When it comes to web design, everyone wants to create an effective website that wows potential clients and customers. But what does that mean exactly in practice?
Here at Informatics, we specialize in creating immersive, engaging websites that merge form and function. The goal is to create a great user experience that drives conversions. After all, what good is a flashy website if it doesn’t move the needle for your business or organization?
Here are five tips from our resident design guru, Jeff Stephens, that can elevate your next website from good to great:
1. Keep it focused and minimal
We wrote a few months back about how minimalism is having a moment in the web design world, but to be honest, we’ve always wondered why it hasn’t gotten more press.
By stripping away unnecessary elements and injecting lots of white space, you will eliminate distractions and keep users focused on the message or experience you want to convey. Simple color palettes and bold highlights (used judiciously) can be used to guide the user’s eye, while SEO-centric, bite-sized blocks of text keep pages scannable and searchable.
As the world transitions to mobile, minimalist designs are particularly suited to smaller screens. See how much you can take away from your next web prototype—you may find that you can eliminate entire pages or sections and still get your message across.
2. Fixed headers are in
Looking to specific page elements, fixed headers are one of those polishing details that takes a web design to the next level. These elements, sometimes called sticky headers, scroll along with the page, keeping the header, navigation and social links within reach at all times.
Jeff says they’re great from a usability perspective, and can encourage exploration because they “allow visitors to explore a site without worrying about getting lost or losing their place.” That means longer time on site, more engagement and ultimately more conversions.
3. Hero sliders are out
On the flip side, the much-maligned hero slider—a large rotating design element with multiple positions and big images—is finally out.
“The data is in, nobody engages with them,” Jeff says, calling it “one of the initial wrong turns of web design.
He’s not wrong. An oft-cited study by Erik Runyon showed that only a tiny fraction of visitors (1-3%) engaged with hero sliders on several Norte Dame websites over a six-month period in 2013.
Instead of a hero slider element, Jeff recommends that your landing or hero page have a strong value proposition at top and start the user on their experiential journey from the outset.
“Users these days almost immediate begin scrolling or swiping as soon as the page has loaded,” he adds. “Don’t waste time trying to get them to engage with a big, outdated slider.”
4. Embedded video is a must
Embedded video “is really big,” Jeff says, noting that studies have found nearly three-quarters of people would rather watch a video than read a webpage to learn about a product or service.
You can take advantage of this by creating explainer videos that break down your company’s big service or a big idea in a small amount of time (a minute or less).
Upload it to YouTube and your social channels, add some SEO-rich text to the descriptions, and then embed them throughout your website. You’ll reach new audience members you wouldn’t have with text alone.
5. Add non-intrusive design flourishes
Look for ways to incorporate subtle design touches—thin lines, basic shapes, small text, subtle motion animations—in your final website. They shouldn’t take away from your main elements, but rather support and connect those elements to create a sense of flow.
These minor design flourishes can help guide users’ eyes down your page, and make everything feel more polished and trustworthy. “It’s also more fun to explore a site that has intentional design elements strung through,” Jeff says.
There is a lot of research, testing and knowledge that goes into creating a high-performing website, but these five points are a great place to start. If you have questions about refining your web design or need help getting started, reach out today—we're always happy to share what we know.