We all know that there are good websites out there and bad websites out there, but what does this knowledge have when you are a business owner? It does a lot if you do not act on the knowledge. Having a good website affects your bottom line because it is how you retain visitors. How often do you go to a website, take one look, and click off of it as fast as you got there? I venture to say fairly often. If you as a user are likely to click away from a website because of appearance alone, how are your users going to react to your website? The good news is there is hope, make sure your website follows good design principles and is appealing. Websites that do this have a much higher retention rate as well as much higher user interaction rate.
Interestingly enough, Facebook relies on good design techniques to retain users. In a report put out by ComputerWorld, it is stated:
“Even if only 1 percent of the users were dissatisfied, that would still represent close to 10 million users,” Chilana said. “Most software companies don’t even have a user base of 10 million users. So you can imagine the impact of [Facebook’s] design choices can be enormous.”
[Jackson, Joab – “Study: Facebook relies on good design to retain users”, ComputerWorld, 9 May 2012; http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9227032/Study_Facebook_relies_on_good_design_to_retain_users]
As indicated by the impact that design has on Facebook, design has a big influence on how we perceive the websites we interact with. What does the impact of one visitor have on your much smaller user base? Can one potential user make a big impact on your bottom line? Every user should count.
To improve your websites appeal, and its overall design quality, you should make sure your website meets several design guidelines. These guidelines have driven and molded design through the years and will continue to do so.
Most importantly, your website should be user friendly. There is a long standing book in the web design industry by Steve Krug titled: Don’t Make Me Think. This book was originally published in 2000, but has managed to withstand the test of time – more than a decade (with only two revisions) – because of the principles it teaches. The best ways to make a website user friendly are to focus on these key areas: navigation, placement of important information, and white space.
One of the most important things about usability on a website is navigation. If your website is not easy to navigate, people are going to leave. If people cannot get to your information, they are not going to struggle to find it. The internet age is touted as being the “instant gratification” age for a reason because we can click a link and we are instantly rewarded for our efforts. If we do not like our “reward” we can click our back button and we have “lost nothing” for our efforts. We do this at alarming rates if we cannot find what we are looking for. Internet users skim to find what they are looking for so make every word count. Your navigation should be clear and precise. Your information should not be buried under layers and layers of other navigation links. Take the time to strategically plan out your navigation.
Along with your navigation goes the important placement of items. It is critical that you place items that are most important in the areas that the eye will naturally flow to. This placement will be guided by other design principles such as the weight of the element. The items weight can be driven by things such as color, size, etc. How well balanced your website is will influence what things get seen on the screen versus what items do not get seen. When looking at your website, take a few steps back and look at it from a distance. What do you see first? What items do your eyes see first, second, third, etc. as they flow across the screen? Do you have to force your eyes to see certain items? Are these items important. Paying attention to design elements such as balance will help.
You should not ignore the concept of white space. Often you will come to websites that are loaded with so much information that you do not know where to begin. The question is, why? There is so much more space to work with, why crowd it all onto a single screen? Why bombard your users with everything at first? Give them a taste of the information and invite them to explore more. White space (regardless of its actual color) is good for directing the eye, providing a welcoming feeling, and helping calm. It soothes users and prevents that overwhelming feeling. Do not be afraid of open space on your website, use it to your advantage.
Good design will encourage your users to stay and look around. It will build confidence and gives them a sense that you can be trusted. The easier it is for them to perform their tasks, whatever they may be, the more likely they are to complete them and ultimately complete a sale or become a paying customer. They could also become your best word of mouth advertiser if your information is valuable and shareable.