Designing a great website: 15 expert tips

This is a blog I contributed towards as the ‘branding expert’ along with Richard Hill of E-CRM and Tim Gander Photography for Real Business. Thanks to Jenny Wood of Avalanche Media All members of The Bath Business Club.

View the original article from Real Business.

Richard Hill, internet marketing specialist, owner and founder of e-crm.co.uk

1. Targeting

The marketing basics are essential: understand your market and why people shop with you. Brand, price, convenience, location – it’s all critical.

2. Shopping experience

From the site’s entrance points to product display methods, the whole online experience of your store needs to engage customers. Navigation through the site has to be easy and simple to understand. Help your visitors get from point A to point B without them needing to think how it is supposed to be done. Your site design must be with the customer in mind.

3. Create confidence

Display your delivery charges and options clearly and concisely on your web site, for customers to view before they hit the checkout. Provide your customers with a range, including the option to pay a little extra for a quicker delivery – for instant gratification. Let those who want to browse your site do so and discover your services, without the need for subscriptions or registrations forcing them to share private data. At the checkout, assure shoppers that their private details will not be shared with any third party. Failure to reassure customers at this point will lead to loss of sales and repeat visits to the site. Make sure that data entered isn’t then lost when there is an error – another deterrent – make it easy to change and correct things.

4. Start a relationship

Aim to build a long-term relationship with your customers and encourage them to come back to your site. Make it easy to get in touch and ask for help. Good customer service adds real value to the shopper’s experience, so provide customer service online which actually resolves customer queries and helps people to buy. When customers buy something from you, ask them if it’s okay to put them on your mailing list.

5. SEO and offline marketing

There’s no point in having a great looking site with the best products in the world if nobody knows the business exists. Make sure your site is found by the search engines by using good page titles, headings and descriptions. Text is important for SEO, but make sure your site is still presented in the same way in each different browser. Consider what needs to be done in the offline world to raise awareness of your brand and drive people to search for your site or products in the first place.

Tim Gander, commercial photographer and on-site photography trainer to businesses

1. Stock imagery

It may be cheap and cheerful, but that’s also what it will say about your business. And when your designer has finished billing you for the hours spent trawling for suitable images, did it work out cheaper than using a professional?

2. Google Images is not a free photo library

If it’s on the web, someone somewhere owns the copyright for the photo. Beware the unexpected Getty bill for large sums if your’e caught using one of their images illegally.

3. Cheapening your products

Your iPhone pics might look okay on your iPhone and your mate might be quite handy with a camera, but do the results truly match the message you’re trying to convey? Whether you’re selling products or featuring your people, quality images will convey a quality message and people will trust you more. Low resolution and distorted photos are a common problem and, more importantly, damaging for your online sales.

4. Captions

Every image has the ability to carry hidden text and Google can see this data. Help your site’s search engine ranking by titling your photos with relevant information.

5. Size does matter

Can visitors to your website view all your images clearly? Displaying them too small will render them useless, but too large and they could appear “blocky” or soft. Also be mindful that using photos too large in file size will slow down the loading of the web page and therefore increase potential for shoppers to make a quick exit.

Andy Fuller, founder of branding and web design agency designbull.co.uk  

1. Plan your site

You wouldn’t build a house without plans and the same applies to building a website. The terminology used in web design derives from that used in house building eg: “under construction” web holding pages). Wireframes (or skeleton diagrams) are a great way to clearly layout your website and explain your site to others. Having a clear idea of what your site will contain – its navigation and product ranges – will save time and money further down the line.

2. Keep it simple

When a website has too much imagery, text, fonts, links and colours it can be painful viewing (we’ve all encountered those using yellow Comic Sans font on black backgrounds). By keeping the design simple and not being afraid to use “white space”, visitors will be more attracted to your online store; therefore more likely to stay longer and best of all, purchase.

3. Be consistent

The site’s theme is important. Decide on this and make sure it follows through each part, featuring the same colours, fonts and alignments, even through the checkout process. Your  company’s logo should always be top left, making each page uniform.

4. On brand

It’s essential that the design of the site is consistent with your company’s offline branding (eg: print and advertising). This includes the tone of voice and style adopted.

5. Think like a customer

When designing a website, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Try to imagine who they are and play to their needs. For example if they’re young, using lots of imagery and animation, plus offers will catch their attention. If they are of an older generation, design with large, clearly readable fonts and functional imagery. When designing navigation buttons, make sure they’re easy to see and large enough to click using a finger – it’s likely that your site will also be accessed via handheld, touchscreen devices such as the iPhone.

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