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Top 10 Principles of Effective Websites

So, what is it that makes for a good website design? One where your visitors enjoy the experience, want to stay for longer and come back sooner? And of course, one that drives purchase as well as word-of-mouth. We’d like to share our top 10 principles that need to be carefully considered…

1. Strong branding – who are you?
Never has the fight for customers seemed so fierce with such heightened competition in the market. For instance, did you know that last year saw a whopping 49 new gin distilleries open in the UK alone, according to HMRC figs? Everyone’s gone Gintastic… there’s even World Gin Day on Saturday 9th June so cheers!

A strong, recognisable brand and therefore branding is a must-have in these sink or swim times. It’s the foundation for building a strong connection and loyalty with your customers. It makes sure you’re seen as the ‘go-to’, not just about customers selecting you over your competitors.

There are some exciting new website design trends that can help to create more unique branding opportunities. Last year saw the launch of the CSS grid which provides more design flexibility with irregular grid layouts compared to WordPress or Squarespace.

Making sure you choose fonts that reflect your brand’s tone, whether it’s custom, hand-written or large also helps to build that connection. The current trend is big and bold – don’t be vanilla!

2. Is it clear what’s on offer – what you do?
As the saying goes – you never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression. Website visitors typically leave a website within 10-20 seconds. (Nielsen Norman Group).

So, your website needs to communicate the benefits (not features) you bring very quickly. And content is still king, “63% of consumers said they’d think more positively of a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting or relevant”. (Rapt Media).

The use of whitespace can really help to make sure that what you are offering stands out.

3. Clear call-to-action (CTA) – what do you want your audience to do?
Do you want them to call, email, buy, sign up? You need to help your visitors through the buying journey with strategic and clear CTAs. Whether it’s through simple and effectively designed call-to-action buttons, that stand out from anything else on the page. Or clickable copy. And there are many other considerations; background images, surrounding text and colour. Plus, the written language and tone you use.

4. Key information – above vs below the fold?
For those who may not know ‘above the fold’ came from a print term where it was the top half of the front of a newspaper. On a website it’s the content that’s displayed without the need for any scrolling. This part of the page is what visitors see first and what gets the most attention and dwell time.

According to Neilson, “what appears at the top of the page vs. what’s hidden will always influence the user experience – regardless of screen size.” And they found that the average difference in how users treat info above vs. below the fold is 84%. The content that is visible on the page that doesn’t need the visitor to do anything about, is what motivates the visitor to scroll down.

So, what should you be including in this prime space? Top of this spot should be your unique selling point (USP), what you’re offering and how the customer will benefit. This orientates the customer as to where they have landed and should be closely followed with some support info – further details on what you do.

And there is of course your logo, the navigation and contact info. Where your call-to-action sits when it comes to the fold is the cause of much debate that we’ll save for now!

5. Easy to navigate – considering the user journey
When it comes to your website it’s a balancing act between your branding, the needs and wants of your customers and their visitor experience. Designing and developing well planned navigation is the most crucial area to get right on your website. Ease of use is the difference between visitors staying or getting frustrated and immediately leaving.

Menus need to be found quickly so visitors can navigate their way around different pages easily. With the increase of mobile browsing the ‘hamburger menu’ has been widely adopted, but care needs to be taken that it’s still easy to find and clear.

Logical categorisation, clear use of icons, text and colour plus inclusion of breadcrumb trails and sitemaps will help to ensure your user experience is a good one.The user experience should be monitored (see tip 10) to see how your visitors are using the site… or dropping off, so you can adjust the design and continually improve your website, reduce the drop-offs and increase conversion.

6. Professional and trustworthy – would I want to do business with you?
Your website is your digital shop front and quite often the first port of call for your customers. As we mentioned earlier strong branding can build the foundation of a strong connection and loyalty with customers. But there are other ways to ensure your business website comes across as highly credible and the kind of company customers want to do business with.

Stanford University have conducted a study on website credibility and defined credibility as “perceived trustworthiness + perceived expertise”. In this study Stanford’s Behaviour Scientist, Dr Brian J Fog, outlined four types of credibility:

Presumed credibility
This is a belief based on general assumption. If visitors see a .org website and believe it’s a not for profit or charity, it’s counted as trustworthy.

