In today’s market, almost every business, as well as individuals working have their website. But sadly, a large number of these sites are poorly designed or come straight from a WordPress template; this is not going to help you get ahead or stand out.
Good website design is a must in today’s highly visual market. The way your site looks tells users whether they want to interact or do business with you in just a fraction of a second. One glance can or force someone to click away, or turn that person into a customer.
As a bonus, this post is filled with website design inspiration that helps you make your site look good and professional. Here are some of the ways:-
1) First Impressions Matter: Importance of Great Visual Design
When it comes to your website design, first impressions count. It takes just 50 milliseconds (that is 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not, whether they will stay or leave.
This number comes from some specific studies. In the first study, participants twice rated the visual appeal of web homepages presented for 500 ms each. In a follow-up study, they reduced the exposure time to 50 ms. Throughout, visual appeal ratings were highly correlated with one phase to the next as were the correlations between the 50 ms and 500 ms conditions. As a result, visual appeal can be evaluated within 50 ms, signifying that web designers have about 50 ms to make a good first impression
See the statistics here:
- First impressions are 94% design-related. Means it is the prime reason for mistrusting or rejecting a site.
- 75% users make judgments on a company’s credibility based on its website design.
- 88% of users are not likely to return when they have had a bad user experience.
So, it is crucial to make the first impression of your website appealing. It depends on many factors: structure, spacing, colors, symmetry, fonts, amount of text, and more. Focus on these elements to get an interface that attracts customers towards your website. Below are some more tips that help you make good website design:
(A) Visual Appeal More Significant Than Usability for User Insight
A study examined the effects of usability and visual appeal on user performance and satisfaction with a website.
Users completed different tasks on websites which varied in usability (low and high) and visual appeal (high and low). Results show that first impressions are most inclined by the visual appeal of the site. Users gave high interest and usability ratings to sites with high appeal and low usability and interest ratings to sites with a simple appeal. User insights of a simple appeal website were not considerably influenced by the site’s usability even after a successful experience with the website.
Key Benefit: Pay for design – it is what matters the most for pulling users in. Funny enough, a great visual design will lead to higher usability ratings even. And actual usability will matter much less if the overall visual appeal is low.
(B) Eye tracking study identifies key elements
It takes 2.6 seconds for a user’s eyes to land on that area of a website that most influences their first impression.
The researchers monitored students’ eye movements as they scanned the web pages. The researchers then analyzed the eye-tracking data to determine how long it took for the students to focus on specific sections of a page – such as the menu, logo, images and social media icons – before they moved on to another part. They discovered that the better the first impression, the longer the participants stayed on the page.
The website sections that drew the most interest from viewers were as follows:
- The institution’s logo. Users spent about 6.48 seconds focused on this area before moving on.
- The main navigation menu. Almost as famous as the logo, subjects spent an average of 6.44 seconds viewing the menu.
- The search box, where users focused for just over 6 seconds.
- The site’s main image, where users’ eyes fixated for an average of 5.94 seconds.
- The site’s written content, where users spent about 5.59 seconds.
- The bottom of a website, where users spent about 5.25 seconds.
Key Benefit: Good first impression leads to longer visit duration. Make sure the 6 elements listed here look great.
(C) First impressions are 94% design related
British researchers analyzed how different design and information content factors influence trust of online health sites.
The study showed clearly that the look and feel of the website are the primary drivers of first impressions.
Of all the feedback the test participants gave, 94% was about design (complex, busy layout, lack of navigation aids, nursing web design especially make use of color, pop up adverts, slow introductions to a site, small print, too much text, corporate look and feel, poor search facilities). Only 6% of the feedback was about the actual content. Visual appeal and website navigation appeared had by far the biggest influence on people’s first impressions of the site.
At the same time, poor interface design was particularly associated with rapid rejection and mistrust of a website. When participants did not like some aspect of the design, the whole website was often not explored further than the homepage and was not considered suitable.
