Designing your own website can be difficult, particularly for those with limited design skills. The tips outlined in this article will go a long way towards helping you build your first site. You don’t need any special technical knowledge or coding experience, but what you do need is a little bit of web design know-how.
Designing a new site can be much more difficult than you might expect. Even with the best website builders, achieving the right look can feel impossible. Here, we present 10 expert-backed web design tips to help you build the website of your dreams.
1. Go for Simplicity Where Possible
According to a study by Google in 2012, visually complex websites are less likely to be successful when compared to those with simpler, more minimalistic designs because. This is because they turn off visitors, making them less likely to perform the actions you want them to.
There are a few things that you can do to ensure your site appears user friendly. These include:
- Using tried and tested layouts that are proven to work. People are more likely to interact positively with a website layout that they’re familiar with. Unless you’re a web design guru, we’d suggest staying away from strange designs and trying new things.
- Consider getting rid of sidebars, because they tend to clutter your site without adding any real value. See if you can add the elements from your sidebar to your header, footer, or other part of your page. Having a single content column will help people focus rather than become distracted by your sidebar content.
The take-home message here is that, when it comes to web design, less is more.
2. Take Time Planning Your Site
According to well-known web designer Jeffrey Zeldman, it’s extremely important to spend time developing a layout for your site. In his words, you should “start by asking questions … don’t be precious with your work. Don’t hurry to finish.”
In simple terms, this means that you should never rush the initial website planning process. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a rough plan before you start building anything.
This may seem like a drawn-out, pointless process, but the truth is that even a small amount of planning can save you hours down the track. It’s going to be much easier for you to build your site if you know what it’s going to look like.
3. Use Pictures of People
For some strange reason, the human gaze is naturally attracted to faces. Integrating pictures of people—such as yourself or your staff members—into your website will help your audience engage more easily, making it more likely that they will become converting customers.
As was shown in a massively popular case study by Basecamp, adding faces and testimonials to landing and sales pages can result in a huge boost to your conversion rate. It adds a personal touch, which is something that’s often lacking in the increasingly digitized world.
However, note that it is much more effective if you use images of your and your team in action. Stock photos of random people will appear generic and inauthentic, and won’t instill confidence in your site visitors.
4. Use Clear Navigation Menus
Ensuring your website is easy to navigate is a crucial design consideration. If your navigation menus are poorly designed or confusing, you will find that a lot of people leave your site after only a short time browsing. A few of the things you can do to streamline navigation include:
- Developing a navigation hierarchy with a small number of important parent pages that lead to various related pages. For example, you might list your main pages or categories across your header menu with drop-down lists showing the other pages under these.
- Ensure your footer contains links to your important pages. Most people who are interested in your website will end up at the bottom of a page, and adding links to your footer will help ensure they continue browsing.
- Link your homepage and logo so that people can quickly navigate back to your homepage when they want to.
There are various navigation elements that you might decide to include in your site’s design. The most important thing is that you ensure they make navigation simple and intuitive.
5. Highlight Your Speciality
Brand and experience designer Meg Lewis advises those new to the website building space to “try creating a specialty that’s a true reflection of your interests and skillset”. To do this, you need to ensure your design highlights your specialties.
Start by identifying the things that you plan to specialize in. What sort of brand image are you going for? Are there any particular areas that you’re planning to focus on? Certain products that you’re going to sell?
Once you’ve identified these, you need to build your website around them. Ensure that they are the focal points of the relevant parts of your site, and ensure your design draws your visitors’ attention to them.
6. Allow Users to Scroll Rather Than Click to New Pages
A case study from the Conversion Rate Experts, a popular conversion rate optimization (CRO) company, showed that potential customers are much more likely to keep scrolling than to click through to a new page.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to include everything a customer needs to know about a product or subject on a single page. Don’t spread things over multiple pages. For example, if you have a small e-commerce store with basic product listings, we’d suggest adding everything that’s relevant to each product page. This might include things like sizing charts, shipping and payment information, FAQs, and even informational content about the product.
7. Ensure Your Site is as Fast as Possible
Site speed is one of the most important technical things to consider. Research shows that sites that are slow to load will, on average, have a higher bounce rate, lower conversion rate, and worse search engine ranking than their faster competitors.
There are numerous ways to ensure your page load speeds are as fast as possible. Here are some of the most important:
- Ensure your code is clean and well written.
- Compress images and other media.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN) such as Cloudflare.
- Add some sort of caching system.
- Remove redirects.
- Use a faster server.
A large part of page speed optimization takes place behind the scenes, so make sure you’re placing at least a little focus on the technical design of your site rather than just its visual appearance.
8. Maintain a Focus on High-Quality Written Content
A majority of people designing their first website fail to realize the importance of well-written subheadings, headings, page titles, and other content. Most of your visitors will scan rather than read everything. Because of this, simplicity and clear structure are crucial.
A study by the Nielsen Norman Group revealed the true advantage of using simple, descriptive language. Among low literacy users, just 46% interacted positively with an original test site, compared to 82% when the site was rewritten with a focus on simple, easy-to-understand content.
It’s also a good idea to break up your content as much as possible. Add images and other media to segment long chunks of text. Ensure your font is large enough, use small paragraphs of 3 to 4 lines, and use descriptive subheadings to introduce new ideas.
9. Stand Out from the Crowd
In the words of British designer Mike Kus, “the one thing that can set you apart … is being as creative and daring in your work as possible”. While you still want to follow tried and true web design principles, adding your own personalized flair can work wonders.
By creating a clear, personalized brand and site, you immediately make your business much more recognizable. People will be more likely to remember your name and the services you offer, and your business will increase accordingly.
10. Take Advantage of “Loss Aversion”
It’s human nature to be scared of missing out on something. The pain of missing something is often much greater than the happiness that comes if you get it. By leveraging this through something called loss aversion, you should be able to boost your conversion rates exponentially.
Basically, you need to give the impression that your product or service is scarce, and that it could sell out. Outline the issues someone could experience if they don’t use your products, and place an emphasis on the gains that could be enjoyed.
With the rising popularity of website builders such as Wix and Squarespace, creating your site has never been easier. If you’re looking for a simple website creation platform, take a look at our guide to the best website builders. Most of these are designed specifically for beginners with limited design and development skills, and we’re sure there’s an option that will fit your needs.