Whether you’re a small business looking to establish a presence for yourself on the web or you’re a blogger who needs a platform, eventually you’re going to have to think about designing a website. It’s fine to have a presence on social media, of course – it’s essential for businesses and bloggers to use those tools to communicate with their prospective customers or readers. Nothing beats a bespoke website that’s just for your company or your blog, however, so you should think about how to go about designing a website. There are a number of different principles and approaches to keep in mind when you’re thinking about doing this. Here are some of our tips for designing your very first website.
Keep it simple
Nobody likes to happen upon a cluttered website that doesn’t tell them the things they need to know. When you’re designing your website, remember the key principle: keep it simple. Present the key information about who you are and what you do front and centre; don’t let it be obscured behind random menu options. Before you start designing your site, think of a single-sentence description of what your company or blog is all about. Communicating the information contained within that sentence is what your website should be all about.
Use clean visual design
Contrary to popular belief, clean website design isn’t only about minimalism. You should, of course, be espousing the principles of minimalism; don’t overload the reader with information as soon as they land on your front page, but rather show them only what they need to know. Still, there’s minimalism and then there’s not having a website at all. Your visual design should be bold, clear, and easy to identify, but it should actually emphasise content and show the reader that there’s substance to your company. Don’t let yourself get into an overreliance on minimalism.
Think about promotion early
Even before you’ve finalised your website, you should be thinking about how you’re going to promote it. At every stage, your thought process should include the question: “how am I going to promote my website online?”. Human-edited web directories, for example, are a great way to do this; you can include your site on a list that’s been curated and crafted by a person and not an AI. You should also be thinking about social media campaigns, of course, as well as targeted advertising and perhaps using affiliate marketing if you’re a company with a product to sell.
Use white space
Don’t feel that you need to cram every nook and cranny of your website with colour and design flourish. Sometimes, a blank white space speaks more effectively than a thousand words. Letting your website breathe is crucial; it’ll draw your reader’s eye to the text and content that is on the website because the brain is hard-wired to ignore space on a page. If you clutter your site, it’ll make readers think that your company or blog is amateurish, so it’s very important to emphasise the use of white space early on in your design philosophy.
Don’t obfuscate content
If you want to include an “about us” statement on your page, then you should call it “about us”. Don’t unnecessarily obfuscate your terms. Using phrases like “the journey” or “where we’re at” confuses your readers and makes them uncertain about what exactly it is that they’re reading. At all times, your readers should know exactly what every button on your website does and where they’re going to go if they click it. If your brand is well-known and niche enough to use specific terms, then go for it, but as a general rule of thumb you should be using generic terms as often as possible.
Don’t front load popups
Creating pop-up windows that don’t immediately scare your visitors away is a very difficult art. Think about the last time you visited a website and were immediately stopped in your tracks by a well-meaning but irritating “consider signing up for the newsletter” button. You wouldn’t do that unless you’ve already seen the content and why you should give your details to the site, so why expect users on your site to do it? Make the option to sign up to the newsletter optional or only have it pop up when viewers have read a few articles or browsed for a little while.
Write great copy
It might sound obvious, but one of the key guiding principles of good website design is simply to ensure that you’re crafting high-quality copy. Even on a commercial website, you should have an eye to ensuring that your copy is excellent, because people won’t want to buy your products if they feel like the products are being shoddily advertised or misrepresented. As a blogger, the importance of structuring good content should already be clear to you, but if this is the first foray you’re taking into web design, take it from us: copy is king.
Test your site constantly
Whenever you get the opportunity, you should be making sure to test your website, not only yourself but also by asking others to help you out. By testing, you’re ironing out any small bugs that may appear and you’re also making sure everything works from a design and aesthetic perspective. Remember that testing a website shouldn’t necessarily feel like fun; it should be hard work that feels rewarding on completion. Testing should be rigorous, arduous, and specific; try to effect as many situations that could actually happen in real life as possible so that you’re prepared for any eventuality.