Over the past month I’ve continued working on websites, enhancing them for our clients with the goal of providing visitors with a good user experience. So I wanted to share some more of my learnings with everyone and talk to you about some important aspects that I think should be taken into consideration when building a website - especially since your website’s design will be the first thing that catches their eye!
The Importance of Design
The International Council of Design, defines design as “a discipline of study and practice focused on the interaction between a person — a ‘user’— and the man-made environment, taking into account aesthetic, functional, contextual, cultural and societal considerations.” In simpler terms, when we are designing a website as a business, we are trying to create something that the user finds intuitive to use while communicating the visuals, identity, and promises of the brand in a subtle manner.
Simple things like colours and graphics play a big role in helping audiences remember the brand and communicated information in the long term - helping a business achieve its top-of-mind objectives. This is further compounded by the fact that design elements that are consistent [across different channels, platforms, and devices] help further strengthen brand identity and relatability and thus might contribute to an increase in revenue generation.
And when we talk about users for a business’s website and trying to use a memorable and consistent design language, this is not just B2C websites. On the contrary, design is of the utmost importance to B2B businesses too! A study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute in 2017 found that graphic design elements and infographics are essential for marketing purposes and other B2B buyers tend to give visual assets a priority and are more likely to appreciate your website.
The Importance of Content
Content is information contained within communication media like television, films, music, books, works of art or even the internet. And so, content helps marketers target key audiences and familiarise them with their brands by making them sound more human which in turn makes your business memorable and relatable. Furthermore, high-quality content in line with your brand's design language generates interest. If you are more interested in learning about content writing and marketing, I’ve gone more in-depth in this blog here.
Aspects to Consider When Building a Website
In a recent survey done by Markstein and Certus Insights, 70% of consumers in today's day and age want to know about the way brands that they support, address social and environmental issues. For this reason, your website should not shy away from showcasing the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities that are undertaken by the brand.
Highlighting the ethics of your brand and how they translate into the way your organisation runs will help build a level of trust with your visitors and their evaluation of your brand. In fact, highlighting your CSR activities may even help positively impact the purchasing decision of your customers.
A Solution First Approach
A common mistake brands make is to highlight their product/service offerings on the homepage and have big write-ups about it. While this is fine and can work for a few industries, this is not an approach that should always be undertaken. There will always be a multitude of competitors with similar offerings with the same approach so unless your offering is very unique, chances are that your website won't stand out.
Instead, brands that take a solution-first approach are memorable. Recognising the pain points of consumers and talking about how you can help solve their problems helps create an instant bond with your users as they will be able to relate pretty much instantaneously and this helps capture their attention. An example of a brand that does this really well is Dropbox. They recognise that people may have doubts about storing files on the cloud so they make it clear that Dropbox is “easy to use, reliable, private and secure”.
As mentioned earlier, a personalised user experience is integral for a positive user experience. To this extent, the data collected from users should be used to reflect their behaviours and interests on the website. If it is in line with your industry, then your website should have an equivalent of a ‘For You’ page or tab at the very least, that is not stagnant to keep users engaged with your content.
These are small details, events, and animations that have just one role to play, which is to make the user experience more welcoming and engaging. They make each interaction seem more tactile and human which helps break the norm in an era of flat designs.
These little animations - a jumping like or share button, a little effect when clicking a button, or a loading animation - all help not just improve website navigation but also provide instant feedback to a user about a completed action by communicating information in a subtle way and can even teach the user how to navigate the website - without them even realising which can help build positive feelings about your brand because “it just works”.
One of my favourite implementations of micro-interactions on a website is from Elivi, a luxury hotel in Skiathos. The cursor changes shape to match that of the interactable buttons on the website and it’s done in a very intuitive and non-invasive way.
This can be a very interesting design choice for a website but it should only be used if it provides value to the experience of the user. That is because when used properly, animated cursors can convey what is happening on a website and also help give visual cues and context in a subtle manner to guide the user.
For example, the cursor may indicate that a certain action is not possible by showcasing a stop symbol or changing to a play/ pause symbol when hovering over a video. Another way of utilising animated cursors might be to show an arrowhead instead to indicate to a user which way they should be scrolling - but animated cursors should be used sparingly and only when appropriate. This is because the animations take up resources and it is possible that it ends up slowing the website down due to lag if there are too many animations.
Use of White Spaces
White space design or negative space design (as it does not necessarily need to be white!) is a trend that has started to gain prominence in recent months. The blank space allows room for your content to breathe and can draw the eyes of your audience to important bits of text or imagery.
In addition to attracting attention to the content, you want to particularly highlight, negative space also helps create a visual hierarchy that allows users to easily process the information on the page as most users tend to scan pages rather than read them. It is worth keeping in mind though that the use of negative space has a big impact on how your brand identity is showcased to your audience.
If a website has a large quantity of negative space and draws the attention of users to very particular and small pieces of content then the website gives off an aura of luxury since the offering is supposed to be the king and luxury brands tend to be quite minimalistic. However, websites that use a lesser amount of negative space can come off as informative (but make sure that it is still legible!).
Gradients allow a designer to blend two colours in a gradual manner which is eye-catching and adds depth to a webpage. They also make your content stand out from so many other websites which stick to a flat design that all start looking similar after a while.
If done correctly, they can also be used to guide the user's eyes to the pieces of content or imagery you want to highlight by moving from a darker shade to a lighter one. It is important to note though that the colours in your gradient should be muted and subtle and not bright (unless your brand identity and colours demand it) as you don't want to overwhelm the user's senses.
This is one of the most important additions you can make to your website. Dark modes were conceived with the goal of reducing eye strain for users on mobile devices but consumers found that there was an added benefit of being exposed to cleaner designs.
When taking a mobile-first approach it is important to note just how popular dark mode is amongst users. According to a recent survey, 82.7% of the participants admitted to using their operating systems in dark mode and 64.6% of respondents expect the sites they visit to automatically switch to a dark theme to match their device preferences. This makes it crucial your website supports dark modes or at the very least has a toggle because the last thing you want to do is blind your users!
And this concludes all the points that I think one should be considering when building a website and I hope that it serves as a helpful guide for you. However, if you have any questions or are looking for some advice, our team at Webstars is more than happy to help you out, so feel free to get in touch with us.