Similar results were found in a study research for Consumer Web Watch, conducted by Stanford University credibility experts. They found that what people *say* about how they evaluate trust of a website and how they *really* do it are different.
The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues than to its content. For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.
Key Benefit: Great design gets people to trust you and to stick around. Poor design creates mistrust and makes people leave.
(D) Inspiration drives better first impression
A study looking into the role of first impressions in tourism websites found that inspiration-related elements had the greatest impact on the first impression formation. This suggests that visually appealing stimuli is a very important tool for getting people to stay longer on the site and thus converting more visitors into buyers.
Usability was the second most significant driver of first impression formation, followed by credibility.
All in all, this tells us that travelers want to get inspired about a destination (inspiring imagery), they don’t want to waste mental energy on figuring stuff out (usability – don’t make me think) and they want to be sure this travel provider is legit (credibility).
Key Benefit: If you are selling a dream (e.g. the idea of going on a holiday to Fiji), inspiring photography is the leading first impression creator.
(E) Positive first impressions lead to higher satisfaction
In an experiment conducted to study the effects of product expectations on subjective usability ratings, participants read a positive or a negative product review for a novel mobile device before a usability test, while the control group read nothing.
The study revealed a surprisingly strong effect of positive expectations on subjective post-experiment ratings: the participants who had read the positive review gave the device significantly better post-experiment ratings than did the negative prime and nonprime groups. This boosting effect of the positive prime held even in the hard task condition where the users failed in most of the tasks.
Key Benefit: if they “instantly” like your site, they are ready to cut you some slack for any hiccups down the line. It only makes sense to assume that this kind of priming also works the other way – negative first impression decreases the overall satisfaction with your site.
2) Play by the Rules
As a very basic starting point, you need to make sure that you follow web standards. Content nicely aligned, padding even, images high quality…even a ‘boring’ website can be helpful to use if it follows the rules and, therefore, looks tidy. Look into what web designers are saying about content distribution, site sizes and font types. It is all out there for you.
Here are a few very important design considerations to bear in mind:
How clear and simple your menu is can make or break. Your pages need to follow an instinctive, user-targeted route, or you will lose visitors as soon as they feel in the slightest bit disorientated.
Think about what your average user expects. They need a homepage because that is how they will stop themselves getting lost. They need a contact page at the end because it is the last logical step. They need a marker, so they know where they are. And they need everything named and filed in a sensible fashion.
‘Services’ is not a good page name. For a start, it’s hardly showing search engines that it’s a relevant page. What services? Bicycle repairs, circus, acts, underwear design?
More importantly, your visitor is going to make a snap decision to stay or go based on a two-second glance at the page they have landed on. The navigation bar is your visitor’s menu of what you do: give them what they came here for!
(B) Content Importance
Good content is what sets your website apart from the masses and delivers the right message into the hearts and minds of your customers. The success of your website is determined primarily by its content. Ultimately, content wins the wallets of your customers. All other components of your website (design, visuals, videos, etc.) provide a secondary support role. If you have effective taglines, great design will only enhance their effectiveness. The design itself does not sell.
The content of your website should always begin with proper market research. First, you should determine your high-value customers (HVC) and define personas for your website. Then you should determine how you will target them. Taglines and slogans that are customer-centric (i.e., focuses on the needs and wants of the customer) are essential to capturing the attention of your prospective customers. Your taglines must deliver a clear value proposition and include an effective call to action.
The key to a successful website is having clear, relevant and keyword-rich content that delivers the right message with power and conviction. The content on your website should target your audience, engage them and persuade them to take action.
Google has a complete list of web-suitable fonts for a reason: some fonts just don’t work for the web! Even those on the approved list need to be of an appropriate size and color for easy reading. Some quick tips for these are given below:
- White on black is very disgusting to read
- Flashing text is an interruption at best, an instantaneous bounce at worst
- Line height makes a huge difference to how clear your fonts are
- Serif fonts make people think ‘traditional.’
- Sans serif fonts make users think ‘modern.’
