You probably are here because you want to improve the website you already have, or you’re trying to figure out what you should do for your new site.
What is web design? Web design is the umbrella term for the process of creating a website. This includes the website layout, the production of content, graphic design. Sometimes web development and web design are used interchangeably, but web design is technically a subcategory under web development.
Either way, it’s important to know the best practices of small business web design before you launch your site. Customers have become much more knowledgeable and far less patient regarding sites that don’t follow the standards for web design in today’s high-demand tech world.
Web Design Best Practices
Here are some important factors when it comes to the best web design best practices that you should practice whenever you can.
- Web Design: Branding Consistency
- Web Design: Importance of Logo on Your Website
- Web Design: Importance of Market Position
- Web Design: Including a Strong Call-to-Action
- Web Design: Website Goal Creation
- Web Design: Factors that Influence a High-Converting Page
- Web Design: Quick Load Time
- Web Design: Content Delivery Network
- Web Design: Correct Image Formats
- Web Design: Address Cache Issues
- Web Design: Evaluate Plugins
- Web Design: HTTP Keep-Alive Response Headers
- Web Design: Enable Compression
- Web Design: Search Engine Optimization
- Web Design: Schema
- Web Design: XML
- Web Design: Mobile Friendliness
- Web Design: Desktop vs. Mobile
- Web Design: Responsive Design
- Web Design: Contact Info
- Web Design: Back to Top Buttons
- Web Design: Retargeting Via Email Marketing
- Web Design: Sync to Website
- Web Design: Present Icons
- Web Design: Connect Your Social Media
- Web Design: Quality Images
- Web Design: Capitalizing with Icons
- Web Design: Decrease Bounce Rate
- Web Design: Chatbots
- Web Design: Color Scheme
- Web Design: Brand Personality
If you have a website, hopefully, you understand the importance of branding, especially in terms of designing a website. If you do not have a website but you are thinking about putting a website together, you need to remember that there is a difference between marketing products and branding your company.
Marking or advertising products involves talking about the important aspects of a product or service, illustrating ways that your product is better than your competitors, and promoting it on different platforms. This is very important to your success. But branding is more involved and requires you to talk about more than products and services. With branding, you are analyzing and evaluating every aspect of your brand and the image that you want to project to the world.
Branding can include a wide number of digital assets including photos, graphics on your page, podcasts and video, logos, and anything else you decide to use to promote your brand.
Some famous entrepreneurs are so focused on branding that they believe it is the most important component of any website. Daymond John says in his online webinars that you should be able to describe your brand in 3-5 words. He believes you must make your brand so prevalent that your presence is on every platform where your customers are.
In his famous book, The Brand Within, (I have an autographed copy), Daymond talks about the consistency of branding and how hard you should work at your branding. Your branding is the “face of your business” to the public. They will judge your value based on how well you market your brand, not your products.
So, when you start planning your website and building it, you need to keep your brand image in mind. Everything you do should help you weave your company image and branding within your website.
Also, you need to imagine your logo, graphics, and other digital assets on other platforms, as well. Think about how your logo will look on your social media pages, your blog, and other platforms. You need to find a way to keep your consistency so that people will easily recognize your brand no matter what channel they find it on.
Your logo is one of the most important aspects of your brand as well as your website. It needs to be the first thing your customers see when they enter your website, blog, or social media pages. You may want to experiment with a few different places to put your logo. There have been numerous studies on where you should place your logo.
The Nielsen Norman Group did a study on logo placement. Their results showed that 89% of users are likely to remember logos that are placed in the traditional upper left-hand side of your webpage. Additionally, placing your logo here is also a good way to be sure Google’s algorithms will pick up your logo under the “image” search option that more people are using now.
Some modern-thinking web owners have considered placing their logo on the upper right-hand side. It seems to be a new trend. But the results have not been good so far. Users are so used to seeing the logo in the upper left-hand side that they may not even see a logo placed elsewhere on the page.
Regarding the content of your logo, you should think about ways that will help you show a visual representation of what your brand is about. It represents your brand identity and helps become a building block for your brand.
