Friday, May 28, 2010

Six Simple Secrets to Successful Site Design

by Jaysen Kucera

Here's a really simple way to learn the very best website development tricks.

If you are just beginning website development or you are an advanced website development pro, the same rules apply. They are all simple, mostly common sense, and easy to forget. The following will give you the most important do's and don'ts of website development.

1. Good websites must have FOCUS.

Designing websites has to be about the customer or target audience. Without them there is no purpose for the website to even exist. Unfortunately we often forget this need and focus on the company or author. Make sure your website design is full of 'you' phrases and benefit statements. Help the viewer discover how you can solve their problem. They want to know it will help them. When you design headlines, and add links and images remember to focus your viewer's attention on the positive and move them toward the desired action. Use benefit rich headlines to maintain interest and treat links and text for images as additional opportunities to insert focused, benefit headlines and keywords. You will get better response from your target audience if you keep your page content focused and meaningful.

2. SPEED gets more important every day.

Website designing and development is often a trade off between content and speed. As more people get high speed access to information, they become less tolerant of slow loading websites. And, there are still a surprising number of users that have dial-up access.

Optimize and compress images and flash to the minimum size possible without compromising quality. If that big image doesn't really make a significant contribution to the focus of the page, don't use it. Show that you value your visitor's time. If you just have to have audio or flash clip on your home page, give the viewer an option to skip it. If it's essential to your message, communicate with the reader. Simply adding something like "Valuable content loading... please wait" can significantly increase the typical 10-15 seconds most visitors are willing to wait for a page to load.

3. Your Home page hooked them... NAVIGATION has to keep them there.

The key to good navigation is to think like your customer and plan it out in advance. Decide what your viewer needs to know and make it simple, logical and intuitive to find. Studies have shown that the most successful websites allow the viewer to find the information they are looking for in a mere 3 clicks.

As you are planning your site and its navigation, keep in mind that there are many browsers on the market which all function slightly differently. There are still a lot of viewers with old browsers and a rapidly growing group of mobile device users. Consider your target audience and make sure your site navigation considers their most likely viewing preferences. If you have any 'Under Construction' or 'Coming Soon' pages, take them off! They contribute nothing to your site and frustrate viewers that navigate to them. Until you have meaningful information for your target audience, leave the page off. Unfinished pages can also harm your position with search engines.

4. AESTHETICS is an essential element of good website design and development.

The look and feel of your website has to appeal to your target audience and be inviting to them. The colors and fonts you choose have to please your audience, not you. Colors and fonts have to contribute to the customer-centric appeal of your website and they must be consistent.

Fonts are not created equal: There is an ever growing pool of fancy fonts, and you are best served by sticking with some of the proven fonts. Avoid script and other fancy fonts that are often hard to read. You can't go wrong with using a 10-12 point body text in Arial or Verdana and utilizing Georgia for headline text. Above all, avoid using too many fonts and be consistent from page to page.

Colors and backgrounds can add or detract from your page. Choose a color scheme that compliments the focus of your content or audience. This is not a place for wild colors or backgrounds. They are intended to enhance your message, so make sure they don't over power the message you are trying to get across. A simple light background with dark text is a consistently safe choice.

Readability is enhanced if you write in short simple sentences and break up the text into short 'chunks'. Long paragraphs intimidate the reader and can lose them quickly.

5. Bad GRAMMAR and SPELLING can kill everything you have done so far.

With all of the spell checkers available today, there is no excuse for misspelled words on a website (or any written text for that matter) yet, we see it all the time. Nothing does more to destroy the credibly you have worked so hard to create. Take the time to run everything you write through your spell checker.

Checking grammar and misused words is a little more difficult, but just as essential. Poor grammar destroys credibility too. Your website has to build trust and confidence for your target audience and poor wording can kill it all in a heartbeat. (Miss Stanley's English 101 class really wasn't a waste of time after all.)

Misused words such as 'your, you're'; 'sale, sell'; and 'there, their' kill your credibility too. If good English is not your strong point, make sure you have someone proof read the text for you before publishing it.

6. The MESSAGE is King!

It doesn't matter how well you have implemented elements 1 through 5, if your message doesn't build trust and invoke action, you have wasted both your time and that of your audience. They came to your site looking for something specific and if they leave without it, somethings gone wrong or at least needs review. You should expect your target audience to do something before they leave. It could be to place an order, post an inquiry, or just register for more information. All of the elements of your website should be focused on moving them in the direction of taking the desired action. Your content must be relevant, succinct and keyword rich. Use bulleted or numbered points stated in benefit language and short, simple paragraphs. Web viewers tend to scan pages rather than read them verbatim, so use benefit headlines and relevant highlighting to facilitate them while getting your most important points across.


There's no rocket science here. In fact the opposite is true. These points are so simple that we often overlook giving them the forethought they deserve. Look at any great website and you will see that all of these elements are incorporated. Look at any poor website and you can see where one or more of these elements have been ignored. Let's do our part to eliminate poor, ineffective websites.

Whether you are just starting a website or maintaining an existing site, take the time to review your design and ask yourself 'is there anything I can do to improve this element of my site?'

About the Author

Jaysen Kucera invites web designers to discover the 6 simple secrets to successful site design. Learn to build a website that invokes the desired action... every time. For more articles like this one, go to