Just because you’re running a business online doesn’t mean you can ignore human nature. People naturally put more trust into something that is pleasing to the eyes and obviously well cared for. What does that mean for you? You need to be proactive about ensuring your site is both functional and beautiful in a way that’s in-line with your business. The first impression people get when visiting your site is crucial. So is the way it functions, how the navigation is built and how easy it is to use.
Be Original but Not Unique
I know… do what? Let me try to explain… Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Your design shouldn’t be some crazy, out of this world, never seen before type of design and layout. I can almost bet that your kitchen appliances, although maybe new, sleek and modern, aren’t completely different from what your parents used. There are still burners on top. There are still specific areas on the front to control temperatures, etc…
People appreciate new and exciting. People don’t appreciate feeling lost when they can’t figure out how to use some completely new thing they feel shouldn’t be so damn difficult to use. So sure, make your site original. Make the design elegant or make it pop – whatever suits your business and what your target audience is kind of used to. Use navigation that’s pretty common. Top menus. Side menus. Whatever it may be.
Also, please don’t think you need to fill every inch of space with ‘something’. Don’t clutter it up with graphics that have no point. Don’t fill all your empty space with advertising in hopes of making an extra few bucks. Empty space gives your site a cleaner feel and makes it easier to navigate.
Clear and to the Point
When someone arrives at your site for the first time, it shouldn’t take more than a second or two to know what you offer. Are you offering helpful information about a topic and reviews from multiple users? Are you selling actual physical products they can order right from your site? Are you a designer offering web design services to small businesses?
It should be clearly evident what someone can expect to find on your site and who your site has been created for. Put the most important logos, information, tip bubbles or whatever it is you’re using near the top left corner. That’s the first place people look and then work their way down, skimming.
No matter what kind of text you’re using, make sure that it’s very clear and easy to read. If it’s hard to read i.e. too small, weird color that’s hard on the eyes, an unusual font that you have to ‘figure out’, then people will get frustrated very quickly and leave. Use TypeTester to find a suitable font and size.
Gently Encourage Reader Retention
Most people won’t buy or order anything from you the first time they land on your site. So it’s in your best interest to try to build a relationship with those readers. Try to get them to want to come back to your site again. There are a number of ways you can do this, but here are a few to consider:
- Use an attractive RSS subscribe button to draw attention or use an elegant opt in bar, slide in or pop up. Of course, make sure it isn’t obtrusive and never forced. If you have a lot of subscribers already then display the number of readers you have. Social proof can work wonders!
- Offer a free report in return for them giving you their email and name (opting in). Then you can send emails when you post something important or a special update/offer.
- Use social media. Make it easy to follow you on Twitter or Like you on Facebook. There are lots of bars, plug ins, etc… you can use. A free one that lots of people use is Get Social.
Giving them a few different options will increase the number of repeat visitors you get, but don’t try to stuff ‘em down their throat if you know what I mean. No one likes to have pop-up after pop-up where someone is trying to force it.
Logos and Photo Images
You don’t have to spend a fortune on a fancy logo. There are tons of ways to get great looking logos cheap or free. You can use a beautiful font and a free program like Gimp to make an easy, free logo. You can go with a free online service like FlamingText or hire someone on Fiverr to make you one for – you guessed it, five bucks.
Don’t use cheesy, over-used stock photos that everyone has seen on 20 blogs already. If you can, use take your own photos and use them. If that’s not possible, at least look in other places like Flickr for photos that are allowed to be used (be sure to use advanced search and find those that are available for use).