Many consider their company logo the primary digital asset that they should capitalize on to give customers an idea of what your company stands for. You should also focus on using your logo to gain trust with customers and convince potential customers of your professionalism.
SEO SIDENOTE: Make sure that when you’re saving or importing your logo image into your website, that you save the logo as your brand name or whatever keyword you want that image to rank for. You’ll also want to put this is the alt text, as well.
When you think about the market position, consider how your customer thinks. The market position reflects the way the customer thinks about your brand when compared with other similar brands. This is why branding is so important. You need to market your brand in such a way that there is no confusion on who you are, what you do, and what you stand for. This goes beyond a basic product lineup. It has to do with the values of your company, too.
In short, positioning is the consumer’s perception of your brand. This is a process of establishing an image or identity associated with your brand so that consumers think of your company in a certain way. This encompasses your brand identity, which includes things such as your mission, vision, visual symbols, concepts, ethics, reputation, culture, and legacy.
Some website owners have a great-looking site, they provide a positive UX experience for their users, and they seem to have thought of everything. But they forget the most important thing. The “call-to-action” (CTA) is the last thing your customers see before they leave your site and it is the factor that often gives customers the extra incentive to make a purchase.
Today, most web owners consider this the final stage of “the buyer’s journey.” Websites are designed to be less sales-oriented than they used to be. That’s because people have gotten desensitized to ad-related copy. We all have commercials and ads coming toward us every day so that we barely listen to them anymore. TV shows, radio programs, and online sites are filled with ads. So the website owner today should focus on creating the best customer journey through their site so that the natural response at the end of this journey is a sale.
It is important to direct your customer to do exactly what you want them to do at the end of this journey. For example, if you want them to sign up for your newsletter, ask them to do that. If your goal is to have them make a purchase, ask them to “click on the buy it now button” or something similar. Directing the customer to do exactly what you want is important in order to reach your goals for your website and online business. You can learn more about this in our blog: Strategies for Online Lead Generation.
Remember that your website should be your “virtual real estate,” your most important asset that you have to help convert sales as well as build your clientele. Communicating value through your online content is critical, as well as to set goals for your brand. You will set your own goals for your business according to what is most important to you. But some of the most important goals are listed below. Below the list is a brief description of each and why it is important.
Goal 1: Attracting a Larger Market
The ultimate goal of an online website is to serve as the gateway to your brand.
Why do you build this gateway to your brand?
Because you want to attract a larger group of people to your brand, right?
Knowing your audience is critical, but you also need to know how to create your website in such a way that it will allow you to attract a larger audience to your products and services that you have done in the past.
For this, we recommend content marketing. What is content marketing?
In a nutshell, content marketing is the skillful use of keywords, SEO and a variety of other techniques that work together to get your website more organic traffic. Included in this is writing high-quality content, such as the post you’re reading now. See how that works?
Having a blog also helps build value for your target audience. Remember, it’s not enough to gain a customer for a day. You need to build relationships that continue beyond the first sale. This means knowing your audience, offering them value, and adding to that value so that they will want to come back to see what you will do next.
Healthcare Marketing can be a little trickier, so if you’re in this sector, check out this post, first!
Goal 2: Informing Customers of Offerings
Of course, without informing your visitors about what you offer, you can make no sales. When you are working on your branding, it’s fine to also promote specific products or services. Just make sure you keep the theme of your brand in your mind as you build your website and other digital assets. That way, everything will work together in the way it is supposed to.
If you create an ad for a specific product or service, make sure that you have a dedicated landing page that correlates to the ad. Nothing is worse than clicking on an ad, only to be redirected to something completely different than you expected.
For more information on this topic, check out our post on How Retargeting Can Help You Achieve a Better ROI.
Goal 3: Creating a Top-Notch CTA
Remember that your CTA (call-to-action) is not an afterthought. It’s not just something you add at the end of your website, video, or presentation because it sounds good.
You have designed a website or page for a specific purpose. And you need to make that purpose known to your customer. While you may have focused more on informational content on your main page to add value to your site, now is the time to ask the customer to do what you want them to do.
Believe it or not, people really want clear, correct instructions. Don’t be a vague marketer.
