Is Your Website Prehistoric?
Don't worry--we've got five design keys to prevent your users from running for dear life.
By the mid 90’s, websites had evolved from purely informational pages to pages with graphics, animated text, and GIFs. Web surfers noticed structure that was previously lacking in sites from the the early 90’s (for example, the first site ever published), in which design elements were nonexistent. In the early 2000’s, white space began to increase, and the neon colors so popular in the 90’s began to disappear. Designers began to consider usability and function, and over time, considered the implementation of multimedia applications, interactive content, and search engine optimization.
Today, web design is established as an essential element of marketing. We see attention to typography, minimalistic design, scrolling effects such as parallax, user friendly navigation, and wide screen background images. Current website trends are both visually appealing and yet simplistic, and web designers actively use graphic design principles.
But no matter how old your website may be, there’s still hope of revival; whether you are redesigning your website on your own or hiring a professional, these five keys to modern web design will help you build a stunning and engaging website.
STEP 1: Focus on the user
When your users visit your website, they expect find what they need quickly and efficiently. However, many old websites are not only difficult to navigate, but also cluttered and hard to read. Remember to keep your user in mind when structuring your site. Will your most common user find it easy to maneuver and digest? Or will they give up in frustration before ever clicking a button or tab?
Keep your text at a 16 pt. font or larger, use sufficient contrast between text and background, stick to only a few font styles, and opt for Sans Serif fonts (fonts without little projecting lines on the ends of letters), as they are easier to read online. Below is a photo comparing a readable vs. less readable version of a website page.
Additionally, your user should be able to easily navigate to the exact page they are looking for based on the clarity of your menu or buttons.
STEP 2: Evoke emotion
The best websites make users feel some sort of emotion, because emotions powerfully affect human decisions. Think about what it is you want your users to feel when they visit your site. These emotions should correlate to your brand and the overall experience you want to create for your customers. Now, design in order to evoke that feeling. You can do this by using certain fonts, colors, shapes, icons, photos, and videos. For instance, if you want your users to laugh and feel lighthearted when they visit your site, use light colors, funny icons, and relaxed fonts (visit Mailchimp’s site for an example of this). Apple’s website is a good example of one that uses emotion to connect users with their brand. Apple goes for a sleek, modern, and clean look that appeals to the desires of their users.
Below is a modified Wix web design template for a gelato shop that uses bright colors, fun fonts, and clipart to reflect a lighthearted and fun brand personality.
STEP 3: Tell a story
Today, more and more websites are being designed to tell a story. Yes, websites can tell stories too! As you design your site, make your content flow in a narrative order, with each element connecting with the next.
From the very beginning, catch your user’s eye with an introduction. You can do this with a stunning photo, a headline, and a short description working together to say something about you and your brand. From there, if you’ve successfully caught their attention, your viewer will want to continue scrolling down your page to find out what happens next and explore your site.
Keep your content varied and logically organized in a vertical fashion and stay away from long paragraphs of text. You can show your viewer a video that explains what you do, present multiple customer testimonies praising your work, and at the end, leave your viewer with call to action. Here is a great example of a wallet company using their website to tell a motivating story in a vertical scrolling fashion. And here is a more an avant garde example of a website telling their story by using a horizontal scrolling feature.
STEP 4: Unify your website with your overall brand
When you’ve got a business or organization with an established identity or brand experience, it is important to maintain your branding not only in stores or offices, but also on your website. This is a design strategy employed by most, if not all of the major businesses and nonprofits in the world.
Imagine you are a shopper stepping into a clothing store that is bright and clean with modern and trendy clothing and hipster music playing in the background. You have formed an impression about that store’s brand and you like it. Now, imagine that you go home and pull out your laptop to check out their website. You type in the URL and find a site with vibrant red, white and black colors, along with jagged, daring fonts and an overall grungy aesthetic. You are shocked and wonder if you’ve clicked on the wrong website. Now this is an extreme example, but you get the idea. If your website does not reflect your brand, then you risk confusing and even losing your customers.
STEP 5: Adapt for mobile and tablet
If your website is old, then it most likely doesn’t look great on a cell phone or tablet browser. Modern web designers now make use of adaptive or responsive design, in which they are able to optimize web sites for cell phones and tablets as well as for desktops. Modern websites can look great on all screens and devices. As more and more people use their phones to browse the internet, it is important that your website be readable, user friendly, and stunning even on mobile viewing. If not, then any potential customer might look up your mobile site, find it too difficult to navigate, and search for a competitor’s site instead—one that they can easily read and use.
With these five keys in mind, you can be well on your way to freeing your website from the beasts of the past. Your site can be beautiful, engaging, modern, and user friendly—whether you design it yourself or opt to hire a pro.