When building an effective website for your business, it helps to think of your website as a “resume” for your business. Just like a resume shows off a job candidate’s skills, great Web design highlights what makes a business stand out from the rest. Here are some website design principles to keep in mind.
- Contact information: Just as you wouldn’t write a resume without including your phone number and email address, effective websites always include ways for users to contact your business. Your business phone number and address should be clearly visible on the homepage. You can also add a “contact us” page where visitors can fill out a form to have you contact them.
- Images: Good Web design uses high-quality images that are relevant to your business and convey your company’s value proposition—that is, what separates you from the competition. You can have a photographer take professional photos (for example, if you have a restaurant, you’d want mouthwatering photos of your actual menu items), or buy good-quality stock photos from a source such as iStock, Thinkstock or Shutterstock.
- Load time: Because your website’s overall load time is affected by how long it takes images to load, it’s important that your website’s photos are saved in a Web-friendly manner to load quickly. Website visitors generally make up their minds about a business in the first 5 to 15 seconds; you don’t want them to waste all of that time waiting for your photos to load.
- Awards/accreditations: Near the bottom, or footer, of your website, include any professional or industry awards, affiliations or accreditations that will help build trust with prospective customers—for example, a Better Business Bureau seal or an industry award.
- Testimonials: If customers are willing to provide testimonials about your business, be sure to include them in your website. Increasingly, good Web design links to Google’s rating system, so visitors to your website can see at a glance how others have treated your business.
- Navigation: Effective websites can use top navigation or right- or left-hand side navigation — both approaches can work. The key is to keep your navigation minimal and relevant. Above all, avoid dead links. If users click on a link and it doesn’t work, they’ll form a negative opinion of your business. Your website designer can use redirects so that if links do break, users are taken to a page with some type of branding, such as an “Oops! Something seems to be wrong” message that acknowledges the problem, as opposed to just a “404 Not Found” message.
- Mobile-friendly: With well over 50 percent of Internet traffic taking place on mobile devices, your website needs to be mobile-friendly. In the past, this typically involved creating two different websites — one for desktop users and one stripped-down version for mobile users. Today, however, the industry standard for good Web design is a responsive website. As the name implies, this website responds to the device being used and rearranges the website elements into different layouts to fit the device. For example, a responsive website that has a horizontal orientation when viewed on a desktop will have a vertical orientation when viewed on a smartphone. Besides the benefits to your viewers, a responsive website means you only have one website to update and maintain, not two separate sites.
As you can see, the basic design principles of websites are fairly simple. However, to pull it all together in a professional way, you’ll want to work with a website company that can help with building an effective website for your needs. After all, why build an overly complex site if you don’t need one? Start simply, modify your website as you go, and you’ll soon find your investment in good website design more than pays for itself.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.