If you have done a good job of taking your prospect through the buyer’s journey in a positive way, you should have a pretty high conversion rate. There are ways you can track your conversions and figure out what about your page is converting your leads the most or make changes as necessary to improve your percentages.
If your CTA is strong and you have converted them while they were on your site, you should have no trouble getting sales as a result of your efforts.
The design is a big part of your website. But it is not the main component. Your content is the primary component that results in conversions. Still, your design should be user-friendly, mobile-friendly, and compliant with the latest tech standards so that you provide your customers with the most reliable and engaging website.
Below are some of the other factors that influence the UX (user experience) that your customers have on your site. Try to work on all of them as you can to ensure that everything works as efficiently as possible while allowing customers the best experience you can provide.
One of the main reasons that people leave a page when they first land on it is the fact that the load time is too slow. Sometimes, it seems to take forever for graphics and design features to load.
Did you know that the average “bounce rate” is 3 seconds? What does this mean for your web design? This means that more often than not, if I click on your page, and it isn’t fully loaded in 3 seconds, I will find another website to look at.
When it comes to attracting people to your site, you need to make sure that your site loads quickly. This will decrease your bounce rate and encourage visitors to stay on your page longer.
If your website is running slow, here are a few tips to get it back up to speed:
- Reduce image size
- Remove redirects
- Clean up “bad HTML” or Java
- Optimize your cache
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Compress files
- Fix any 404 or 405 errors that may arise
Other suggestions for increasing your loading speed can be found here.
One unique idea that you may not have thought of is to develop your own content delivery network. This kind of network consists of a network of servers that you set up ahead of time that allows you to deliver content in record time. This system also allows you to keep control of your content at the top where it belongs.
There are several advantages to a CDN (content delivery network). Some of the most important ones are listed below:
- Improve page load speed
- Handle higher traffic loads
- Block spammers and bots
- Reduce bandwidth consumption
- Protect your website from DDoS attacks
Keeping up with the latest formats and technologies will help you to reach more potential customers, as well as to increase your UX. Pages load faster when you are dealing with less image size so reducing your image sizes in favor of some of the modern mobile-friendly formats may be the answer.
If your image sizes or file sizes are too large, you can always compress the file size.
Have you ever had trouble loading a web page and some customer service agent told you to “dump your cache” or temporary directory?
If so, you probably understand why keeping your cache clean can positively affect your website. With web servers or hosting plans, there is usually an option for dumping your cache. Go into your “manage page” options and look for an option such as “optimize your site” or “website accelerator.” It is understood by most web server host owners that doing this means you want to speed up your website. They use a cache purge to achieve this.
If you have a website on WordPress or any server that allows you to use plugins, you may want to occasionally check to see if your plugins are causing page speed issues or other technical problems.
Most plugins work efficiently without weighing down your server, but this often depends on the amount of traffic you have on your web server, whether or not you have a dedicated server, and other factors.
To ensure that plugins run effectively all of the time, you may want to consider getting a dedicated server so that you do not have to share your connection with anyone else.
Keep-Alive connections use TCP technology to allow client and servers to use the same connection. They send multiple HTTP requests and responses back and forth on the same protocol. What does this do? It allows website owners to avoid the 3-way handshake that is usually required for new connections that are often responsible for slow loading times and startups.
The “Keep-alive” connection is enabled by default in HTTP/1.1.
Once you switch to HTTP/1.0, it will close this connection after completing the client-server request.
As we mentioned earlier, compressing your images or files is one quick and easy way to slow down a lagging website.
Compressing images is one way you can reduce the size of your image load on your server without having to remove photos, graphics, or large infographics. Use compression tools before you upload your images if you have a particularly large image or allow your web server to do this if this is an option with your web server.
What is SEO? If you are hosting a website for your online business, you need to have a basic understanding of search engine optimization. SEO, as it is called, has been around for a long time. There is some misunderstanding on its importance today though, ever since Google has reduced the amount of importance it places on keywords.
But it is important to remember that SEO is something that you should begin as soon as you set up your website or web properties and continue it on a weekly or monthly basis from now on. While paid advertising offers a “quick fix” in bringing you immediate traffic, think of SEO as that natural content that you build over time.
