Whether you’re creating your own website or hiring someone to do it for you, here are a few website design tips for a consultant or professional services company. Things change fast in the online world and I thought you might find it helpful to learn about the techniques that we and other web designers are using in the business to business environment.
- Update your logo and link it to your home page. Your logo represents your brand, so if you’re still using a logo from ten years ago, it’s probably time for an update. Make sure you use a high quality image and place it in the upper left hand corner of your website. After all, that’s where we’re trained to look. And be sure that the logo links back to your home page. Again web visitors are trained to expect that. There are plenty of very good graphic designers both locally and around the world who can help you create a new logo. If you don’t know where to start check out 99Designs who use a unique bidding process to find you the right designer.
- Keep your navigation simple and intuitive. Visitors come to your website to find what they need. If they can’t find it quickly and easily, then they move on…very quickly. Don’t put too many items in your primary navigation, no more than seven. If you have more items, group similar subjects as sub-items below a main subject. For example, have top-level item titled “Services”, then list your individual services below that when the visitor hovers on it. If you have even more items, use a secondary navigation bar or consider placing them at the side of the page (the sidebar).
- Keep it Simple – Clear the Clutter. In the past, it was all the rage to jam as much information on a page as possible. This resulted in busy, cluttered and confusing websites. As with any communications, less is more. Many years ago, when learning the art of public speaking, I learned to use a Point of View (POV) statement for every speech. The POV is simply the three most important things I wanted my listeners to take away from the talk. That same principle applies to websites. We’ve become so overwhelmed by information overload today that we don’t have time to sift through multiple distractions.
- Use white space. The best way to keep things simple is to make space between paragraphs. Cramming lots of information into tightly packed paragraphs causes visitors’ eyes to glaze over and move on. Ample use of white space focuses the visitor’s attention on your key message.
- Use a neutral color palette. In the business to business world, you want to convey trust and competence in your field. Using a modern clean design with splashes of color in strategic places draws attention to your headlines and content. Adobe has created an excellent free color tool called Kuler that we use every day to create and manage clients’ color palettes.
- Use Responsive Design You may be asking, what’s that? Responsive design is a fancy term for a website that adjusts it’s size and formatting based upon the size of the device used to view it. Thirty percent of all web traffic comes from mobile devices and that number is increasing rapidly. Today you must be sure your site is functional on mobile phones and tablets. And I don’t mean forcing the visitor to zoom in to see your content and contact information. Mobile visitors are looking for information quickly. Give it to them. Oh yes, and be sure your telephone number can be dialed directly from the page with a simple click.
- Use quality photography. Whenever possible, hire a professional to make your photographs, especially on the home and site pages. Nothing screams “amateur” like a poorly lit photo. If professional photographs are not an option, use quality stock photos. They don’t cost much and they look first rate. And don’t forget, just because it’s easy to download photos from other websites doesn’t mean they’re free. Photographs are protected by copyright law. There’s no point in creating a legal problem just to save a few bucks. As a matter of policy, we will not add photographs and graphics to any website without permission of the copyright holder.
- Every page is a landing page. Due to the magic of web search and good search optimization practices, visitors will first land on your website on almost any page. In fact, many of them never see your home page. Therefore, it’s important to make sure visitors can find key information about your company.
- Forget the Slider and Don’t Use Flash. What’s a slider? You’ve probably seen one on dozens of sites. It’s that box at the top of the home page with group of images that slide across the page. If it has a clear purpose use it. But over the past few years it’s become a crutch to fill space. I know because I’m as guilty as anyone. What’s Flash? In days gone by, it was an Internet standard to display video and motion graphic. Thanks to differences between Apple and Adobe it does not work natively on iPads and iPhones. And new technology like HTML5 have made it unnecessary. If someone recommends Flash to you, run the other way.
- Keep the important stuff above the fold. This is an old newspaper term referring to the top half of the page that’s visible when it’s folded. In a website, it’s the portion of the screen you see without scrolling. Of course, it’s different on every device. But it’s the most important real estate on the page…use it for your POV (see item 12).
- Confused about your message? This really gets into content (we’ll save the details for another day) but it bears mentioning here as everything ties together). If you don’t know what to say on your website, then make sure you answer these questions. What do you do? What makes you different? Why should they trust you? How can you be reached? If you use your website to answer those questions, you can’t go wrong.
Photo by Johan Larsson