Mistakes with fonts can cause your user to skip completely your carefully crafted website, as a consequence missing a large chunk of your sales pitch. Make it simple, make it pleasant.
People are visual. They like to look at images. So just chuck a lot of images on the website, right? No, no, no, don’t ever do this. Poor use of images can be poorer than no images at all, so try to remember these points:
- If your image is very big, it will slow down the loading time of your website. If it is very small, it will be pixelated. Neither are good, and both make web users unsatisfied & annoyed.
- Everyone can spot stock images. There are only so many times that guy in the suit holding the phone can appear on the Internet before it shatters, people. Try to com across a nice, affordable local photographer to do a quick shoot with your premises, but please do not make him take 200 shots of your shot blasting equipment – no one cares. Humans want to look at other humans, preferably smiley ones. If your visitor knows that when they pick up the phone, they are going to get Mick – who looks like a total laugh but very capable with it – they are going to call.
- Why not give some illustrations a go? Info-graphics are so popular right now and give way more details than just a photo. By displaying key information in an attractive and even humorous way, you are increasing your chances of a visitor absorbing the things that will make them buy.
- Make use of the Rule of Thirds. Even the biggest idiot in the world can tell that you get a much more visually pleasing result by cropping an image, so the subject is in the outside 1/3 or 2/3. This can also be utilized to change the balance of a website. Where do you want the visitor’s eye to go?
- A full-width, large main image nearly always looks good. Remember that.
So, that is you started. Everything you can perhaps need to know about websites is out there to be found on someone’s website. But more than that, YOU know what makes a good website. You do – you feel it every day as you are browsing. What makes you buy, what annoys you? Go with it.
3) Make your Website Load Faster
Page loading time is noticeably an important part of any website’s user experience. And many times we will let it slide to put up better aesthetic design, new nifty functionality or to add more content to web pages. Awkwardly, website visitors have a tendency to care more about speed than all the bells and whistles we want to add to our sites. Over and above this, page loading time is becoming a more vital factor when it comes to search engine rankings.
See the statistics here:
- It takes 10 seconds to leave an impression on users to tell them, what you are about, and what you are selling.
- 64% Smartphone users expect websites to load in less than 4 seconds.
- 40% users leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- It takes 2 seconds of delay during transaction for 87% of consumers to abandon the page
- 18% of buyers abandon shopping carts because of slow pages.
- Lost sales from shopping cart abandonment attributed to slow pages: $3 billion.
After observing the statics, surely you will look for the ways to make your website load faster. There are hundreds of ways. In the sections below, we will focus on the effective best practices that yield the most benefit for the least amount of effort.
Step 1: Reduce the size of your page
Overstuffed content takes a long time to download. By reducing the size of your page, you not only boost up your speed, but you also cut the utilized network bandwidth for which your hosting provider charges you.
If you discover your server is not making use of compression, talk to your hosting provider or server admin to turn it on. It is often a simple configuration setting, for example, see the mod_deflate module for Apache, IIS 7 configuration docs.
Moreover, images can often contribute to 80% or more of your total page download size, so it’s very significant to optimize them as well. Follow these best practices to cut down your image size by 50% or more in some cases:
- Don’t utilize PNG images for photos. JPEG images compress photographs to meaningfully smaller sizes with great image quality. For example, on Windows 8 launch day, the Microsoft homepage used a 1 Megabyte PNG photograph when a visually comparable JPEG would have been 140k! Think of all the wasted bandwidth on that one image alone!
- Don’t overuse PNGs for transparency. Transparency is a great effect (and not supported by JPEG), but if you don’t need it, you don’t always need the extra space of a PNG image, especially for photographic images. PNGs work better for logos and images with sharp contrast, like text.
- Correctly set your JPEG image quality. Using a quality setting of 50-75% can significantly reduce the size of your image without noticeable impact on image quality. Of course, each result should be individually evaluated. In most cases your image sizes should all be less than 100k, and preferably smaller.
