Optimal Website Design
By Elizabeth McGee
The idea to good website design is to offer your viewer a logical flow while making it interesting and easy to understand. Lead your viewers to the starting point and then direct them through your site without confusing them.
Here are some excellent tips that can help you develop a user-friendly site and please your visitors senses. Give yourself a chance before they get away.
1. Use lots of white space.
Don't feel that because you have a whole screen that you need to fill it up with stuff. Your page should follow a clean outline. Include your site name at the very top. Below that list the subject of your page and below that expand on your topic. Leave adequate space between each section. Don't cram a lot of pictures and ads. If you have an ad keep it off to the side or subtly intersperse it between your text. The idea is not to overwhelm your reader.
2. Don't use animation and flashing objects.
As advertisers we feel the need to get our viewers attention. This is important but we need to do it gracefully. Flashing objects and scrolling images distract your visitor and take away from the content. If your product is better demonstrated with animation or some other multi-media, allow your viewer to select the option. Don't force it on them.
3. Every page of your site should contain an 'about' link.
The Internet can be a rather cold and quiet environment. If someone can come to your site and find out about who you are and what you are about, they can feel a little better about doing business with you or taking advice from you. Always include your business address and phone number and email address as well. This lets viewers know that you are serious about your business and that you welcome contact.
4. Include a 'Privacy' Link
5. Always keep your links in blue.
Why does that matter you might say? It's an expectation that viewers have along with the links being underlined. There's certainly no law that says they need to be as such but people spend a lot of time on the Internet and it's good practice to keep your navigation consistent and recognizable. If it's not, you may lose out on clicks.
6. Keep navigation consistent
Keep your site's navigation consistent. What you do on your index page should be done the same way on the rest of your site's pages. Keep the colors consistent as well. Don't force your viewers to relearn each page of your site. Keep your navigation bars and links the same for each page.
7. Understandable buttons and links.
Title your links appropriately. Don't use cute or misleading names. For example, if you have a link to sports equipment don't label the link 'Great Outdoors', call it 'sports equipment'. If you have a link to 'cameras' don't label the link 'hotshots', label it 'cameras'. Your viewers don't want to waste time figuring out what things are. Be clear with your labeling.
8. Focus on the 'YOU', not the 'ME'.
Make it obviously clear to your readers that you are there for them. What can you do for your reader? What benefits are there for your viewer? How can you make their life or business better or more profitable? Request feedback on their success. Find out what they want to know or how you can offer them what they need.
9. Make sure your page loads fast.
If viewers have to wait for a page to load they will click elsewhere. Here's a site that will help you determine how well your page loads. If a page doesn't load in 8 seconds you lose 1/3 of your visitors. Here's a great free tool to help you check your website's load time.
10. Use a site map.
A site map will give visitors a "guide" on viewing your site and also eliminate confusion, especially with larger sites. It's a road map for your visitors to follow while they are on your site. Sitemaps will also increase rankings and placement within the Search Engines.