The Internet is an insanely speedy ever-changing beast. In the past decade websites and web design in general have changed an insane amount. For example, compare YouTube in 2005 to YouTube today or our very own website as late as 2013, or 2014, to today. As the standards of web design continue to improve you do not want your website to look like it is stuck in the past. You want your site to get found and used; and in this constantly changing world, updating and getting a new website may be one of the best decisions you can ever make.
Why get a new website design?
There are a few simple reasons as to why you should make sure that you have an up-to-date, contemporary website.
1. If it doesn’t look or feel good to use, potential customers or clients are far less likely to use the service you provide or buy your products.
2. Unresponsive websites are less likely to show up on search engines than responsive ones. This means that any customers or clients you may have received may struggle to find your website.
3. Search Engine algorithms give precedence to websites that get frequently updated or make use of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If your website is even five years old it probably will not have such elements as a priority or even feature them. Once again, this means that customers or clients are less likely to find you!
While it isn’t necessary to change your website every year, having a fresh look every few years and/or making sure that your website is constantly up-to-date with the latest standards will greatly increase your chances of your website being found and most importantly being used.
At Fifteen, we’re constantly seeking out the latest trends in web design and digital marketing to ensure that our clients get the best possible service and the best possible websites. If we become aware of anything that will help our clients, we will get in contact with them and have a conversation about its potential benefits.
Core Principles of Web Design
If you’re thinking about getting a new website, there are 12 core principals that need to be thought about. If you’re working with us or doing it alone, figuring out where you stand with these principles will enable you to attain the website you want and need.
While your website is there to show off what you have to offer to your potential customers or clients, those future consumers should be your primary focus. What will they be looking for? Why do they need you? What do they need and not need to know? Your website should have a clear purpose, as should every single page on it. Never overcomplicate your website with useless pages, just make sure that all the information they need is easily available to them in a simple and concise manner. If you can explain the purpose of every page on your website, you have succeeded in your job.
When people look at a webpage they take in a lot of information. In general they tend to read in an ‘F’ pattern, reading from left to right and top to bottom with a marked emphasis on the left hand side of the screen. Not only that, they are drawn directly to larger, easier to digest pieces of information. Want to know why newspaper headlines work so well? That’s exactly the reason: if the message is easy to read and understand then the eye is drawn to it. If you place the most important piece of information, like your logo, in the top left hand of the page then you are successfully manipulating both this tendency towards the ‘F’ pattern and the desire for larger and easier to digest pieces of information.
You also want to develop a level of precedence. Effectively, it is the designer’s job to direct the user through the website, leading them down the page or to other pages. Methods of doing this include using headings and sub-headings to organise information, use concise sentences to convey the information, play around with positioning, use bold and subtle colours to direct your user’s attention, ensure contrast across the page as things that are different stand out, manipulating size as generally large text takes precedence over smaller text, and finally design elements like arrows can direct a user to where you want them.
Colours, images, and spacing are key to a good design. Using complementary colours will create a balance to the design while contrasting colours for the text and background will make reading so much easier. Vibrant colours are very useful in creating emotion and drawing attention, especially when used as an accent colour, but overuse of them should be avoided.
Reading too much text can get tiresome, especially on the web, so images should be used to develop the right brand and tone for your website. They can also be used to convey information in a much quicker and simpler way than mere text. However, in the oncoming age of 4k monitors, image quality is hugely important. Pixelated images are more noticeable now than ever, so wherever possible get high quality professional photos to use on your website, but if you cannot create them yourself, consider purchasing stock photos.
Is all of your content too close together? Is all of it too far apart? Spacing your website effectively is important as it is easily possible to make it difficult or laborious to read. In most instances text should never touch other elements, making sure there is space greatly increases readability. Then comes the issue of white space, or simply the empty space on the page. The temptation to fill up this white space can be strong, but it is useful in giving proportion, balance, and contrast to a page. A lot of white space can give the impression of being upmarket (Think of those shops on the high street that have very little in the shop windows that generally feature very expensive goods. That’s the effect white space creates.)
The general principle you should always follow is simplicity, high quality images, meaningful graphics, easy to read text and a good use of colour.
Most websites tend to need or use a lot of text to convey their information, so, it is hardly surprising that thinking about how your text is presented is central to good web design. For some reason, the human brain tends to prefer sans serif fonts (Those without decorative letter finishes) online like Arial, Verdana, Calibri, while preferring serif fonts (Those with decorative letter finishes) on paper, like Times New Roman, Cambria, Minion, and Garamond. While making use of different fonts on one website can be useful for differentiating headings and paragraph text, you should stick to a maximum of 3 typefaces in a maximum of 3 sizes in order to keep things streamlined. If you want a helpful guide to fonts, try these 10 Commandments!
The brain also prefers to see black text on white backgrounds, but, as long as the contrast between text and background is large enough, other colour combinations are perfectly acceptable. Size, spacing, line length, and paragraphing are also important. You should ensure that paragraph text is between 10 and 16px, that lines are spaced evenly and don’t go on for too long, and also try to keep paragraphs left-aligned to avoid weird word spacing.
