What makes a great web design? For some it may be that it provides an exceptional interactive experience, for others it could be that it has a beautiful design or appearance. How a website looks is probably the most important aspect to many new website owners but that is far from the truth.
The truth is, the vast majority (over 75%) of website users rate a great web design as something that ‘makes it easy for me to find what I want’. Now, what does that mean?
That is why we’re here. Today, we will go back to the basics and explore all the aspects of what makes a great web design.
What Makes a Great Web Design Today
What makes a great web design or even a good web design today is vastly different than what makes a great website in 2010 or even 2015. There are a number of reasons why:
Rise of Mobile Devices
More and more people are accessing the internet via mobile phones today. Globally, using mobile devices to access the internet overtook desktop in 2014. However, accessing the Internet via mobile phones has a few weaknesses, namely slower speed as 2G and 3G while adequate
So what makes a great website today should cater for both mobile and desktop devices.
Different Systems and Size Screens
Besides mobile phones and PCs, people access websites in a wide variety of devices today including tablets and smart TVs. A great website should offer exceptional usability to not one but to all users behind these devices.
Along with the growth of mobile devices is the method in which search is conducted. Voice search from mobile phones and smart speaker home assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa are becoming a way of life and take up a major part of overall search.
Search Algorithm Changes
How high your website is positioned in search engines such as Google and Bing can be improved by SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. Search engines change their ranking algorithms hundreds of times a year. In fact, Google changed their ranking algorithm over 3000 times in 2018. In their search quality ratings outline, they stated E.A.T (Expertise, Authenticity and Trust) as one of their main ranking factors.
Rise of Privacy Concerns
Today, not a day goes by without your inbox being spammed by junk or even fraudulent mail. The security of a website is more important than ever before, especially so if your website sells a product or provides medical products or advice.
Three Aspects That Makes a Great Web Design Today
Having discussed the above technological and social changes, it can be said that a modern website provides a solution to all those problems.
In our experience, a great web design in 2019 must contain three things that makes it easy for visitors to find what they want:
Technical Aspects – Covers the unseen, technical parts of the website including features, loading speed, and security amongst other things.
Content Aspectss – Includes what’s actually on the website including photos and written content and blog.
Design Aspects – The actual design and layout of your website.
Web Design Technical Factors
The technical factors of a great website includes all the behind the scenes aspects of a website that will make it run smoothly and safely including the speed, mobile responsiveness and security.
It is arguably the most important aspect to consider when you are purchasing new web design or redesigning an existing one. This is because if you want your website to rank well on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing, these are the major factors they take into account when ranking your website against your competitors.
The longer your website takes to load, the higher the abandon rate. As a general rule, try to have your website load under 3 seconds, any longer and your visitors abandon rate skyrockets.
How fast your website loads depends on a number of things. The connection speed and server it is hosted in, the way the website was built and the content of the website itself.
Most of these things you can change so that your website loads faster. The easiest thing you can do that can make a significant difference is the size of your pages especially the images and videos because they take up the majority of time to load.
Remember this, no matter how good your website is, if it loads very slowly, there’s a chance your visitors will abort your website.
To check the speed of your website, you can visit Google Pagespeed Insights.
Below are some factors that affect your how fast your website loads:
Website Hosting and Server
Number of connections to a shared host, number of people accessing your website and the bandwidth your hosting plans provides are some important factors to take into consideration when deciding which website hosting you want to purchase.
Local hosting – if you’re main customers are in Australia then it makes sense to host your website in Australia otherwise consider overseas hosting or a CDN for your overseas customers.
Amount of Plugins
The number of plugins on a web page can have a huge affect on its loading speed. Fancy and more complex plugins such as animated slides take longer to load.
A great web design will strike the perfect balance between functionality and design.
Website Mobile Responsiveness
Visitors access your website from a wide range of devices from smartphones to tablets to smart TVs. A great web design should provide your visitors with the same high level of experience no matter the device they use.
Mobile responsiveness makes this all possible and is in fact a Google ranking factor.
If your website is not mobile responsive, it will be given a penalty compared to other similar websites that has when it comes to search engine rankings.
You can use a mobile friendly test to see if your website is mobile responsive.
Whether or not a website is trustworthy depends on the security of a website. Security also another ranking factor where search engines like Google and Bing uses to rank your website against your competitors.
An easy way to increase the security of your website is to get a SSL (secure socket layer) certificate to prevent unauthorised eavesdropping on your website.
If your website sells things or have a shopping cart then SSL is a requirement.
In fact, Google marks websites not using SSL as ‘not safe’.
