Last month, we shared the importance of small businesses to have a website. Making the decision to have a website, however, is the easiest part because you will need to then create a website that helps you fulfill business goals. Herein comes the most important element of any website: web design. What if you don’t have the basics to get started?

At this point, you do have two options:

  1. Outsource the web design work
  2. Design your own website

Regardless of your decision, you will benefit from having the basic knowledge of how to judge and assess a website.

Marlon Masanque, our lead web designer shares his check list of items to get your website noticed :

1. 5W1H: Who, What, Why, When, Where and How?

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Studies have shown that readers spend an average of 15 seconds on a web page before leaving.

In essence, your site visitor will evaluate your web page in 15 seconds and if it doesn’t appear to be what they are looking for, they will leave.

One of the easiest ways to resolve this problem is to ensure your site copy answers the 5W1H questions, where applicable:

  1. Who are you
  2. What does your business do
  3. Why should the visitor be interested in you
  4. When does your business operate
  5. Where is your business located
  6. How does your product or service benefit them?

If your site’s landing page can answer questions A-D at a quick glance, then the likelihood of your visitors retaining their interest to find out answers to questions D-F is a lot higher. Having bulk of the website’s copy and visual content ready will also guide your entire website design process.

2. Your site design must speak to your audience

Think in terms of colour, font type, and placement.

If you sell mainly technical products, explore colour palettes consisting of blues, whites or silver. Are you providing lifestyle products or services? Then you have more colours to tinker with to match your brand.  Make use of the many free online tools to pick a colour scheme that works for you.

Font types are another impactful but tricky design option. As a guide, don’t use more than two font typefaces but I would encourage you to experiment with what works best for your brand. Be creative but also be consistent and sensible – you wouldn’t pick a cursive font for a paragraph of text but the same cursive font may work for a page title.

Lastly would be the case of placement. Each page should serve a clear purpose that leads your visitors to a planned outcome without clutter distracting them. Is your content clear and easy to understand? Are your call-to-action buttons obvious to your visitors or are there too many elements going on? Prioritising what goes on each page and keeping the content easily digestible will vastly improve the web experience.

Juggling the above three elements can be a nightmare if you are unfamiliar. That is when pre-built content management system (CMS) such as WordPress comes in handy.

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3. Mobile responsive layouts

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As more people do away with desktops and spend an increasing amount of time on mobile devices, you need to be aware of how your site performs on different screen sizes.

It is tempting to design solely for a vision of what looks best but unfortunately, not planning ahead for multiple screen sizes will mean highly distorted websites and that drives potential customers away. It is best practice to plan site layouts for varying mobile devices and desktops when you start off on your website project.

4. Revise, revise, revise

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The feature that you thought was brilliant was not even clicked on by 90% of your visitors – it happens. At the end of the day, it helps to keep in mind that you are trying to engage your targeted visitors and not yourself.

The easiest way to get feedback on your website is through metric tools such as Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager. They should be installed as early as possible so that you have data from the start of your site. The bounce rate of your landing page would tell you whether you have fulfilled your 5W1H criteria. You can also track where visitors are entering specific pages from and this would be an indicator of the efficacy of your call-to-action buttons.

Another useful tool to find out where most activity is registered on your website is a heat map. With recorded results, you can then tweak the placement of links to areas with higher visibility so that you can more effectively drive traffic to key pages. For heat maps, I would normally use Crazy Egg.

Having mentioned the above points, it really helps to not get too attached to any designs because only then would you get to the best iteration in the shortest amount of time. If you are working with a third-party designer, your contract should include provisions for design revisions after a fixed amount of time. This may mean higher costs but this would ensure that your site is effectively engaging your targeted audiences.

This also leads very nicely to the last point…

5. Web maintenance

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The last and most crucial step in keeping the site well-maintained. This is where a lot of websites fall short in because it is, perhaps, the least exciting part of having a website.

Web maintenance can be as simple as updating your content and business information to complex tasks such as adding new site features but most importantly, someone needs to be in-charge of these processes.

There is also a need for website version control so that there are previous versions to fall back on should specific pages go down. In the most unlikely event that your website goes down, having the web files on hand also allows you to quickly re-host it elsewhere.

The main point is, someone needs to be in-charge of your site whether you’re designing it in-house or with a third party vendor.

In summary, designing a website is a never-ending process and the time investment hinges on how much of a role it plays in your business.  If it is a simple introductory site, you are looking at a short timeline with infrequent updates. However, if you are an e-commerce business, you will need to regularly optimise your website to drive sales.

Hope the list helped – all the best to build the most suitable site for your business!

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Marlon has led web design at Cybersite Services in the past 5 years. He has over 10 years of experience in branding and web design services.