Driving traffic to your website is only half the battle; the other half consists of ensuring visitors have a good experience on your site.
A well-thought-out website does not only provide relevant information to visitors but is also pleasant to look at and easy to use. Sometimes all the relevant information in the world couldn’t save a website from high bounce rates if it looks like it’s straight out of the 90s or is nonintuitive and difficult to browse.
The success of your website basically boils down to these 3 things:
- Relevant & quality content
- Pleasing aesthetics
- Ease of use
We’ve already gone over a few things about the content of your blog (link 1 & link 2), so today we’re going to look at a few things you can do to make your site look nice, feel intuitive, and even convince visitors to perform the actions you want them to.
Here’s the rundown of what we’ll be going over:
- Avoid clutter
- Establish a visual hierarchy
- Improve readability and use simple words
- Make navigation easy
- Optimize for mobile devices
- Use a clear and descriptive headline above the fold
- Answer visitors’ questions (up to a point)
- Show photos of people
- Use arrows to guide visitors to where you want them (no, really)
- Write the most important things at the beginning and end of lists
Alrighty then, without further ado, let’s jump in.
1. Avoid clutter
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and I’d say fairly common sense. No one likes clutter, be it in their homes, their lives, or the beautiful site they’re reading this on.
When I say clutter, though, I don’t just mean visually (think stuffing tons of different elements on your page), but also from a content perspective. The gist of it is people don’t want to read; they don’t want to visit a website and feel like they’ve opened an online encyclopedia. You don’t want them feeling like browsing your website is a chore.
Keep sentences short, use key words often, and sprinkle some images throughout your content to space it out a little and make reading easier. Now try to do this while also getting across all the crucial details you want them to know.
2. Establish a visual hierarchy
Visual hierarchy is a principle of design that serves to help display content on websites in a clear and effective manner. It should help you lead visitors’ attention to specific elements in a page in order of priority, beginning with the most significant.
To influence where your visitors are looking and point them wherever you want, you should typically make use of:
- Size – the size of elements (e.g. large headlines)
- Position – where elements are positioned vertically (e.g. at the top of the page or at the bottom)
- Color – influence visibility (e.g. low contrast and not that noticeable vs. strong contrast and unique colors)
- Format – either text, images or icons, animations or video, etc.
- Position relative to other elements – the more crowded together elements are, the least likely a visitor is to pay attention to any one of them
Combining several of these aspects should enhance the effect and do a better job of attracting visitors’ attention.
3. Improve readability and use simple words
Improving readability means making it easier for people to recognize words or sentences and effortlessly skim through your website’s content and take in information.
Readability can be improved through:
- Contrast – the contrast between text and the background is obviously very important for readability. Make sure that the text is very clearly visible and if you’re using colors for the text and/or background, make sure the contrast between them isn’t tiring on the eyes.
- Text size – small fonts may prove difficult to read for some people, so it is typically a good idea to use larger body text, maybe around 16pts. This also depends on the font you’re using, though.
- Fonts – you probably already know this, but some fonts are simply easier to read than others. Typically, sans serif fonts are the way to go for longer online texts. Also a good rule of thumb is to not use more than three different fonts throughout your website.
4. Make navigation easy
Ease of navigation is important for two reasons: the first and most obvious one is because you want visitors to quickly and easily find whatever it is they’re looking for on your website. You clearly don’t want frustrated visitors getting lost on there. The second reason is Google itself (and other search engines) has an easier time indexing your website if your navigation is solid.
Let’s take a look at what easy navigation means:
- Link from your logo to the homepage. This is just common practice that’s been around since forever. Visitors will expect to be able to go to your homepage just by clicking/tapping your logo, so be sure to add that hyperlink.
- Whether you use a navigation bar or a hamburger menu to access navigation, make sure it’s easy to spot. The navigation menu is typically located in a bar at the top of the website or inside a hamburger menu in the top right corner.
- If you have a tall website, consider using a vertical navigation menu as well. This should allow visitors to quickly jump from one section of the page to another. It’s good practice to also include a “Back to Top” button in the bottom right corner of the page that becomes visible after you scroll for a while.
- Add navigation to your footer as well. After visitors go through a page, they’ll likely need a way to browse the rest of your website from the bottom of that page. The footer typically contains contact information, social media icons, and a full or shortened version of the navigation menu containing the most important links.
5. Optimize for mobile devices
This one's pretty self-explanatory: you want your visitors to enjoy your website regardless of what device they’re using. With most traffic to your website likely coming from mobile devices like smartphones, you’ll no doubt want to cater to their needs.
Not only that, but Google also favors mobile friendly websites in searches performed from mobile devices, so don’t lose out to the competition by not properly optimizing your website to suit all your visitors’ needs.
For more on optimizing your website for mobile devices,check out Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Devices in 9 Easy Steps.
6. Use a clear and descriptive headline above the fold
Instead of writing something clever or somewhat vague like some marketers choose to do, you could write something with a clear and descriptive message, so visitors who land on your page aren’t left wondering if they’re in the right place or not.