To determine if your website has SSL, check your URL address bar for for padlock and if it contains “https” rather than just “http” or “www” as seen below
Website vulnerability via outdated code and plugins present some of the easiest ways for a hacker to cause mischief.
If you’re using a CMS such as WordPress or Joomla, it is important to install plugins that are regularly updated and have a good rating and support.
If a plugin makes the website too sluggish or vulnerable to attack, it is worthwhile to build your own. Plugins are quite handy but they come along with all sorts of risks.
Consider private server
If your website is hosted in a shared hosting environment as with many small businesses and startups, you are essentially grouped together. This means many websites are sharing the same server and IP address. This can lead to problems.
For one, if there’s a security breach or infection, all websites under the one shared host could get infected.
If one website is blacklisted for email spamming the whole subnet can be blacklisted as well.
A private server or VPS solves these problems but is more expensive and harder to setup and maintain.
Website user access rights
Depending on the technology your website is built on, users will be given certain privileges and access rights depending on their interaction and contribution to your websites.
For instance, a user who only contributes to writing your blog should NOT have access to your administrative areas.
Setting the correct user access rights goes a long way to protecting your website.
Having a backup plan that regularly saves your website updates and changes ensures your website will always have something to fall back to should disasters strike.
Web Design Content Factors
Content is extremely important and is the foundation of any great web design today. A website should provide content that is useful for your visitors depending on the nature of your website.
This could be an in-depth article on a health and fitness magazine website or amazing photos on a travel blog.
Why is Content Important on a Website?
Content is one of the most important ranking factors search engines such as Google uses to compare your website to your closest competitors.
Indeed, it is rare to find a top ranking website with few or shallow contents.
Good content is used to keep your visitors engaged and reduce the bounce rate of your website.
Constant new content provides an excuse for existing members to return to your website and share valuable information to their peers.
Great content in particular can attract links to your website. A link to your website is like a real world recommendation and is a major ranking factor for SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.
Content Marketing is strategically using content that visitors like to read and share to gain new members and influence purchasing decisions.
Content Marketing and SEO go hand in hand.
What Content Should My Website Have?
That will depend on the purpose of your website. Is it to educate or entertain? Is it a ‘sexy’ product you’re selling or is it a solution to a business problem? These will greatly influence what content you should have on your website. Content could be text, photos or video.
For a great web design, some vital content will likely include:
Having a clear and easy to navigate to contact page will allow your visitors to contact you for sales support, technical enquiries or any other queries they may have.
You should have your contact information on the footer of every page.
Having a testimonials section or page provides social proof and should be a part of every great web design.
While keywords may not play as key a role as they’re used to due to semantic search, they are still important to place in important pages such as your homepage.
Correctly labeled images
Search engines cannot read images like humans can. In order to make the image relevant to your web page or article, you must correctly label them. The most important aspects are the name of the image file and the alt text.
Web Design Design Factors
Noticed how we put design factors last?
This is because while a website design and look is important and often the first thing a visitor notices, the design of a website itself has very little to do with how search engines will rank it.
As long as the website serves its purpose, even a badly designed website can still serve its purpose albeit sacrificing a bit of professionalism.
However, a good design allows your user to find things faster and greatly improves usability.
DIY Web Design vs Hired Web Developer
With many DIY website platforms nowadays, it is not hard to stumble on something you might like. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of DIY website makers below:
Pros of a DIY website builder:
Many DIY website makers cost very little or free for basic features. This is often offset by placing ads or banners on your website or not having your own domain name etc.. How do they make money? Don’t worry, we’ll get into that later.
DIY website builders typically use a drag and drop interface to allow its users to easily arrange images and text areas. So typically you don’t need any coding skills for common tasks.
Most DIY website builders come with pre-designed or templates that you can choose from so you can easily design and set up a new website relatively quickly.
They also have many existing stock photos for you to choose from no matter the industry you’re in.
Cons of a DIY website builder
Using a DIY website builder means you forgo all the technical, content and design aspects that web developers take into consideration when designing a website.
In some instances, DIY have ambiguous agreements on who the website belong to. If you violate their terms and conditions they have the right to delete your website.
There are always fees that you have to pay if you want certain advanced features such as your own domain name, or more space.
DIY website builders typically cater to small scale websites and functions which means upgrading in the future can be a problem. You do not want to tear down your old website and build a new one on a new platform – this will put a damper on your operations and could severely damage your search engine rankings.
A great web design should take the scalability part of your website into consideration from the very beginning. This means planning for future upgrades and expansions when your business grows.
In general DIY website builders lack sophistication in many areas such as feature customisation and SEO. If you plan on adding website features such as a blog, forum, booking software etc.. a DIY website builder should NOT be your first priority.
