In the age of the Internet, a website can enhance any business. In many cases, the website is the business! More and more people are flocking to the web to consume information and entertainment and to purchase merchandise. Each and every website is trying to capitalize on this traffic, but only a small percentage rise to the top of search engine rankings, audience and page views. What sets these sites apart from the glut of mediocrity that most websites get buried in? One of the major factors is good website design.
Good website design requires an artist’s eye, a psychologist’s appreciation for human motivation and a programmer’s brilliance. In other words, sound website design isn’t easy! Perhaps the best way to determine if a website is well designed is to watch a user maneuver through the site. If the user gets lost trying to find a certain page, grows bored or gets annoyed by the font, then the website is clearly not working! Good website design is the design you don’t notice. It allows a user to sail smoothly through the site, find exactly what they want (and maybe even things they didn’t know they wanted) and complete their transaction with ease.
There is no one right way to design a website. Many programmers spend excess energy to add animation, lots of colors and dynamic elements, but this isn’t always the best way to go. One of the best examples of Spartan effectiveness is the online garage sale known as Craigslist. This website is perhaps one of the simplest ever created. It is not pretty or dazzling, but it is incredibly functional, which is why it receives a huge amount of traffic. Good web design is synonymous with functionality.
Good website design is difficult to define, because there is an unlimited amount of ways to build a site and different strategies work for different sites. Perhaps it is easier to describe how to avoid bad website design. Everyone knows what makes a bad website, because these are the things that trip us up. Bright fonts, poor menus, long blocks of text, flashing images, links that lead to nowhere, fuzzy pictures, outdated information, etc…
If web designers and website owners need to keep one thing in mind, it is that the Internet offers a plethora of information and services all vying for the user’s limited attention. Internet users have little patience for a clunky site and will jump off in a heartbeat rather than try to wade through poor programming. Perhaps, then, good web design can be defined by a single word: respect. Respect your audience. Respect their time and respect their motivation for coming to your site. Give them what they’re looking for, or they will find another website that will.