It is 2017 and the need to have a modern looking website has never been higher. As time progresses and internet speeds get faster, the patience of the average viewer decreases drastically. Websites that don’t grab the viewer’s attention in 2 seconds will leave a negative first impression. Too many websites have overly complicated (and expensive) features and confusing elements that sacrifice load time and end up less appealing to viewers. Included in this article are some useful (and very simple) tips that will help make your website stand out.
1. Make good use of fonts
The great majority of content on most websites is the text. This makes your font choice very important. Generally speaking, it should not be fancy. Avoid using fonts that look overly fancy or may be hard to read. It is important to know the difference between “serif” and “non-serif” fonts:
Non-Serif Font Serif-Font
2. Avoid large paragraphs
As I stated at the beginning of this article, website viewers are impatient. As a web developer and designer, I am even impatient. I can’t even begin to tell how many clients have given me text-heavy content that I have never even read. I just copy and paste it, try to make it look as appealing as possible and break it up where I can. That being said, it is important to make sure that the text on your website is broken up properly. Some exceptions to this rule include legal documents and blog articles. Legal documents HAVE to be somewhat wordy and it is implied that when a viewer views an article that not only is it going to be content heavy, that also he/she intends to read it anyway.
3. Remember the 2 second rule
The 2 second rule is a good rule of thumb. It starts the instant that a viewer begins loading your webpage. If your website is not loaded in less than 2 seconds, there is a problem. When your page is loaded and it does not immediately leave a good impression, there is a problem. You know the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well unfortunately most people do, so it is important that your “cover” is very visually appealing. A very popular approach is to have a landing image that covers the whole page with a short caption. Basically, this means the first thing the viewer sees upon viewing a website is an image covering the whole page with about three words in the middle of the screen. Another approach is having a rotating slider. This uses the same concept of covering the whole page, but has rotating images and captions (slightly more complicated). A good example of this is on the homepage of this website, which I designed (innervoicegroup.com). The landing section (what the viewer sees when they first view your website) should be like the cover of a book. It doesn’t necessarily need to have a background image, but it should be very simple. It should also explain what the person is viewing in less than 2 seconds (AKA the title and a subtitle). Just remember that the first impression your website makes will impact how all of your viewers feel about the rest of your website, and also may decide whether they even look at the rest of your site. If you are using WordPress, keep in mind that WordPress sites do tend to take longer to load than non-WordPress sites.
4. Don’t use black or white
Nothing is more boring than black text on a white background. When I think of black text on a white background, I think of boring legal documents and homework assignments. These are not associations you want made with your website. This doesn’t mean you have to make your website overly colorful either, in fact that is also discouraged. Instead of using white, use a very light gray. Instead of using black, use a dark gray. If you look closely, you will notice that you will not see the colors white or black anywhere on this page (not even the footer, it’s off-white).
5. Make good use of padding
It is very important to make sure that content on your page is spaced out correctly. Content that is too crammed is hard to follow and is not visually appealing. Paragraphs with lines that are too long appear larger and viewers are less likely to read them. On the other hand, you don’t want too much padding. You typically want about 2 inches between elements on a page, but keep in mind that this number is flexible.
6. Keep your site interactive
You can better control what viewers do on your website when you give them something to do. For example, when content fades in on the page when a viewer scrolls is not only more visually appealing, but gives the viewer the impression that they made the website move. This makes the viewer more likely to continue scrolling down the page. Having elements that change when hovered over, even if it is as simple as the background color slightly changing color, make the viewer more likely to read the content or click button links. When you give a viewer the impression that they have control of the page, you have control of what the viewer will do. Make buttons larger and use fading transitions when hovered over. Make good use of parallax backgrounds. Also remember not to go overboard with this kind of thing. It is better to have a simple webpage with no interactive features than an overly complicated webpage. If you are not making interactive elements yourself, they will be expensive to have someone else do them. Keep in mind that WordPress themes in the $60 range usually have these features built in to them.
7. Keep it simple
Ultimately, you want people to view your website and accomplish one thing. If you have a store site, you want people to buy something. If you have an informational site, you want people to read/learn something. If you have a blog, you want people to read your posts and give feedback. Whatever your objective is, make sure that viewers know what to do as soon as they visit your website. Having too many variables will distract viewers from doing what you want. For example, on store sites the “Buy Now” page wherever it may be, is the most important page on the site. Make sure that everything on your website directs viewers into accomplishing your objective. Try to minimize the size of your navigation menu. Don’t put content on a page unless it will somehow help you get viewers to accomplish your objective.
Following these simple rules will help you to keep your website in the loop with the rest of the internet. However, you should keep in mind that all rules are meant to be broken (as far as web design goes). As you become more experienced you will be able to gauge when you should break them. If for whatever reason you feel like you need black text on white background, do so at your own risk. Hopefully this article will prove helpful to those learning the ropes of web design.