It’s official. The web is a necessity. It is not an optional luxury. Many of us spend the better part of our lives surfing the web, deriving our living from the web, and being entertained by the content and antics of our favorite web denizens. There is no question about it. We need the web, and we need it to look absolutely fabulous.
Fortunately, web designers have answered the call, and provided us with a glimpse of the Web we both want and need. Unfortunately, their work only constitutes a small fraction of the World Wide Web. Most of it is still populated by sites that are like sandpaper to the eyes.
There are a number of reasons we have these soul-grindingly bad designs. One of the main reasons is that design is not a required skill for launching a website. It has become too easy to create and launch a website while knowing nothing of what makes a website great. Like amateur surgery, some things should never be opened up to the masses.
That said, there are still things that untrained people can do to make great sites. The main thing is to let someone else do the designing. This can be done by using professionally designed templates that come with your turnkey platform of choice.
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Also available to the amateur are the many examples of award-winning sites designed by professionals, and recognized by groups like awwwards.com. When studying this collection of award-winning Web designs, we can learn many lessons from the patterns that emerge. Here are three:
Keep it Simple
The worst websites in the world all have at least one thing in common: They are way too busy. They look complicated and convoluted. The best sites on the Web look simple, even if they’re not. Your eye is drawn to a specific area on the screen. You know immediately what you are looking at, and what to do next.
The purpose and function of the site is clear. It may be colorful or monochrome. The use of color is calibrated to direct the eye, but not get in the way of the content. If not judiciously applied, color can go from being a visual aid to a distraction. There is a big difference between fine art, and a paint-splattered mess on a canvas.
Make it Intuitive
So a person has clicked into your website. Now what? With poorly designed sites, it is not immediately obvious what to do next. Some sites require you to scroll to reveal the site options. Many mobile sites require you to touch something onscreen to slide open a side panel containing buttons for site navigation.
Even the design experts at Apple are guilty of making Web pages that are difficult and unintuitive to navigate. Do you scroll up or over? Are those words clickable or static? These are the kind of questions that visitors to your site should never have to ask.
Make it Actionable
One of the basic rules of sales also applies to great Web design. It is not enough to get people to visit. It is also necessary to get your visitors to engage with your site. If you try to squeeze too much information on the homepage, you give the visitor no reason to engage further with your site. They feel like they have gotten everything they need, even if they haven’t.
You also cannot just hope they will engage once they are on your site. Hope is not a strategy. With the design elements you place on the page, the images, colors, and text, you subtly direct your visitor to take the next step whether it be clicking on a link, or browsing a catalog. Great Web design is not just pretty. It is simple, intuitive, and actionable. You don’t have to be an award-winning designer to take advantage of the tricks of the trade. Make your next website fabulous.