E-commerce. Online real estate. Cross-platform compatibility. You’re probably hearing these terms — and more — as you explore your options for your company’s website. You’re wise enough to know that they’re not just fancy buzzwords. However, if you’re not quite knowledgeable in the various kinds of technologies, you might feel slightly overwhelmed as you research and evaluate the possibilities. Thankfully, you don’t have to be an expert web designer to understand a few basic principles behind a successful website for your small business.
Design for Your Target Market
If you’ve already done your market research (and you should have by now), you’re aware of some important characteristics about your target demographics. We’re not just talking about what motivates them to buy, but also other key factors that you need to consider in site design. This Forbes Online article stresses the importance of doing your research first, then designing around your findings. This includes taking into account accessibility factors, such as larger font and high contrast between text and background if your market includes older individuals, or designs that work well on mobile platforms if you mostly have younger visitors.
Make sure your website is not only accessible in most common platforms, but for underserved populations in your customer base as well — for example, disabled visitors and those with low-bandwidth Internet access. Stick to a clean, simple navigational structure. Whether you design completely by scratch or use a website builder (such as Web.com), make sure your layout doesn’t interfere with audio screen readers, voice recognition tools or other assistive technologies. Note that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3) provides an excellent guide on website accessibility.
Avoid Busy or Flashy Designs
Resist the temptation to add elements that blink, flash or move too rapidly. Not only do they confuse users and get in their way of moving around your site, but the coding that’s required to make them work may not be supported on mobile devices or in older browsers. Additionally, these could trigger migraines or seizures in some individuals, and for some conditions such as photosensitive epilepsy, they could be deadly.
Include Clear Copy That’s Easy to Understand
Although you can (and should) tool your content to your audience, clear content that’s easy to read is a must. Unless you’re writing for a niche audience used to a lot of technical or specialized jargon, keep your copy relatively simple and understandable, yet not overly pedantic or condescending. You also need to incorporate clear calls to action. What do you want your audience to do — subscribe to a newsletter, call your office or shop on your website? Then, quite frankly, you need to tell them to do it.
Good Design Benefits Both You and Your Customers
Sound web design is a plus for both you and your potential customers. Your online real estate is a reflection of your business, so you have a vested interest in making attractive as well as easy to navigate. It is possible to both amplify and support your brand as well as keep your site accessible. A few of these basic tenets mentioned above should guide you as you craft your web presence.