-action item with instant or near-instant gratification. If you put out a CTA that leads visitors to a long sign-up process, that’s bad. If you promise to take customers to a sale or discount, and instead you just end up taking them to your main shop page, that will leave them confused and frustrated. A CTA is a great tool, but it has to be wielded properly to be effective. Always ask yourself if your CTAs are adhering to that main word, “action.” If clicking will instantly lead them to accomplish a single action, then you are probably on the right track.
Using a template is a great way to set yourself on the right track for great web design, but templates aren’t bulletproof. They still rely heavily on the content that you put into them in order to be effective, and most of them will give you enough creative freedom that you’ll need to be careful to preserve good layout and organization. After all, good design of any kind is about more than just a solid foundation and structure.
Need help strategizing on the perfect website design and build to grow your business? Contact 10twelve today!