A friend who runs and owns a travel company had me critique her newly created website a few weeks back. I examined the site just as she requested, scrutinized every page, and read through the copy.
The copy wasn’t a problem. It was well-written, in fact. The design was outdated. And that was putting it mildly. For a new site, it looked like the last time it was updated was several years ago. The navigation was confusing, some of the pages didn’t make sense, and there were phrases on select pages that simply wouldn’t stop blinking.
But because I promised I would be honest and she promised back that she wouldn’t take my words against me, I told her what I really thought.
Design makes your content attractive and engaging.
The statistics cited in Adobe’s The State of Content: Expectations on the Rise report are very telling:
- Given 15 minutes to consume content, 66% of the more than 2,000 study participants would rather view something beautifully designed versus plain and simple.
- 35% switch devices and 38% completely stop engaging when the content’s layout or imagery is unattractive.
- Consumers prioritize display and design when consuming content across their professional and personal lives.
As with any visual medium, for a website to convert, it should immediately grab your audience’s attention. If they so wish, they can leave with just a mouse click, so you want to capitalize on the fact they’re already on your site to browse around.
Website design lets you achieve the right balance of appeal and usefulness, allowing you to successfully deliver the message you intend to convey.
If you overdesign your page to a point that visitors expect more than what you offer, chances are they’ll feel you’re not delivering on your promise. If the design is too plain or simple, or even outdated, they may think you don’t have what they’re looking for.
Again, with great design is the perfect balance of visitor engagement and effective information dissemination.
Website design helps you reach target audiences.
It’s easy to get trapped in all the bells and whistles of website design – fonts and color schemes, the latest design techniques, among other things. But website design isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s about utility and purpose, too.
If you’re serving a certain industry, say, small business software, focus on attracting the people who are in the market for your products and services, i.e., marketing managers or technology investment officers, instead of visits from random surfers. Otherwise, your website is nothing but a random billboard on the side of the road that’s pretty enough to elicit a second glance but with a message too vague to resonate.
Let’s take freelance art director Yul Moreau’s website as an example. From the typography to the cartoon video playing in the background, to the impressive portfolio of completed projects, you know right away that this is an art director worth noticing.
Another example is the website by Freshbooks. It’s clean, slick, and even without scrolling down, you know what the site offers and its intended audience.
Design helps you spread the message.
In a TED Talk by Jacek Utko, a creative director for a business newspaper in Poland, he shared that by redesigning the “boring, old” newspaper, they were able to increase readership and widen their circulation. He said it wasn’t just about the homepage. They treated the entire newspaper as one composition, like music. In the end, function and form became the newspaper’s saving grace.
To spread your message to a wider audience, it pays to perform some tweaks to the medium instead of altering the message. And this principle applies to websites as well.
While the homepage is undoubtedly one of the most important pages of a website, the other pages are equally important, as are the individual elements you choose to employ in its design.
Design guides site users to the desired outcome.
Every design has a purpose, and for most websites, that’s to funnel visitors to a sales page and get them to sign up for a webinar, a free trial, or join an email list. For ecommerce sites, it’s to entice them to purchase at least an item or two from their product catalog.
While that sounds simple enough, the average conversion rate for landing pages isn’t very high – a median 2.35%, with the top 25% converting at 5.31% and higher, according to Search Engine Land.
This is where your call-to-action can make a mark. High-converting CTA buttons possess the following characteristics:
- Contrasting color design. Your CTA button’s color should stand out. It should be striking and difficult to miss.
- Action-oriented. They use action words such as “get,” “discover,” or “register.”
- Concise, clear, and easy to understand. HubSpot suggests between two to five words that tell exactly what the user gets upon clicking.
It’s the era of the customer, and with social media usage becoming more prevalent, the voice of the customer will grow even louder and stronger. Designing your website for the best possible user experience will pay dividends over the long haul.