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Websites 101: Part 2 - Design Doesn’t Matter (except when it does)

In part one of the Websites 101 series, we discussed the value of using a professional. In part two, we will discuss design as it relates to small business websites.

We live in a visual world. With the explosion of tablets, smartphones, wearables and every other electronic device in between - people’s eyes are glued to screens more than ever. So, the design of your website should be the most important aspect for any small business - right?

The answer is yes.  And no.  

Let me be clear - creating a professional design that is simple and easy to navigate is definitely important. Visitors should take your site seriously, and it should be visually appealing as well as easy to use. It should also include all necessary elements like company introduction, product/services information, and calls-to-action on the page in a clear and organized manner.  

What is far less important is creating a “pop”, a “vibe” or any other trendy buzzword used to describe overthinking your website design to the point of potentially ruining it. At the end of the day, your website design is far more likely to turn a visitor away if done incorrectly, then it is to attract a new customer due to it’s unique and creative design.  

So rather than try to come up with a new place on the page to put your logo, or building a menu system that no one has ever seen before, here are a few tips for things you should focus on.

Tip #1 - The “fold” is not important

There was a time several years ago, when the belief was that the only way to get a website visitor to see something was to include it “above the fold” - on the initial screen without scrolling. The theory was that people have a short attention span, so they wouldn’t have the patience or take the time to scroll down a page to find information they wanted.

Thankfully, this notion has been abandoned. While it is still important to include certain items above the fold (logo, main navigation, social media icons, etc.), it is more important to break information up into segments and provide visitors with clear calls to action, regardless of the length of page.

Tip #2 - Stick with what works

There is a reason that nearly all ecommerce sites have the same process to place an order. Likewise, you will rarely find a site that doesn’t contain a logo near the top of the page, or a menu nearby it. This is not because everyone who builds websites lacks creativity. It is because website visitors are people, and people are primarily creatures of habit.

Unless there is a specific reason to do so, it is usually best to create a website that follows the norms established. The goal is to make your website friendly and inviting. And a website that confuses people or makes them search for items they expect to find easily are definitely not inviting.

Tip #3 - The better the content, the better the design

It is not a coincidence that some of the coolest and most beautiful websites have great pictures, interesting copy and impactful videos. In most cases, the content used in the site is the largest determining factor in how well the site will work. Some things to consider are

  • Using professional photography of your actual products/services, rather than stock photos or cell phone pictures
  • Working with a copywriter to have professional copy put together for your site that explains your business and includes SEO
  • Creating video content or other interactive content items to give your visitors reasons to spend time on your site and come back

At the end of the day, remember that website designers aren’t wizards or deities. They can only work with the content you provide them. With websites, much like cooking, the better the ingredients, the better the end result.

At the end of the day, design is still an important aspect of building a website. Just maybe not in the way that most people think that it is. Making sure you have a clean and logical layout, with a complementary color scheme, and including content that is the best possible representation of your business should be your goal. Creating the coolest, most revolutionary website on the Internet should not.

Web Design Doesn't Matter (except when it does)

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