- Strip out unnecessary metadata from your images. Image editors leave a lot of “junk” in your image files, including thumbnails, comments, unused palette entries and more. While these are useful to the designer, they do not need to be downloaded by your users. Instead, have your designer make a backup copy for their use, and then run the website image versions through a free optimizer like Yahoo’s Smush.It or open source tools like png crush and jpeg than.
Step 2: Reduce the number of browser requests
While “less is more” should be the goal, we understand this is not always possible, so are some added strategies you can employ:
- Enable browser caching. If your page dependencies do not change often, there is no reason the browser should download them again and again. Talk to your server admin to make sure caching is turned on for your images, JS, and CSS. A quick test is to plug the URL of one of your images into redbot.org and look for the header Expires or Cache-Control: max-age in the result. For example, this image of the eBay homepage will be cached by your browser for 28,180,559 seconds (just over one year).
While browser side caching will not speed up the initial page load of your site, it will make a HUGE difference on repeat views, often knocking off 70% or more of the time. You can see this clearly when looking at the “Repeat View” metrics in a WebPageTest test, for example:
- Combine related JS and CSS files. While numerous individual CSS and JS files are easier for your developers to maintain, a lesser number of files can load much faster by your browser. If your files change infrequently, then a one-time concatenation of files is an easy win. If they do change frequently, consider adding a step to your deploy process that automatically concatenates related groups of functionality before deployment, grouping by related functional area. There are pros and cons to each approach, but there is some great info in this Stack Overflow thread.
- Combine small images into CSS sprites. If your website has a lot of small images (icons, buttons, etc.), you can understand noteworthy performance gains by combining them all into a single image file called a “sprite.” Sprites are more stimulating to implement, but can yield significant performance gains for visually rich sites.
Step 3: Reduce the distance to your site
CDN’s work basically like this: you change the URL of your images, JS, and CSS from something like this:
To something like this (as per the instructions were given to you by your CDN provider):
To illustrate, consider the left image (centralized server) vs. the right image (duplicated content around the world):
4) Mobile Responsive
At present, the most effectual way to provide an integrated browsing experience for the mobile segment of your visitors is to take advantage of responsive web design. Even though it is a relatively new concept, it has already turned out to be the go-to choice for savvy marketers and designers who understand the significance of reaching their mobile audience.
What Are The Numbers Saying?
With each passing year, the number of mobile users surfing online is breaking records in leaps and bounds. With this situation, the current trend in the market is that they will be a mainstream online in just a couple of short years.
Not only that, but Google has come out with a guide for website owners, in which it states responsive design is its preferred configuration for mobile websites. And you want to be on Google’s good side since it can single-handedly determine your search rankings and, in turn, your organic traffic numbers.
In addition to this, a recent study by the Aberdeen Group found websites are achieving about 11 percent higher visitor-to-buyer conversion rate increases compared to non-responsive sites, which only receive a 2.7 percent improvement in performance year over year.
Some examples from companies, which include CareerBuilder, FreshSparks and a lot of others, have reported wonderful upturns in their traffic after switching to responsive web design.
The Effect of Responsive Website Design on Mobile Conversions
A large number of companies are reporting their achievement with responsive website design, and it has to turn out to be a trend too difficult to dishonor, even by its harshest opponents. That is because the premise is simple – if a company does not have a design that can effortlessly adapt to any device, its conversion rates from mobile will most likely remain stationary.
But if you still need convincing, here are a few concrete testimonies from companies that found great success with responsive design:
- A company named Bench amplified its mobile conversion rate by 100 percent following the switch to responsive
- Baines & Ernst saw a leap in mobile conversions of more than 50 percent
- A company named Harviestoun received a 28 percent increase in mobile traffic
- State Farm, a huge corporation, received a 56 percent mobile conversion rate increase
Benefits Associated with Responsive Design
Responsive design has gained a lot of advocates because of its advantages compared to other similar solutions:
- One website to build and manage: A strong benefit for companies who update their content frequently, as it is no longer essential to make sure content uniformity in several locations. This benefit also pays dividends in conversion optimization – for example in A/B testing, as there is only one body to conduct tests on. In addition to this, visitors come across a unified brand experience in spite of whether they are making use of a tablet, laptop or smartphone.
