Epsilis Hertfordshire Web Designers since 1999 – over 15 years of Web Design Experience
A well designed and carefully structured website is an asset to any business, a poorly designed website is more than likely to be a liability. We aim for :
Interesting Content + Good Looking Design + Intelligent Coding = A Better Website by Design
… which all leads to an effective website designed to work well for people and rank highly in search engines.
Here are some aspects of Web Design to consider:
- Target Audience – who is the website aimed at? Approach it from their perspective rather than yours
- Content – what you want to say or more relevant, what does your target audience want to know?
- Presentation – your brand – the overall look of the site and the way everything is laid out on a page for clarity.
- Search Engines – what are your target Keywords? Build for search engine optimisation from the start, this should not be an after-thought.
- Navigation, Organisation and Structure – how do pages relate to each other so visitors can easily find what they are looking for.
- Site Maintenance – do you want to be able update your site yourself or would you prefer to let a web designer do this for you?
Web Design for your Target Audience
Web design should be approached from the perspective of the target audience rather than from the perspective of the website owner. The website should be written in the language of the visitor (which is fundamental for search engine optimisation as well as good marketing). It should relate to the audience and must be easy to use, it should be logical and present information clearly.
If there are several different target audiences it is probably best to sub-divide the website into suitable sections for each. Otherwise it is most likely that it will not be focussed on the right audience.
Content: copy, the most important element of Web Design
Text copy is the primary concern of most web sites. It plays an important role in communicating with your visitors, customers and achieving good Search Engine Rankings.
I cannot stress enough the importance of good quality copy – without this you are wasting your time and money on a poor website that isn’t going to help your business.
This is where you should put in the most effort. You know your business better than anyone else – you know what is important to you, what is your niche, who your target customers are, what you want to sell to them, what is your competitive advantage. These plus your knowledge and experience make you unique. So you are the best person to write your copy – generally we would advise you not to delegate this to someone who does not know your business – but you may need help. We have experience in creating effective content for people and search engines and can advise you and work with you to help you stand out from the crowd – or if you really need someone else to do this for you we can recommend someone.
This is your message, your marketing … this is so important I have written a series of separate articles covering what to say and how to say it starting with … Copywriting for your web site.
Website Presentation: your brand, the look and page layout
Your website is your shop window to the world. The image that you want to present is important and your brand should reflect this and should be consistent across all media for immediate recognition.
Modern websites are clean, uncluttered, focussed on the main message with large text, plenty of white space with relevant high quality images. This is because:
- modern websites are designed to also work on small screens devices like smart phones and tablets (called responsive design)
- research shows that web pages are more effective if they are focussed on their main purpose with the minimum of clutter and distraction
Design or Content – Which comes first?
Most web design projects start with some pictures of what a website could look like. It is difficult to get away from the fact that everyone likes to see some graphic designs to help them decide what their website should look like. It also makes a certain amount of sense from the web designers perspective to sort out the look of the website before concentrating on creating all the web pages.
The trouble is that this can mean too much emphasis is put on the look of the website at the expense of the content.
Design should fit around content, not visa-versa so you are going to get a better website if you put thought into content first before we create designs.
Use of Graphics
Some graphics are essential, like pictures of products and they should be high quality (but optimised for web use) to give the best impression and aid selling. Other graphics have their place and are useful in creating a more appealing design and break-up text but for the most part they are of secondary concern. It is better to use bespoke images or your own photos (as long as they are high quality) or photos taken for you by a professional photographer rather than commonly used stock images if you can.
Web Design for Search Engines
Traditionally SEO was about making a better job of fooling the search engine into pick your site than your competitors. There were lots of trick of the trade and consequently many people thought SEO had little to do with their actual website and was something that went on in the background. However Google has made lots of progress recently in better understanding the quality and popularity of website content so those days have gone. SEO now is basically about 2 things:
- The quality of your website – A good website with lots of interesting, unique (ie different to your competitors) and useful content from your target audiences perspective, that is regularly being updated. ALSO is following the latest standards for coding that is optimised for search and mobile devices.
- Off-site marketing – Lots of offsite ongoing marketing – primarily social media based.
So not building Search Engine Optimisation into a web site from the start is going to severely handicap results. We suggest you start by making a list of keyword phrases relevant to your site and build content around them.
You can read more on our Search Engine Optimisation services here.
Navigation, Organisation and Structure
When a site has 5 pages this is not particularly relevant – when a site has 50 pages then this needs some serious thought. The key is that your site users – your target audience – can easily find what they are looking for. They are not you, they do not know what you know and they will not be as familiar with your business and what you are trying to say as you are. So the site organisation needs to be logical from their perspective.
A clear and logical website structure helps visitors get the most out of your web site.
Common practice has created certain expectations about website navigation and following the common practices helps visitors. Common navigation throughout the website helps visitors through familiarisation.
- Horizontal navigation dropdown bars (with a small number of top level navigation links) are now the norm for most new sites. They are focussed on the important parts of the site from the audience’s perspective and leave more room on the business part of the page for content to be presented in an uncluttered fashion.
- Too many links on one page tends can be overwhelming (and dilute SEO), so a logical structure is required for sites with more than a hand-full of pages to break the site into areas.
- Bread crumbs showing people where they are can be helpful for deeply layered websites.
- Sitemaps help visitors and search engines find all pages and text menus at the bottom of pages are an additional aid for long pages.
- A search facility provides visitors with another option to find what they are looking for.
Internal linking between pages is an important feature of website navigation and SEO. It allows visitors to find related information quickly.
Site Maintenance – Do you want to be able Update Your Site Yourself?
Websites should be updated regularly to make them more effective – out of date sites tend to perform more poorly as time goes on.
Updates keep it fresh and current for your visitors and tell the search engines that your website is worth checking on more regularly.
If you want the ability to update your website yourself without a lot of technical know-how then having a WordPress based website is the obvious choice. It is one of the easiest CMS to use and by far the most popular content publishing platform in use on the internet.
If you want to update your website regularly (ie at least once a month) and you have the desire to learn some basics of website maintenance then a WordPress site may work well for you.
If not I would suggest you leave your website maintenance to a professional web designer.
Useful Webdesign Checklists
I have created some checklists that may help you prepare for creating a website:
- The website overall: Web Design Checklist
- Specific web pages: Web Page Checklist
- Thinking about an online shop: Ecommerce Checklist
We aim to be friendly and informative, providing all the support and guidance you need to steer you clearly and effectively through the web design process and ensure that you end up with a great website.
If you need help with your website please feel free to give me a ring. Regards
Michael Spencer, Web Designer and WordPress Specialist.
firstname.lastname@example.org – 01462 674840
Epsilis Website Designers – Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire