It’s difficult to know whether website development is more of an art or a science. There are so many concrete rules that you simply must follow if you want your visitors to have a good enough experience that they buy what you’re selling.
On the other side of the coin, because website development is such a visual medium there are many aspects of it that are inherently down to personal, subjective opinion.
We can’t tell you exactly how your website should look like from top to bottom, whether you should opt for a floral theme or a clean blend of white and greys – that part of the process is down to you and how you want your brand to speak to the customer.
What we can share is a handful of tips and tricks to enhance your website development process so that whatever your website looks like, it will regardless provide a good experience for the customer and a healthy return on investment for your business.
- The Visual Design of your Website
A company website should achieve one thing above all else – a customer experience that encourages them to spend. The best way of doing this is by simply making it as easy for them as possible.
Humans are surprisingly quick to judge; we know within about 8 seconds whether the website we’re on is one that we trust and will pay more of our attention to.
With website development and visual design, less is more. Allow your user to focus solely on what you’re trying to sell. An image or video of your product is a quick and easy way of highlighting it and solidifying your user’s interest within this critical initial period of visiting your website.
A good product image quickly tells your audience what you provide. If you’re a construction company that specialises, for example, in architecture then an obvious image to use would be of one of your finished projects or a design plan – something that visually reinforces what it is you provide.
Illustrating your brand values is another solid visual choice of a company website. Continuing with the architecture example, your brand values may, in words, be something like “Bringing people together through design”.
Visually, these values can be illustrated through an image of two people working together with an architect to create a design of their dream project.
If you are going to opt for this focus on brand values, your product or service shouldn’t be lost in the weeds, it should still be a main aspect of the image if it doesn’t take away from your message.
If you want an idea of what good brand value messaging looks like, here’s an example from allbirds.com. Their product (in this case, casual footwear) is on display with the words “Feel a material difference” layered over it.
This clever mix of imagery and written copy immediately tells the user that they specialise in shoes with a unique material and style. It’s this immediacy that is crucial, because now the user knows what they’re selling, they’re more likely to spend extra time browsing their site further to see what they’ve got.
Whether you want to use visuals that highlight your company product or your company values, it’s important to remember that whatever you do choose is relevant.
You might like the idea of using imagery that gets a nice message across because you think it fits vaguely into your values as a company, but if it’s not the right image for your audience you’re not going to look genuine and you won’t evoke that all important trust in them during their initial visit to your site.
If your company values can’t easily be translated to pictures, your best bet is to rely on highlighting what you offer customers so that any confusion or mistrust is avoided, and you can instead focus on showcasing your wares.
Visual clutter is a huge problem for your website in that crucial 8 second period because if their eyes are distracted by irrelevant information, they’re essentially not paying as much attention to your product or service; making it much easier for them to bounce from your website and move onto a competitor’s.
The idea behind decluttering your website involves removing any unnecessary elements to make room for the important main features of the design. These main features may not be immediately obvious to you, so a good idea would be to do some research on what it is your visitors are likely to be searching for when they land on your site and emphasise them in the design.
If you’re an architecture company whose unique selling point is collaborative design and this is something you want to be telegraphing to your audience, then make sure this message gets a good chunk of the spotlight (and remember that corresponding imagery only works to accentuate this).
You may have other information that you deem important but remember that this can go further down your homepage or on a different page entirely.
It’s tempting to fill the page with everything you can in order to convince users to choose your product, but “white space” is essential to the user experience at allowing your most important material to breathe and do their magic on the customer.
Whilst we’re on the topic of customer attention, the elements of web design that have so far been covered come under an umbrella term known as The Visual Hierarchy. This concept describes which parts of your website dominate the attention of the user and how they do this.
An obvious way of grabbing your audience’s attention is by playing with size. As I mentioned, displaying your product with a good amount of whitespace around it is a good head start in establishing your visual hierarchy, the next step would involve how big you want this element to be.
Having a relatively big image of your product compared to the other elements of your site leaves little question as to what the customer should be expecting from you, and according to something known as Fitts’s Law, if your large element is also interactable then there’s a better chance your user will interact with it as it requires less energy and time on their part to do so.
In practice, your large element should be a call to action (CTA) – something that brings them one step closer to buying from you or interacting with your website further.
This is only true to a point, however. You don’t want to be egregious with your CTA sizing in case you risk essentially shoving your products in their faces. Customers don’t want to feel forced or coerced into something, they want to be gently prodded. Proceed with caution.
You know how I mentioned at the top how the colour pallet of your site is completely up to you? Floral or grey? Well if I may, I’d like to offer a little bit of advice on the back of that.
Colour has an incredible effect on our psyches, and companies are constantly utilising their branding to coerce our psychological relationship with colour to influence us.