Do’s and don’ts of website design

Website design may be more of an art than a science, but those in the business  admit that there are certain elements that tend to be found in most if not all well-designed websites – and equally, certain features that almost everyone agrees typify those sites that are rather less successful.

Below are some of the website professionals’ do’s and don’ts.

Seven ‘do’s’ of a good website

*  A good website will work on all platforms, whether it’s a desktop, tablet, laptop or smartphone.

*  A good website will feature the contact address(es) of the company, in an easy-to-find place (“Contact Us” tab, for example).  Many of the best websites use Google maps to show the location of their head office.

*  Financial companies in particular must include regulatory information on the home page; typically this is done at the bottom. If you leave key aspects of your business out, website viewers will wonder whether you are trying to hide something – or they may not be aware that you’re in a business or region that you are.

*  The names of key individuals’ names are given, and, where appropriate, photographs. (Care may need to be taken here; too many white men in business suits may not project the image you’re looking for – see below.)

*  Make sure you have an “About Us” page – but keep it simple and precise. You can supplement this with a page on your company history separately (and you might like to use this opportunity to include some attractive historical photos and a timeline, if appropriate).

*  Include links to key social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn: depending on your type of business, many potential clients may find their way to your website through such channels.

* For financial sites in particular, you can include financial planning tools (such as interest rate calculators) to encourage regular traffic; but make them easy to find, or you may find you’re wasting your time.

Eight website ‘don’ts’

*   Don’t get caught out with a website that is dysfunctional to view, or enter, on a smartphone.

*  Don’t allow bad grammar and spelling errors into your website’s copy: they can derail the best-looking websites, particularly among some potential clients. Ensure that someone with a decent knowledge of English (or whatever language your website is in) proofreads the whole thing.

*  Like bad grammar and spelling errors, errors of fact can damage your corporate image rather than enhancing it. Be vigilant.

*  Don’t cram too much onto your home page. This makes a website look dated, and is a turn-off for many viewers, who are becoming increasingly accustomed to high-spec, modern websites.

*   Don’t use old, low-res or poor quality photographs, either of people or places. If using a photograph of your offices, use a good one, taken on a sunny day in the summer, perhaps.  An amazing home page photo of, say, your headquarters city of London or Singapore, on the other hand, may gain you points among some viewers.

* Don’t allow your website to become out-of-date, full of out-of-date information. This looks awful, and suggests lack of care.  Would-be clients might wonder if this lack of care extended to other aspects of your business. Ensure that someone is checking the site regularly to make sure it’s current. “News” from six months ago isn’t news, especially if you’ve got nothing more recent on the site.

*  Similarly, don’t let your social media presences become dated either.  If you’re linking to your Facebook site, for example, it will need to be kept current, and if you have a Twitter feed, make sure that you, or someone at your company, attends to it regularly, and that they do so constructively. Better not to do it all than to do it half-heartedly or sloppily.

*   Don’t clutter your website with too much content. Think quality, not quantity: too much can confuse your visitor, and it’s harder to monitor.

Standing out from the crowd

Once you’ve ticked all the do’s and don’ts boxes, there’s a final element to be considered: How you make your site stand out from those of your rivals. Here are what the experts suggest you should consider in this regard:

* Ask yourself what the purpose of your site is, and then, whether it does this well  – and whether there is any way it might be tweaked to do this better. If it’s to sell something, for example, make it easy – only a few clicks – to complete a transaction; if it’s to showcase your business, then concentrate on explaining clearly and simply what it is that you do, and how you do it (and have onsite links to key financial information, including your annual report).

*  Look at sites from other industries: some find  TheGoodWebguide.co.uk a good source of inspiration.

*  Try not to be too quirky – particularly if yours is a financial company. Humour can work, but it is a difficult line to tread – proceed with caution. That said, some websites have incorporated humour successfully: the corporate website of venture capital industry veteran Jon Moulton, for example, has an “On a Lighter Note” section that reflects its founder’s character; and the US Internal Revenue Service features a page of tax quotations – many of them funny, and some rather unflattering to tax collection agencies – on its website. 

*  Think visual: a great photograph on your home page will make you more attractive to viewers. Aspirational (model) shots of people can work. But so can stunning location shots: for a company aimed at expatriates, not making use of the potentially eye-catching photographic possibilities of places like Singapore, China, Spain, Italy, India and so on would be a wasted opportunity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is the editor of International Investment. A US-trained journalist, she has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering everything from the fashion and retailing industries to the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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