Does your URL provide you with some presumed credibility?
Reputed credibility
This is a belief based on someone we view as credible – endorsement from a trustworthy well-known figure. Of course, small businesses don’t necessarily have the funds to pay talent fees, but this is where your own customers can help.

Testimonials on your website and good reviews can help to build this picture of integrity. Does anyone book a holiday these days without checking Trip Advisor? 72% of customers say positive reviews and testimonials make them trust a business more (Big Commerce).

Are you harnessing testimonials?
Surface credibility
This takes us back again to first impressions count. A professional well-presented website, with a clear customer journey and user experience will exude credibility.

Earned credibility
This is all about a user’s experience of the website – a slow site with broken links doesn’t portray a credible impression.

When was the last time you tested your site from different devices?
7. Appropriate to your target audience
Websites shouldn’t just look pleasing to the eye, they need to work with your target audience in mind, so you need to be clear about who your audience are and have a sense of what will appeal to them. Understanding how they shop and want to be communicated with is key in making them feel at home on your website and reassured that they’re in the right place for their wants and needs.

67% of Generation Y (born between 1980’s-2000) prefer to shop on online rather than in-store (Big Commerce). As ‘digital natives’ they are the generation who live online, so a website talking to this group needs to work hard. Baby boomers (1946-1964) like to be fully informed about products and services and 70% enjoy watching videos about products and services (Forbes 2017). So, looking at how you use video content on your website could be key. Coupled with this and the statistic that 73% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service if they can watch a video explaining it beforehand, can create a winning combination. (Animoto)

By looking at the different generations within your audience sector, it can really help to develop the best website marketing strategy to fit your product or service.

8. It’s now mobile-first
According to Statista in the last quarter of 2017 over 51% global internet traffic came from mobile devices and this has been showing a steady increase YOY. Google are said to be finally launching their ‘mobile-first indexing’ imminently, with it already being tested across several sites.

Google’s Webmasters blog published in December 2017 describes the new algorithm as, “mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking, to better help our primary mobile user find what they’re looking for”.

There’s no need for an immediate panic, but you can start preparing yourself now by ensuring your website is mobile-friendly, that your primary content is delivered regardless of device and that Googlebot can reach your mobile version. And of course, we’re here to help you with this.

9. Website visibility – can you be found?
So, you’ve sweated blood and tears over your website design but now how are people going to find you?  Sadly, just because you’ve launched a website doesn’t mean your customers can find it, but there are many ways in which you can make sure they do.

This is where knowing your target audience and how they use the internet helps determine the right SEO strategy, with regards to organic or paid search – or both.

Organic search engine optimisation (SEO)
The science bit! When someone searches for a keyword on the internet the search engines like Google or Yahoo send out web crawlers, or also known as spiders, that browse pages to find the keyword and then rank the content by the most relevant. You can improve your organic search rankings depending on your content, descriptions, titles and links (other relevant sites linking to your site which aids credibility and thus a higher ranking).

The good news is all our websites can be search-engine-optimised on delivery, so that valuable tools such as Google Analytics as well as SEO are already built in and ready for action.

Paid Search – pay-per-click ads (PPC)
Paid for SEO such as Google Ad Words ensures you appear on the ‘above-the-fold’ content and gives you more space to communicate your message. It’s a much more targeted method with total control over your budget and can be triggered swiftly with immediate results.

Off-line communication
Making sure that your web address is clearly communicated across all your off-line marketing materials will also help to drive traffic to your site. This is where having a friendly URL (Uniform Resource Locator AKA web address) helps your audience to remember your website address and also describes your website to search engines.

10. Measurable – what are your key performance indicators (KPIs)?
First port of call when it comes to website analytics is defining your objectives and what you want your website to achieve. Product sales? Registrations? Subscriptions?

By tracking your important and actionable KPIs you’ll be able to optimise your site and help convert your visitors into customers.

Google Analytics has become the de-facto champion for free website analysis and can monitor many KPIs from traffic volume and where it’s coming from, to understanding your visitors and their behaviour plus conversion rates /cost per conversion.  Last year Google Analytics’ most-tracked metric was ‘Users’.

At Inca we install Google Analytics Tracker on all our websites and can do it for yours too.

Hopefully these 10 principles (in about 10 minutes) have given you some valuable food for thought. A well planned and designed website, that is optimised for devices, SEO and analytics will reap the rewards for your business.

Call 020 8398 4663 for a no obligation consultation or quotation