- Search engine optimization: All bookmarks and links point to one URL. No wonder Google endorses responsive design.
- Social Media: With responsive design, the URL’s visitors’ encounters are the same irrespective of whether they are browsing with a smartphone, tablet or laptop. That makes sharing content through social media foolproof, as it is sure that the recipients will also be able to look through the content in the most perfect view.
- Analytics: One complete view of all the traffic.
- Future-friendly: Whatever the new trend-setting device might be, responsive design has it covered by shrinking content to fit the resolution of the device.
5) Integrate Social Media to Increase Conversion
Social media is one of the main activities people take part in online. Syncing a social media experience with the products or services your e-commerce store help you increase conversion and can contribute to driving added value to your audience and paying customers alike.
Understanding the psychology of the use of each social network by its users will help better inform the integration of your e-commerce strategy to avoid the mistakes of the past attempts at social integration. Let’s take a look at six ways to effectively add social media to your website:
(A) Place Share Plugins on Product Pages
A commonly utilized feature on e-commerce stores these days is comprising various social sharing buttons on a store’s product pages. This has become more common over the past few years because of the boosted visibility and engagement a Facebook like button or a Twitter tweet button can help generate around a particular product page.
To add these plugins to your e-commerce store, visit the plugins or social buttons section of each major social platform you are interested in incorporating into your product pages. It is suggested that you only select a few social plugins to your product pages.
The resources for the most widely utilized social plugins on e-commerce sites can be found here:
- Facebook Plugins
- Twitter Plugins
- Google+ Plugins
- Pinterest Plugins
When it comes to adding social plugins to your website, there are loads of options to choose from. Most e-commerce stores choose to add Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, since sharing a product or service on those channels fits with the interests and behavior of its users. To further that point, adding a LinkedIn share button to a product page would not be the right fit for encouraging shoppers to share your products on LinkedIn since it does not match the use of that particular platform.
When adding the social plugins to your product pages, add them as close to the image of the product or service you would like them to share as possible in an organized manner.
(B) Share User-generated Social Content Onsite
Most content about your business is generated by fans sharing photos, video and text updates about your products or service, regardless if this content is positive or negative. One way to take advantage of the positive user-generated content about your brand is by highlighting it in an engaging way on your website.
Services like Olapic, Pixlee, Curalate, and others platforms allow businesses to highlight and moderate content from their customers, fans, and followers on their website through a hashtag or about a specific product. Typically displayed in a feed of photos, these images can be highly curated and moderated by the business to show the best of the best fan-generated content. Clothing retailer Black Milk Clothing uses this functionality at the bottom of all its product pages to tie user-generated photos to individual products. For instance, this Panther Maxi Dress on Black Milk’s website is associated with the #bmpanthermaxidress hashtag which then facilitates all photos tagged on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to appear under the dress if the photos from customers are tagged properly.
This functionality assists your customers to get a sense of the popularity of certain items, as well as see how these products can be styled and worn by a real person and not a model. Social media lets you scale the imagery created about your business to other customers to assist further in the buying process and the growth of your company.
(C) Offer Social Sign-In
Visitors to your e-commerce store can create an account on your website to access their profile, view their purchase history, begin filling their cart, make a purchase, and perform a few other functions. Social sign-in allows a user that is already signed into a particular social channel to sign into your website using that channel’s sign-in feature, eliminating the need to enter your username and password.
Facebook is one of the most popular social sign-in integrations seen on e-commerce websites since it is the most widely used social network to date. Social sign-in is beneficial to an e-commerce store to use because research shows that social sign-in users often spend more time on site and purchase more than users who don’t log in with social.