The use of SEO should include outbound and inbound links, as well, which both increase your ranking in Google and improve your leads magnet. It is important to note that Google considers links coming into your site as more important than outbound links that you link out to.
However, it helps your site in other ways when you link out to relevant sites that help your customers find what they are looking for. Sometimes you may not win a sale that day from a customer but you may win their trust because you helped them and this is valuable, also.
What is SEO Content?
SEO content is any content that increases your natural search results in Google and the other search engines. In the past, this was only about keywords. Now it also includes all of your links and sites that you have come or gone from your site, as well as graphics, videos, and podcasts, since all of these digital assets often have their own search directories, as well.
When developing your SEO content and the other content for your websites, remember that high-quality content is the most important thing. This idea was promulgated by Google as of the most recent algorithm update and several other updates before this.
Remember that SEO only speaks to the search engines, while your website is the entity that speaks to your customers and visitors. It is the job of SEO (the matching of your SEO content with customers who are searching for your content) to help make that connection. But it is your job on your website to keep them there.
You need to be thinking about what you will say to your customer once you get them to your site. How will you convince them that they should interact and engage with your brand? What unique approach will you take to get them to bookmark your site and return again for another day?
If you can figure out how to be unique with your website and your brand, you have figured out the ultimate challenge that all business owners must figure out to be successful.
SEO tags are just another part of your SEO but they are important. Meta tags are composed of keywords that you put in a description that searchers will read before coming to your site, as well as a link that they will click on to reach your landing page. Use your primary keywords in the first line of your meta description to attract people to your site using words they are likely to use when searching for your content.
This involves applying a certain degree of psychology about when people shop, what they are thinking when they shop, and how they make buying decisions.
Schema is a unique type of add-on HTML markup language that increases your results in the search engines. It does this by speaking to all of the four major search engines with technical information that describes what your page is really about.
Here is where branding comes in again, also. If your branding is what it should be, you should be able to work in the schema information naturally based on the key points of your brand and your website.
Usually, the schema information is something extra that may add credibility to your site and branding. At times, it is simply an extra meta tag that tells the searcher what your site is about and may increase your leads generation ability.
XML is an acronym for “eXtensible markup language.” Notice that the “X” is capitalized. This is intentional to emphasize that it is designed to store and transport data within your HTML code. It is a self-descriptive language that works as a complementary language with HTML.
We mentioned earlier that mobile-friendliness is the other criteria for high ranking with Google. It is also important to remember that 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine. Google is the most popular and widely-used search engine, but it is important to be noticed by Bing, Yahoo, and others, as well.
Consider that fact that your users will be coming into your site on a multitude of different devices. They may be using a shopping app, come in from Facebook based on recommendations from friends, or accessing your site directly.
All of these pieces of data are important to monitor so that you will have a better understanding of your target audience. The more information you have about your audience, the more you will be able to reach them.
One of the factors that you can monitor using Google Analytics or other search tools is the type of device your users are utilizing. Desktop users will show up as Windows or Mac users in your analytical data. You can also see which version they are using.
Mobile users will show up as “mobile users,” and you can also tell what type of mobile device they are using. Once you have this information, you can adjust your web content on your websites and blogs to create a better user experience for your mobile users.
Check your navigation menu, online graphics, video content, and other aspects to see how mobile-friendly your site is to mobile users.
It’s not enough to just look at your site and determine whether it is user-friendly to mobile users. You need to do a mobile-friendly test to determine this. Some web servers offer a mobile optimization option to improve your mobile-friendliness. If you do not have access to this type of tool, use Google’s mobile-friendly test.
What is responsive design? If you are building a website, you need to have an understanding of this component also. Responsive design is a design that is considered to be friendly to any type of user, any type of device, and any format of the user. If your site has a responsive design, it means that your website is designed in such a way that it looks just as good in a mobile device as it does on a desktop computer.
Responsive design is created to give your visitors all an equally satisfying site experience so that they have an equal opportunity to engage with your brand and products. In most cases, if your site passes the mobile-friendly test, it is likely based on a responsive design. But you should test every aspect of your site to make sure this is the case.
