There are thousands of articles online about website design best practices, but most of these actually just cover current design trends. To me, the difference between a website design trend and a website design best practice is that best practices describe effective business principles that endure trends. Trends are great, but they come and go. Best practices bring home the bacon.
Start with your goals.
Your website is a conversation with your audience. Let this principle guide all of your design decisions. A great website is not just a pretty brochure on the internet. Your website should have a purpose, and every design choice you make should be in service of that purpose. Your website should include everything that it needs, but nothing that it doesn’t. If your goal is to have potential customers request a consultation, make sure they have the opportunity to do so on each page. Create an experience for your visitors and lead them through the important areas of your site.
Show, don’t tell.
Anyone can write that they are the best in their field. Your website needs to show your customers and leads how you are different. Use testimonials. Demonstrate your unique process. Use images and videos to show your visitors why you are special, because telling them just won’t cut it anymore.
Structure refers to how the information on your website is displayed to visitors. The design choices you make about how and where to put your website’s content influences the effectiveness of your message. Effectively lay out your content using headers and body text so that visitors get the general idea with a quick skim. Don’t forget to use plenty of whitespace. A crowded page is difficult to read.
Also, in 2017 a responsive website is not just nice to have, it is a requirement. Not only are north of 50% of your visitors coming to your website on mobile devices, but Google and other search engines will penalize you in your search engine rankings if your website isn’t easy to read on any size device.
As mentioned above, your website needs a purpose, and every page should have a goal. Use strong calls-to-action to guide users through your website and lead them to make purchases or request consultations. When you think about calls-to-action, most people envision a “buy now” button on a sales page, but you should be using calls-to-action throughout your website to move users through the customer journey. Use “learn more” buttons to get users to click through to the pages that will be most relevant to them, and then convert them there.
Test and iterate.
A lot of companies think of a website redesign as a large project. Once the project is complete, the website is finished and won’t be touched again for at least 3-5 years, when trends change and they need a refresh. A new website design best practice is to continuously monitor the performance of your website, test changes and iterate regularly. Your designer might build a great website that converts pretty well, but without continuous testing and refinement, you are probably leaving money on the table.
Your website should be flexible enough to change as your company changes, or as your customers’ needs change. They only way you will know when this happens is by monitoring conversions and testing new ideas.
As trends change, website design best practices will stand the test of time. Keep these five website principles in mind and you will have the foundation for a stylish and effective website.