Web design is a complex and evolving field that requires both creativity and technical skills that take years of experience to with multiple software programs and technologies to be able to deliver a professionally built, quality website. Sure, there are cheap DIY website options available primarily because of their low cost. But the saying: “You get what you pay for” is especially true for those DIY websites. Cymax Media has seen countless small businesses who have literally wasted their time and money on those DIY sites only to hire us to build a professional website that looks great and delivers real results. Bottom line…if you want a truly professional looking website – hire a pro. Having built more than 1000 websites we wanted to share some tips and tricks we use to help build quality websites. There are many tips and tricks that can help you create a better web design, but some of them might be overlooked or forgotten. Here are several web design tips that are backed by many years of design experience and research that will help you build better websites:
Study the Competition – We recommend our clients study competitor websites (even those that are out-of-state) and offer similar products or services to what they do. Learn from what top competitors have in terms of design, content and navigation is valuable. Such a study will help educate clients on what they like, what works and what doesn’t for them.
Listen to your Client – Listen to what your client doesn’t like with their current website. Find out what their goals and priorities are. Some clients need to target 2 or 3 different market segments. Other clients are wanting SEO to play an important role going forward. Learn and discover what their needs are and how you can best help them.
Wireframe – We can save a lot of wasted time by collaborating with our clients in creating a rough layout (or wireframe) of the basic structure of the website. Get a list of the web pages needed, their order and hierarchy and figure out what the featured items and hot topics are and where they should be placed in the navigation and on the home page. We’ve had clients send us photos of scribbled out menus and layouts on napkins as well as Powerpoint, Word and snapshots of other websites. We will eventually digest all those inputs and create a home page design in Photoshop which we’ll tweek until everyone is happy. For most people, seeing a design and layout is the fastest way for all parties to get on the same page. Move this…move that…change the color…no problem. Only after we get the approval of our Photoshop design will we start to code the website. Many web design companies will just grab a template and call it done. However, we prefer to build custom web sites for all our clients.
Use a visual hierarchy – A visual hierarchy is the arrangement of elements on a web page according to their importance. We almost always have the logo up top, website navigation next and a visual element to catch the eye soon to follow. The most important information is placed near the top. Such visual hierarchy helps users scan and understand your content quickly and easily. You can create a visual hierarchy by using different sizes, colors, contrasts, alignments, and positions for your elements. For example, you can make your headlines larger and bolder than your body text, or use a bright color for your contact or call-to-action buttons.
Keep it simple – Simplicity is one of the key principles of good web design. A simple web design is easier to navigate, load, and use. It also reduces cognitive load and distractions for your users. To achieve simplicity, you can follow the rule of “less is more” and remove any unnecessary elements, features, or information from your web page. You can also use white space, grids, and consistent layouts to create a clean and organized look.
Functionality first – Many web design companies get carried away with their own abilities to do fancy “stuff” that might impress other web developers. However, its much more important that your web developer focus on “functionality” first. Design second. Yes, we all want a sharp looking website – but if your website visitors are struggling to find the information they need because some “super-extravagant” navigation system which is too confusing – you’re losing money at that point.
Make it responsive – Responsive web design is the practice of making your web page adapt to different screen sizes, devices, and orientations. It ensures that your web design looks good and works well on any device, from desktops to smartphones. Responsive web design can improve user experience, accessibility, and SEO. To make your web design responsive, you can use flexible grids, media queries, and relative units (such as percentages or ems) to adjust your layout and content according to the screen size.
Use clear and concise copy – The words you use on your web page are as important as the visual elements. Your copy should communicate your message clearly and concisely to your users. It should also match your tone, voice, and brand identity. To write clear and concise copy, you can use short sentences and paragraphs, active voice, simple words, bullet points, headings, and subheadings. You can also use tools like Hemingway or Grammarly to check your readability and grammar.
Optimize your images – Images are powerful tools to enhance your web design and convey your message visually. However, images can also slow down your web page loading speed and affect your performance. To optimize your images, you can use the right format (such as JPEG for photos or PNG for graphics), the right size (not too large or too small), and the right compression (to reduce file size without losing quality). Most pros will use tools like Photoshop or website plugins like Smush or ImageOptim to compress images.
Understand your target market – If your target market are CEOs visiting your website on desktops from their corporate offices make sure your desktop design is your primary focus. On the other hand if you audience is mostly visiting your website on a mobile device make sure to optimize your site for those mobile users. If the website is serving the healthcare of financial industries don’t go crazy using extreme colors or making a wild design that would appeal to teens or skateboarders.
Use contrast and color psychology – Contrast and color psychology are two aspects of web design that can influence how users perceive and react to your web page. Contrast is the difference between two colors or shades that makes them stand out from each other. Color psychology is the study of how colors affect human emotions and behaviors. You can use contrast and color psychology to create a visually appealing web design that also conveys your message and mood. For example, you can use a high contrast between your background and text colors to improve readability, or use warm colors (such as red or orange) to create a sense of urgency or excitement. Consider making your contact buttons a bright or contrasting color that stands out easily from the rest of your design.
Test it with real users – Testing is an essential part of web design that can help you evaluate and improve your web design based on real user feedback. Testing can help you identify any problems or issues with your web design that might affect user experience, satisfaction, or conversion. Test your website on your smartphone, desktop and smaller laptops. You can test your web design with real users by using methods such as usability testing (where you observe how users interact with your web page), A/B testing (where you compare two versions of your web page to see which one performs better), or surveys and interviews (where you ask users for their opinions and suggestions). Of course the most important users are your clients – get them involved early and often!
Keep learning and improving – Web design is a dynamic and evolving field that requires constant learning and improvement. You can keep learning and improving your web design skills by staying updated with the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in web design. You can also learn from other web designers by browsing their portfolios, reading their blogs, or following them on social media. You can also seek feedback from your peers, clients, or mentors, or join online communities and forums where you can share your work and ideas. Also, for what its worth, we don’t get too carried away too much by some hot, new animation or design technique. We’ve seen way too many websites that were built by developers trying to impress other developers…instead of serving up an easy-to-use website that brings leads and makes their client’s money. If your design isn’t going to help your client successful and make money – don’t bother building it. If you need a pro – give Cymax Media a call – we can help you!