Many users are often concerned about their privacy when it comes to social sign in’s with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and other networks which are why it is important to A/B test two versions of your sign-up page with and without the use of the social sign-in to determine the best conversion rate over time. To see an example of social sign-in in action look at websites like Klout, Pinterest, Fancy, or Fab.
(D) Use Social Based Comment Systems
Social based comment systems like Facebook comments, Livefyre, or Disqus are robust tools for making the experience of commenting on content and having conversations with other commenters more engaging and credible through social verification and amplification on an e-commerce site. Often found on the blog of an e-commerce store, these socially fueled comment systems require commenters to synch one of their social accounts to the tool, so there is a genuine profile linked to your identity as a commenter. This helps in reducing the presence of trolls, but more significantly makes the whole process of commenting more social by sharing engaging thoughts and conversations from the comments right to a user’s favorite social channel.
These social based comment systems have a rating system in place that will bring the most liked or engaged with a comment to the top of the discussion. The thinking behind this technology is that the comments with the most relevant information to a larger demographic must be the most interesting information to be featured front and center. Since the social commenting tools require a social login, there is less of a chance of spam attacking your website through this authentication system.
Commenting tools spur real-time conversations on your e-commerce website since they enable for human-to-human interaction, helping connect a stronger authenticity and reliability to your business. Not to mention, these conversations can quickly scale to be included on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites.
(E) Remind Users to Share across Key Steps of the Buying Process
If done in a proper way, the integration of social media across the entire experience of an e-commerce store can increase the likelihood others will follow in the footsteps of your current customers from the actions they see published on social media. It is very important not to annoy users across social media by over publishing the actions occurring on your website. Focus on reaching a healthy balance of sharing the interesting activities of your web visitors and providing value to users that may see that content on one of their social feeds.
For example, when a visitor books tickets by making use of Eventbrite for an upcoming concert or conference, the website automatically prompts the customer to share that they have purchased event tickets on Twitter and Facebook. This is not required of a visitor, but often these tickets are to see entertainment, which is typically what someone is interested in sharing with their friends on social media.
Ever since Eventbrite started integrating calls to actions to share moments across the buying process they found that each share on Facebook generates 14 visits and is equal to $4.15 per share, a share on Twitter generates 33 visits and is equal to $1.85 per share and lastly, that each share on LinkedIn generates 10 visits and is equal to $.92. Analyze the buying funnel for your customers to see where it would make the most sense to add social plugins or a direct call to action for users to share the moment they are experiencing with your business. Always test and retest any changes to your business model to ensure that the impact of social features doesn’t have a negative effect on the conversion rates of your website.
(F) Show What Products Are Trending Socially
Some of your products are more innately social than others when it comes to people being interested in sharing them with their network on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere. Of the products that do consistently get shared across social media, it is important to highlight this information for both your visitors and your company. This can be accomplished through the addition of a ‘popular product feed’ on your website that facilitates your potential customers to see what is trending among your product assortment and assist your business better understand what to products perform more effectively on social media.
The products that perform more effectively on social media can help give your deep business insights into what to buy, develop more of, and to plan against for the future of your product focused e-commerce store.
Flash sale site turned e-commerce giant, Fab has utilized a social feed of their most popular products since their beginning and now has broken it up into what is the most popular item per category between men, women, home wares, and fun. Each e-commerce store should incorporate their popular product feed in a unique way to best reach their customers and highlight what is trending amongst their demographic.
Every user may have a different and unique idea of what makes a “good” website design because it is partially in the eye of the beholder, but by making use of basic design principles and thinking about usability and website goals, you can create a site that looks good and works well for users.
Good design means thinking about the most excellent ways to provide your customers the most enjoyable experiences and give them the value and the benefits that your products and services offer. The easier and more enjoyable you make interacting with your business, the more inclined they will be to stick around and see what you have got.
What’s good for your customer is ultimately what’s good for you! If you face any difficulty in designing your website, then it’s better to hire expert e-commerce developers that help you make your website better than the best.