Responsive Design: Easy Navigation (UX)
Part of responsive design is the ease of navigation that you have on your website. Is it easy to find what you want customers to find? Are your products easily accessible to everyone? How easy is it to utilize your shopping cart, browse for products, and make a purchase. Test all of these things yourself before releasing your site to your audience.
Responsive Design: Limit Navigation Bar Menu
To improve response rates and results on your website, limit the number of navigation bar menu items you have on your site. Why do this? Because limiting the number of choices lets you offer visitors more simplicity and increases the chances they will do what you want them to do.
Avoid confusion by limiting the options you give your visitors. But make the choices attractive and interesting to them.
Responsive Design: Search Bars
Offering a search bar on your page may increase your response rate. People sometimes want to narrow their search further once they locate your page or website. If you can offer a search bar on your page, you may be able to increase your level of activity on your site. Anything you can do to save people trouble by providing something on your site will help you to keep them on your site longer and thus increase sales.
Always include your contact information on your site as the last thing on your “About Us” page and again on your “Contact Page.”
This is the proper place to put this and this is where people expect to find it. Include the following information on your contact page.
- Name of the company
- Location (if a walk-in store)
- Phone number and email
Alternatively, you may want to opt for a contact form that allows people to fill out a contact form to reach you. Then you can handle these as they come in. People may also be more likely to fill out a quick form than they will to click on your email links or pick up the phone.
Providing “back to top” buttons allows you to save the visitor more time when they are shopping or surfing on your site. This also improves the navigation system and increases your UX.
Email marketing is still considered the single best way to market your brand as well as your website and product line. Use email marketing that includes segmented marketing to retarget those customers who didn’t follow through with a sale.
Synchronizing everything to your website with push through notifications for mobile users will help increase your overall customer experience. If you can synchronize your social media sites, blogs, and video channels to your website as well, you will get better results in your branding.
Using icons that emphasize your logo or other aspects of your website, you may increase your targeted traffic to your website. You can also let people know whether you are online or not with IRC chat applications and other means.
Social media is one of the most important ways to increase your following and potential leads. You can use your Facebook to create paid ads as well as making free posts every day or as often as you want.
It is strongly advisable to use all forms of major social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to improve your branding online. Remember that the goal of branding is to put your company information out there enough that you become easily recognizable no matter what platform you are on.
Focus on your logo and make sure your logo is in the right technical specifications so that you can share it on all platforms. Social media platforms all have distinct criteria for images and videos, so make sure you are familiar with these.
Make sure you link your social media sites to your main landing page by providing easily accessible social media buttons on your site. You can usually find a widget for this on your web server.
There are a number of ways you can get more views on your website. Talk about your products and branding in your blog, social media, and other platforms to increase your level of engagement.
To decrease your bounce rate, improve your overall user experience and make the user experience interesting and engaging. Study the analytics of your website through Google Analytics to see what needs changing.
Establish an easy communications link between your customers and your brand by providing contact information and online chat. Sure, some customers may be comfortable filling out a form or calling your office, but there are other customers who would feel more comfortable having their questions answered right then and there.
If you know what you’re doing, or if the person answering the questions has a good understanding of the business, this will also help to instill trust between you and your customer.
Web Design: Color Scheme
The color scheme of your brand helps create the whole user experience and nicely designed colors and themes create a pleasing experience for your visitors.
Choosing a good color scheme for your website can be a scary thing. There are a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to choosing a color scheme:
- What color should I use for my logo or headline?
- What complimentary colors will go well with this color?
- Which part of my website should have color?
If you aren’t good at color schemes and design, there are several free programs available to help you with this. If your webpage is on WordPress, there are prebuilt themes you can add, making this very easy.
Web Design: Brand Personality
The image that your project is important. Use techniques like high contrast text and backgrounds, making use of white space, and visually appealing design to improve your design.
Make sure your brand stays true to the personality you set.
Lastly, combine these various best web design best practices and techniques in your own way. Don’t try to emulate others. Be yourself. In the end, there is no magic formula for success as an online business owner. Just make a great website and speak to your customer through these various methods, offer great content, and give them a reason to return. Small business web design is not as hard as it seems.
You’ll be surprised at the results!