04.03.08 — 3 Top Tips for Great Web Page Design
Author Bill Janzen
Great web page design is very important to making sure that your customers see your company in the way that you want them to. Just as you put a great deal of effort, time and resources in ensuring that your bricks and mortar storefront is bright, clean, and attractive, your website needs the same kind of attention. This article will explain the top three ways to make your website work for you!
When I started Future Access in 1995, St. Catharines website design guru's thought that good web page design was no more than putting up a few pictures, a page of text, and that was it. Little to no thought was given to how things made you feel, the logical path you would expect someone to take through the site, or where you wanted them to end up. It was much more about being trendy and cool by being one of the first companies in your industry to have a website at all!
Today, now that bandwidth limitations have been greatly reduced and multimedia content is everywhere, great web page design has become a way for small companies to level the playing field and compete on par with much larger rivals. In my experience, as we have developed better and better websites over the years, our customers' customers continually give positive feedback (and their business!) to companies that have made effective use of their design.
People have enough stressors in their life as it is today, and they don't need their experience on your website to add to them. Everywhere you look, busy, highly pressured individuals are seeking after a Zen-like experience, feng-shui, or just simplicity in general. So should it be on your website. Do away with the unnecessary extras, flashy gimmicks, and fancy doo-dads. Resist the temptation to say everything you want, or put a list of every single product you offer all on one page.
I have come to realize that less is more, and that users really appreciate the simplicity of a clean, uncluttered look on websites. The success of Google's web page design is a prime example. Look how clean Google's homepage is compared to its major competitors like Yahoo and MSN. They have so much white space, they even offered a black background for the 2008 Earth Day in order to reduce power consumption on the monitors of their millions of users.
The simplicity and ease of use have allowed a single company to capture half of the market share of the entire search engine industry, and catapult them to market leaders and innovators in many other areas as well. Remember this, give the user what they want (not what you want), and less is more.
Part of keeping your site clean and easy to use is simple, intuitive navigation. Many times in my online browsing experience I have come across websites that have a beautiful homepage, and then completely change the design on their inside pages. Menu items that were clearly outlined across the top have now moved to the left hand side, or have disappeared altogether. I have no idea how I am supposed to progress through the site, and in fact I can get lost altogether on some pages.
I have found that a much better approach is to use clear, consistent navigation. This means that the links to your various pages should appear in the same place and in the same order on every page on your site. If you have many pages for your users to navigate, a drop-down menu can be a very effective tool. Everyone is used to clicking or rolling over a menu at the top of a program like Microsoft Word and have a menu drop down from there. If your website allows them to navigate in the same way, you keep the experience consistent and help users to get around your site with ease.
So now that we have established that your website should be clean, simple, and easy to navigate, how do we make it beautiful? What is going to create that emotional response that you create when people walk through your doors into your bricks-and-mortar storefront?
After years of St. Catharines website design at Future Access, creating hundreds of websites for our customers, I have come to realize that the use of high-quality photography really separates a great site from an average one. The key is to use the right photograph, and not to overdo it. A collage of 9 or 10 images a blurred together on your homepage, many of them indistinguishable because they are wide shots reduced greatly in size will not be effective. Instead, a single large, high-quality close-up photograph that showcases your product or service can work best.
If you want to use more than one image, a moderately paced Flash animation can create extra emotion by having them fade into one another, or by panning across the picture very slowly. A photographic technique called "depth-of-field", where the foreground of an image is in sharp focus but the distant background is completely blurred really draws attention to the image. Don't believe me? Check it out next time you are browsing the web and see for yourself!
Now you have all the essential advice you need to create fantastic website. Great web page design includes a clean uncluttered look that eliminates unnecessary information. You need an intuitive navigation system to help people get around easily. And finally, you should use great, high-impact photography to create an emotional response. That's it! Now, go and check your website to see if it meets these criteria. If not, go to it!
Originally published in the April 3, 2008 Entireweb Newsletter.