Remember the importance of purpose? Your website should not only look good but be good. Each piece of content on your website needs to have a purpose, otherwise it is just pointless clutter. A good method of ensuring purpose is to use short and organised copy by labelling topics and using shorter paragraphs. Unless you’re writing a blog post, your users are unlikely to want to stick around for too long so you need to grab and keep their attention. It is also important that everything is worded correctly. Typos and grammatical issues do not convey a level of professionalism or attention to detail, so either get someone to carefully proof-read your site or hire a professional copywriter to write the copy and get someone to proof-read that too. It is easy for small issues to slip through the gaps but you want to avoid them if you can at all help it.
Regularly updating your content used to be something that was important only to ensure reader retention. Now, because of Google’s search algorithms placing a greater focus and position to those that follow good web practice, regularly updating content is going to help you find new visitors as well as retaining your old ones.
Making use of multimedia is also important. Images, animated banners, videos, and interactive content will entertain your users and potentially keep them around for longer. However, forcing them to endure too much for too long when they aren’t interested or don’t have the time for it will not end well for you. Make sure to develop a balance between your text and your multimedia and make it so that it is available to all, any time any place.
What happens when you use one design on your homepage, another on an about page, and another on the page delivering your primary content? The answer: You end up with an inconsistent mess that will confuse and turn off your potential customers or clients. What you want and need is to make everything match or at least have an overarching coherency. Keep heading sizes, font choices, colours, button styles, spacing, design elements, image styles, photo choices, and written tone consistent and matching. As was mentioned in typography and communication, the brain is very good at knowing what it likes and wants to see. Consistency is pleasant to the eyes and will make your website look professional. CSS style sheets will definitely help you when it comes to keeping this sort of consistency.
If every page has a purpose, then you also need to make sure that your users can get to all of those pages. There is nothing more annoying than not being able to figure out how to get to the information you know you need or figuring out where on the website you are. Most websites do have easy navigation these days, but using common sense techniques like an easy to locate and well-described menu with a logical page hierarchy and breadcrumb trails through pages should clear up most problems. Each page should have a clear heading too so you know exactly where you are. Good web design should make sure that you are never lost on a website. If you are getting lost, go back to basics and perhaps create a site map to figure out how to prevent it from happening.
Not only should your website be functional, it should be usable too! People know how to use websites and so there are certain things they will expect, if text is underlined or a notably different colour to the main text then people will assume it is a hyperlink. If it isn’t, they’ll get confused. While it is ok to not follow all conventions, just make sure to adhere to the basic standards as much as possible. You always want your website to have simplicity on its side, something that will aid in providing fast-loading pages which will greatly improve a user experience.
Minimal scrolling is preferable, especially on the first page, but in all instances aim for no horizontal scrolling by creating a responsive website as it can be the bane of anybody’s experience. Another way of aiding this is by having a consistent layout and prominent, logical navigation at the top of each page. Limiting your menu items to 10 or fewer is definitely preferable, as your users don’t have all the time in the world. Long, descriptive link text will also help in usability as not only does it make it easier for your users to find their way around your website, it is also favoured by search engines. You’ll also want browser compatibility as different browsers have different rules for displaying content. The last thing you want is for Firefox users to be able to see everything whilst Chrome users cannot.
A great way of ensuring good usability is to prototype your website via a website wireframe, as using a website can feel noticeably different than when you’re designing it. Another method is creating a fictional user and testing through how they would use the site. If it feels good to use, you’ll have done your job properly.
These days people are just as likely to look at a website on their phone or tablet as they are on a computer. However, because these all have different screen resolutions and ways of loading websites, you really need to think about having a responsive design. It is possible to build a dedicated mobile site, but more and more websites are becoming responsive and ends up being very user friendly as it means they can use your website any time, any place. It’s good practice, looks great, and really, for new website designs there is no excuse not to use responsive design.
Search Engine Optimisation
Since 2011, Google’s system penalises websites that contain duplicated content from other sites and sources, and will also penalise you for using the same content throughout your own site. Since 2012, the system began to penalise websites that attempted to use manipulative techniques to improve rankings.
To avoid these penalties, you just need to make sure that you follow good web practice. Cross linking between pages on the same website is a useful technique, as are using simple URLs, long, unique title tags, SEO Trending, and social sharing. Ensuring you have regularly updating content will also be hugely helpful.
To Get A New Website, Or Not To Get A New Website, That Is The Question
If you have gotten this far, you should be aware of how important it is to have a good website and how to go about getting the design you want. With so much information available to you on the internet, it should not be difficult to dramatically improve your chances of turning up on search engines or get your website used by potential customers or clients.
Fifteen is one of the top design agencies in the country with a team that knows how to make great websites and has expertise in SEO and responsive design. If you have decided you want a new website, get in touch with us! We’d love to work with you and since our after care service is second to none, we get in touch with you if any new tools or trends in web design occur that would be useful to you.
Whether you decide to go it alone or work with us, we hope you have found this blog useful and we wish you the best of luck in your web design adventures!
Written by: Richard Kish