Everyone’s always talking about good website design—but do you know what that is? How can you tell if your website design is working, for example? How do you know what to look for? Without a clear metric for measuring quality, it’s hard to recognize it. So with that in mind, here’s a look at key aspects of strong website design, along with questions to ask yourself for measuring yours:
Good website design is backed by strategy. Even the most attractive, user-friendly website isn’t successful when it isn’t achieving what your company needs. So ask yourself: Do new visitors get a clear sense of who you are and what you offer when they arrive at your site? Does your design direct visitors to do what you want them to do? Is there clear strategy informing your design? If not, your design is not as good as it could be. To evaluate the effectiveness of strategy in your website design, run it through this checklist of questions:
- What category is my business, and is that obvious on my website?
- What is the purpose of this website, and is the design accomplishing it?
- Who is my target audience, and how does the design take them into consideration?
- What do I want my audience to do, and is the design encouraging that action?
What to Do: Define your brand and set specific website goals—then align your design accordingly. When your website is informed by clear strategy, it’s much more likely to succeed.
Usability is all about the practical considerations of what goes into good website design, such as speed, user-friendliness, security, technical details like sitemaps, etc. A lot of these details aren’t visually apparent; you don’t see a website’s security when you type in its URL. Nonetheless, usability is a make-or-break issue for websites that work. If a visitor can’t find what he or she is looking for because of poor navigation, he or she will usually leave. If pages take too long to load, both search engines and visitors will notice. So to see how usable your site is, ask yourself the following:
- How long does it take my pages to load, and will visitors get bored waiting? (One way to test page speed is through Google Page Speed Insights.)
- How easy is it to find information?
- Is there a search button for visitors?
- Do all the links work? (Test for broken links at W3C Link Checker.)
- Does the site work in different browsers? (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, etc.)
- Does my site work on mobile devices?
- If I’m asking for personal details or use a commerce option, is customer information secure? Have I communicated this to my readers?
What to Do: Consider all the ways to make your site as usable as possible. Imagine coming to it as a visitor and trying to find info. What’s more, go the extra mile in terms of security and always protect customers’ personal data.
Beauty may be relative, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clear aesthetic principles to guide your website design. The best designs will align with their brands, create positive impressions for visitors, be clean, and complement the content they’re communicating. To test the effectiveness of your website’s aesthetic, consider the following:
- Does my website’s style align with my brand in terms of colors, feel, graphics, etc?
- Is the style consistent throughout the website?
- Will the style suit my target audience? (i.e., cartoons on a toy company website, elegant layout on a legal website)
- What feel does the website give—Orderly or messy? Sparse or crowded? Playful or formal?—and how does that align with my goals?
- Where are photos or decorative touches getting in the way of my message?
What to Do: Get rid of any stylistic choices that contradict your brand message. Make sure your logo and website design align. Consider your target audience and let that inform your style.
The two main considerations regarding content are readability and usefulness. Readability is important because if your visitors can’t make out your content, whether that’s because it’s too small or in a pale color or in an unreadable font, there’s no way for your message to get across. Usefulness is just as important, however, because if your content doesn’t matter to your reader, you lose him or her anyway. Here are some questions to run your website content through to evaluate its quality:
- Are the fonts I’ve chosen readable?
- Is there enough contrast between background colors and font colors?
- Is all the text big enough?
- Will this content be relevant to the reader?
- Is the content concise but still useful?
- Does the design make content easy to find?
What to Do: Evaluate all the text on your website—Is it communicating your message effectively? First, will visitors be able to read the text? Second, will what they read matter to them? Go for a design that makes all your content useful and readable.
5. Search Optimization
There are many ways that the design of your website impacts search optimization—as Search Engine Journal points out, “Search engine optimization and social networking all start with strong website design.” Does your website have a lot of graphics, for example? If so, search engines can’t see them. You need to add ALT tags to your image descriptions in order for search engines to know what you’re showing. Is your HTML efficient? If not, it could hurt your search rankings. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure optimized website design:
- Are all my images optimized with ALT tags?
- Is my coding efficient, or are there extraneous lines that could be eliminated?
- Have I used relevant keywords in title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, etc.?
- Do I have a sitemap?
What to Do: Don’t make the mistake of thinking search engine optimization and website design are separate matters. Consider the ways your design will affect its search rankings, and make adjustments accordingly.
Based upon the above characterizations, how is your website design working? How could it be improved? What steps will you take to make your design more effective?