Designing a website is probably the most important stage in creating or developing your business. Your website is, in many cases, the first connection you will have with potential clients, so giving them a good impression and conveying your message is something you should invest quite a bit of thought in.
Though it sounds like a complicated and perhaps tedious task, your role in the design process is mainly to deliver your main messages to the designers, who have tons of experience with web design and will take it from there. You should still keep a critical approach and make sure some basic guidelines are followed during the process of your web design. Making these guidelines clear in advance, will make life easier for both the designer and you.
So before creating that web design brief, here are 10 best practices to keep in mind:
- Content planning – what kind of content will you have on your site? How many different types of pages will you need? Will there be a static homepage with text that never changes, or also internal pages with articles?
- Navigation is critical – make sure it’s clear and logical. This is an important section to spend time on, since you don’t want any frustrated users who can’t find what they’re looking for.
- Second opinion – ask colleagues or friends for input and advice. They might point out problems or additions which you hadn’t thought of. This is important also when choosing your winning design; run your own focus group and use others to help you decide which design is the best, the more opinions you have, the better.
- Flash – though becoming less and less popular, sites built in flash can still be found. Try to avoid these types of designs, though they may look nice. It’s more difficult to get them ranking well on search engines later on.
- Social media – these days social media (facebook, twitter etc) have an important role in spreading brand awareness and getting new clients to hear about you. Try to think where you’d like to combine social media boxes, such as ‘facebook likes’, twitter feed etc. If you’re writing articles, you might want people to share them on facebook, so providing a share button at the end of the article will help you do that (just like here).
- Above the fold – most users will not scroll down unless they are already interested, so make sure your main messages are above the fold. For example, if you’re offering some kind of special promotion, make sure it’s visible. Your shopping cart, phone number (if relevant) and other important info should also appear in the upper part of the page.
- Too much text – if you have a lot of text, break it up with bullets otherwise users may be overwhelmed by the amount of text and move on. In any case try not to overcrowd your page with text, especially if it’s your homepage.
- Call to action – if you want your users to perform some action, make sure it’s clear to them. Add call-to-action buttons where applicable, such as ‘sign up’, ‘buy now’, ‘get a quote’ etc.
- Forms – keep them simple and ask for as little information as you need. Studies show that from the 5th field onward, the chance of a user leaving your form increases by 20% with each row.
- Business feel – Try to give the designers a look into your business, so that they understand what kind of audience you’re targeting, what product you’re selling, what branding you have in mind etc. Check out our article about creating a design brief, it has some important issues to consider when writing your web design brief.
In addition, you have the privilege of seeing what others have done before you. On any of the design sites you can browse through completed projects, see what you like or don’t like and get ideas for your own site. You might even see a designer who you’d like to work with and invite them to your project.
So take your time, think this through and get your new website going. If you are a larger company and have the resources, you can consider consulting with a UX expert – these are professionals who can help you perfect your website structure so that the user has the best experience possible when visiting your site.
If you need help choosing the right website design contest platform to work with, check out our reviews of the top design sites here.