Having a website for your organization, cause, or passion is a necessity in the modern world if you want to reach a wide audience.
But not just any old site will do.
How can you ensure your audience will find your site effective and attractive? Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. First impressions are everything.
Much like introducing yourself, the first impression of your site often is the most important interaction. Keep in mind most visitors will not read everything on the page and instead will glance across the page, looking for relevant information or interesting assets.
When left to their instincts, people often will move their focus across the page in a certain pattern, the most famous is the F-pattern.
This shape, resembling a capital letter “F,” represents the path a visitor will take when first encountering a page that doesn’t actively guide the reader. This is a result of the person glancing at navigation panels to the left and reading section headers moving to the right (as you might expect, this pattern is reversed in cultures that read right-to-left).
However, this pattern is one of many common tendencies and is caused more so by the site layout rather than the reader’s preferences. In fact, the F-pattern likely is not how you want visitors to interact with your site, as it leaves significant portions of information unseen.
You can avoid falling into this trap by ensuring your site effectively uses headers and has visually-grouped content.
Minimalism also is a fantastic way to prevent your readers from reverting to this pattern.
2. Keep it minimal.
Keep verbiage concise and relevant. If a message can be conveyed in a couple words rather than sentences, do so. Avoid large blocks of text whenever possible, especially on the landing page.
Even better: Communicate with visitors through image or video. The old adage of “a picture tells a thousand words” (while a video tells a million) certainly holds true in web design.
The minimalist approach applies to much more than the script of your site.
We’ve come a long way from the garish, noisy designs from the infancy of the internet. It’s important to ensure the site’s design doesn’t distract from the actual information – avoid using moving objects, loud colors, and over-detailed borders/backgrounds when possible.
Your content should be the most interesting thing on the page. But how do you make your content stand out without being disruptive? Visually theme it, of course!
3. Pick a consistent theme.
A big no-no for the appearance of a site is an inconsistent style.
Find a color scheme that matches your brand or mission (A great place to start: company colors), and keep to that scheme throughout the site. This gives a sense of continuity as readers navigate it.
Need some help to pull this off?
There are many online resources to make visually-pleasing color choices, including W3Schools’s color scheme generators, which allows you to pick specific colors and provides a color scheme to fit this in an appealing way.
One thing to keep in mind as you consider themes and coloring: Don’t sacrifice usability for “lookability.”
4. Make it readable.
What’s the point of a site if people can’t read it?
Your best bet is to use a sufficiently-large sans-serif font (ideally no less than 16-pt for body text), with a strong contrast for the background.
This tips ties back to the importance of choosing a color scheme. You want to find a text color that pops against the background and one that still fits within the overarching color scheme.
Once you’ve made your site look amazing, you have to make sure your readers can find their way around.
5. Help visitors with site navigation.
Most visitors will come to your website with a goal in mind. They may be on the search for a specific article, contact info, or just looking to find out more about your mission.
Anticipate the needs of your audience and make these resources readily accessible. Put yourself in their shoes.
A navigation menu at the top of your site is a critical component. This “table of contents” will help visitors quickly access all the important pages.
Embrace these mobile times!
Nowadays, the number of readers who view your site on a mobile device instead of a desktop is steadily growing. Always have a mobile-friendly version of your site so you can reach your full audience.
Using responsive design throughout the site is a great first step, as it automatically resizes and reorganizes site assets to fit any screen size. This is incredibly helpful — not just for mobile devices — because of the endless sizes of today’s computer screens and browser windows.
The Treehouse blog has a great guide to implementing responsive web design.
Finally, consider adding social sharing buttons to your site. This allows readers to share your content without leaving the page, and you get free increased visibility.
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Thomas Nicholson is a Customer Content Specialist with PR Newswire and science aficionado with a love for all things nerdy.