It is no surprise that large companies are not built on free DIY website builders.
Support for DIY website builders will depend on the DIY platform. Not as many developers will know the ins and outs of a DIY website builder because they are a closed platform. This means support not through the platform will not be as readily available.
Designer Expertise – Another often mislooked aspect of choosing a DIY website builder is the person behind the DIY project. Do they have the knowledge and design experience to distinguish what looks good and bad. Do they know what converts a visitor to a customer and what deters a visitor from purchasing or taking action.
A great web designer is not made overnight.
So in Summary, Choose DIY Website Builder if You:
Want to dabble your toes in web design before you take the plunge
Have limited budget and not planning to upgrade later and OK with basic features.
Want something quick and easy to setup without much planning
Are OK with a generic website design
Know exactly what you want and the DIY website builder have everything included
Are confident of your design abilities and have experience in converting visitors to customers
DON’T Choose a DIY Website Builder if You:
Don’t want to do everything yourself. Obivously, a DIY website means you have to learn and build everything yourself.
Have a small budget but want advanced features. DIY websites may end up costing more in the long term as most DIY website builders charge a monthly fee on top of additional features fees.
Are planning to upgrade website later whether due to advanced feature or unique designs
Believe your business will grow in future
Want a unique web design. DIY website builders may have hundreds of templates to choose from but they will not be unique only to you.
Want control and freedom to customise everything.
Are sitting on the fence. Better to go with more features than regret later.
- Interesting stat: Only 3% of all websites are built with DIY website builders. Many citing the lack of digital marketing expertise, tech support and accountability as reasons why they chose a professional developer or agency instead of DIY website builders.
A layout that makes it easy for your visitors to find what they’re looking for should be a part of every great web design. All information must be accessible in no more than 3 clicks.
While there are many components to a website, the homepage is undeniably the most important. It is the homepage that you will get the most clicks and most links to.
Layout of a good homepage
We’ve come a long way in web design and with new technology comes the opportunity to add all the flashy elements and bells and whistles to a website.
However, just because you can have access to all the flashy elements doesn’t mean you have to use it. In many cases, less is more.
When the mind is burdened with choice, it freezes.
So, instead of burdening your visitors with choice and information overload, why not cut down on the irrelevant elements and present just your core message?
Strong Unique Sales Proposition (USP) and Clear Call to Action
A strong USP will entice your visitors to notice you. A clear call to action guides your visitors on what to do next, whether it is to contact your business or request more information.
In fact, a clear call to action should be on every page. What do you want your visitors to do after reading that page?
Providing social proof through previous clients list or testimonials conveys trust and can persuade your website visitor to take action.
Easy to see contact button
An easy contact button is essential on the homepage of any website. If you’re a local company then a map showing your business location can be helpful.
A landing page typically means a web page that is deliberately setup for paid advertising such as through Google Ads or social media. The objective of a landing page is often a single call to action or CTA. This often means to obtain a visitors contact information.
As with a homepage, landing pages should go by the principle of less is more. The idea is for the visitor to take an intended action or get out and nothing else.
Therefore a great landing page design should have a clear call to action and minimum distractions including links to other pages and even your main menu to distract your visitors.
When getting your visitors to sign up for something, it is important to note that the fewer fields the visitor has to fill out, the higher the chances of completion.
Below are some call to action depending on the category of the web page:
Blog or Article
Visitors on these pages are looking for information. They are on the research stages and unlikely to purchase your product or service. A good call to action will be to get them to sign up for additional content or share the existing article with their followers.
Products or Services Page
When website users are on this page, this means they are at least interested in the product or service. A free demo or product discount could push them along the sales funnel and produce some good results.
Special Offers Page
Obviously, people on this page are after the offer that you mentioned. So a call to action would be for them to exchange their details for the offer and nothing else.
How else can you make them take action? By setting a limit either through an expiration date or product scarcity.
It’s worth noting that many of these pages will benefit if you have easy to share icons on your page.
What makes a great web design are the components that makes it run smoothly and effectively. These components are the technical, content and design.
A great web design means it’s technically sound so that you get the information to your client as fast, secure and effectively as possible. This means optimising the page speed and be mobile friendly so that users have the same experience no matter what devices they access your website from and ensure your website is safe and secure.
What makes a great web design content wise is that it contains the information that your users will find interesting, entertaining or helpful. Most of all, this content must be able to be found easily on search engines like Google and Bing and be good and in-depth enough to be shared.
The design and layout of the website also has to be optimised so that your users will have optimal user experience. We looked at keeping it simple and avoid distracting your visitors with too many elements and choices. We also explained the most effective ways each of the pages of a website can be constructed to best convert your visitors into members or customers.
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