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8 Essential Web Design Principles

When you build or refresh your digital real estate, you want a site that’s easy to navigate, clean and modern. But your instincts may drive you in the opposite direction. Consider these tricks and tips to attract and retain traffic.

Don’t fall into the trap of extolling the many virtues of your business. Your visitors only want to know how you can solve their problems. Don’t make them work. Be easy to find.

  1. Home page copy should be brief. Guide the user to the desired location as quickly as possible. Keep links precise and recognizable. Menu items with interesting names make the user work for information. Minimal homepage copy encourages the user to click through to deep dive pages.

  2. Help people who don’t know what they want. How many times have you walked into a store, or a bar, or a restaurant, and had no idea what to buy? You look at the draft list. You look at the menu. You look at the merchandise. Something might strike your fancy, and it is because of the way it was presented to you. Like a good shopkeeper or restaurant owner, you must show your audience what they want next. Do that with calls to action throughout. Look at a typical Amazon product page. It's filled with CTAs.

  3. Add images. Users comprehend images far more rapidly than blocks of copy. Use lots of pictures and graphics for thumbnails and headers. The only reason you’d want to crowd your homepage with a lot of copy is if you are Google News.

  4. Help users find their way home. Breadcrumbs throughout allow for quick wayfinding. Provide a quick way back up the path. This is great for sites that have a lot of information, or are arranged by a hierarchy.

  1. Icons should be linked, not static. There are lots of examples of pretty line drawings that just sit on a page. Make them work for you by rendering them interactive. Here’s an example of what not to do.

  1. Divide and conquer. Use different pages of your website to speak to distinct audiences. For example, you want to get your foot in the door with a company’s IT team, but your ultimate goal is to attract the business or division owner who makes spending decisions. Design your home page with copy that appeals to business owners; then build out your resources section with relevant keywords for IT. Create blogs, white papers, webinars, and videos for a variety of target audiences and you’ll pick them up via search engine results.

  2. Aim copy at user needs. Develop content from the user’s point of view, not yours. Solve problems instead of talking about yourself. Avoid statements that include we, us, our, and their (with the exceptions of the About section of your site and straight up product marketing pieces). Always direct copy toward you and your; if not overtly, then implied. In this example, Joomla knows that the visitor is interested in creating a website. There's not a lot of explanation on the home page. Just a call to action.

  1. Create clickworthy headlines. The Wolf of Wall Street, a thrilling Scorsese film, began life as a huge pile of dusty SEC filings. There’s no such thing as a boring story. There are only boring storytellers. Put yourself in the user’s place. Like your visitor, are you looking for something interesting, informative and educational to read, or are you looking for a flat story about the company picnic? Avoid self promotional content. Take five minutes to come up with an interesting title that you’d click on, and your target user will too.

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