The headline is also a good place to use keywords. While you don’t want it to be too long, if you manage to write something short, descriptive, and use a keyword, you’ve nailed your headline.
Now there’s been some debate over whether “the fold” is still a thing, what with the myriad of devices and screen sizes nowadays. I’d argue that it still is, only it’s evolved to occupy multiple positions, depending on the device used.
In order to account for this shift in the fold’s position, optimization is required. Showing the information you want above the fold means taking into account several screen size ranges and optimizing your website for each, ensuring everything you want visible on the initial page landing is always visible regardless of visitors’ devices.
7. Answer visitors’ questions (up to a point)
Naturally, you’ll want the people who visit your website to find the information they need so they don’t feel frustrated or dissatisfied with the experience. At the same time, however, you don’t want to turn your website into a knowledge base.
While you do need to answer essential questions and maybe more beyond that, sometimes a little mystery is good, but only in the sense that you get people more curious and interested in what you’re offering and getting them to contact you. While it might prove tricky, it’s worth finding a way to get people curious enough that they’ll want to contact you instead of getting them frustrated and wanting to leave.
The goal of this approach is to ultimately get talking to potential leads. I’d argue that if you managed to get them to contact you for more information, that’s half the battle won and now the second part of the sales pitch begins, and you’re talking directly to them, so put those persuasion skills to good use.
On the flipside, there are arguments and proven cases where tall pages that provide as much information as possible have increased conversion rates by triple digits. I’d argue that there is no one right approach that will always win against the other. Instead, it’s up to you to figure out what would work best for your business, depending on what it is you do.
8. Show photos of people
Case studies have shown that photos of people can make a website seem friendlier and more personal, while driving up conversion rates. I’d say everyone agrees that a more human touch does make a website more appealing, especially when you’re trying to get visitors to interact with you.
I’d say this is especially important when you have testimonials on your website (which you really should). Photos of people will make them seem more believable and relatable than just seeing a block of text saying how good you are at doing what you do.
However, avoid using stock photos. The main reason for this is that if you’re using them, who knows how many other websites have also used them in the past. It’s not once that I’ve visited a website and looked over their testimonials only to see familiar faces with different names supporting that business, and you may have experienced this too. If you have, you know how much this hurts a business’s credibility.
The best thing to do is use photos of real people (even if it’s not for testimonials) and try to make them seem as genuine as possible. It may not be easy, but it’s worth it.
9. Use arrows or other visual cues to guide visitors to where you want them (no, really)
It might sound a bit silly, but I’m serious: arrows do work. They’re not that uncommon, either. You’ve likely seen them implemented and even been influenced by them a few times.
If you want visitors to look at or focus at a specific element on your page (like a form or a button), a seemingly hand drawn arrow could do just the trick.
Alternately, depending on what it is you’re drawing attention to, you could use different visual cues, like animations. Movement will always draw visitors’ attention and as long as you don’t make it too overt or annoying, it will get them exactly where you want them.
10. Write the most important things at the beginning and end of lists
Alrighty, it’s time to get scientific up in here. There’s something called the serial-position effect, and what this basically describes is people’s tendency to best notice and remember the first and last items in a list, while those toward the middle are way less likely to make an impression.
As such, whenever you’re about to write a list, it would be best to include the most important items either at the beginning, in the first 2 or 3 items, or at the end, in the last 2 or 3 items.
Well, that’s it, those are the 10 items in our list. But wait, hold on to your hats, folks! We here at Coumba Win are all about subverting expectations and pleasantly surprising people, so I’ve got another two bonus items on this list to help you design the bestest website ever.
11. Provide proof of legitimacy and quality services
Speaking of science, there’s also scientific reasons to include testimonials on your website. The conformity bias describes our tendency to do what others are doing, so genuine testimonials from real people (with real photos, remember?) can go a long way toward convincing potential leads to convert.
Give visitors proof that not only are you legitimate, but so are your claims that you’re nothing short of the best. Testimonials are the most common way to do this, but to really drive it home, think about getting endorsements from people of influence, reviews of your products or services, and even showcase media coverage if you have any. Also add social media widgets that show the size of your following if you can find a way to seamlessly integrate them into your design, as well as trust seals, awards, association memberships, stuff like that.
Anything you can think of that is relevant and will help with your business’s credibility is definitely something you should use.
For the best results, maybe don’t make a dedicated testimonials page as those tend to not get much traffic. Instead, sprinkle them throughout your website so visitors come upon them whether they’re looking for them or not, but don’t overdo it; show them just frequently enough to prove your point, don’t stuff them in visitors’ faces every chance you get.
12. Focus on ease of use
We’ve already touched on this in #4, but it’s so important it’s worth mentioning again. Your website needs to be clutter-free, intuitive, and easy to use. Visitors need to feel at home even if they’re visiting your website for the first time.
If they instinctively know where everything is and it all feels familiar to them, that automatically makes for a great browsing experience, which you no doubt want your visitors to have.
One thing you can do is test your site’s usability/accessibility by having people who aren’t web designers try it out and get a feel for it, maybe give them a few tasks like find some pieces of information and get their thoughts on the experience.