1. Avoid Headaches by Removing Clutter
Having visual clutter on your website means that effective design hierarchy was either never planned for, or was lost at some point as your site evolved. It also means visitors have to weed their way through it to get what they want.
The biggest problem I see here is website owners that feel the need to have every piece of content, every widget, every feature and a picture of their grandma always in view, and large…everything large. You can avoid cluttering your site by following these simple tips:
- Use tasteful text treatments. Don’t make things large, bold, italic, and underlined if simply large would communicate the message effectively.
- Design a size hierarchy for images, videos, and other graphics. By order of relevance coupled with importance you can give the sizes to elements. Doing this will help eye flow down and across the page by helping users quickly scan the content. Prevent yourself from giving everything or even nearly everything the same importance level.
- Use margins, spacing, borders and floats to create whitespace between elements.
- Use a grid system. Implement a strict grid system for visual consistency across all pages and template, if for no other reason. Not to mention the immense development benefits from doing so.
2. Avoid Confusing Navigation
Typically when users first arrive on a website they start on a page other than your home page. With that being said, they are going to need well thought out navigation. Including all types of navigation from primary, secondary, tertiary, and even footer navigation. Check out these tips for navigation:
- Use consistent placement of all your navigation elements. There’s nothing more confusing to a user than navigating to a new page and the menu is in a different location.
- Provide secondary menus to help users see other accessible content on the site easily. Secondary navigation should have a prominent location on the page.
- Make sure you don’t have any broken navigational links on your site. Users get very confused when a link is broken or goes somewhere they aren’t expecting.
3. Allow Your Content to Breathe
Create breathing room for elements by spacing things out. Doing so makes it easy for the eye to focus attention to each thing, one at a time. It also allows the eye to more easily understand the page layout and absorb the features. The main benefits to using adequate whitespace include:
- Adding emotion to the design aesthetic. Whitespace doesn’t need to be white, and may be better stated as negative space, which can be any color, and color represents and evokes emotion.
- Making the layout have less stress on the eyes, especially when dealing with pages with heavy and dense content.
- Helping visitors interact with the various elements and features on your site. When the user can easily see the features and access the attention grabbers of your site, they will be more likely to interact with them and use them.
4. Use Great Photos and Graphics
Impressions are everything online and pictures and graphics can make unyielding and lasting impressions for your website users. They are powerful because they can portray a feeling or mood, strengthen your corporate identity, and communicate a message. You should use this power wisely and with good taste. These elements often cover many pixels on your site so you want them to be effective. I suggest investing in professional photography, of which you have many options; there are lots of great stock photography websites out there. If you aren’t familiar with stock photography, here’s a list of a few resources:
5. Pay Attention to Legibility
Your text should be readable by all users, even those with disabilities that use screen readers or something like it. So what font-family is used, and what size it gets shown at are important decisions that need to be made. At the very least you should make it easy on the eyes by formatting your content with proper headlines, subheads, quotes, captions, paragraphs, lists etc. Your visitors are consuming content fast and in a hurry, so you want to make text readable and hierarchical.
Choose a font face that looks crisp and legible, don’t force people to strain while reading your content just because you like the way a particular font looks. There are plenty of great fonts in various styles that will fit the bill. Oh, and choose a universal font that looks great on mobile devices and desktop monitors.
6. Make it Responsive
If you haven’t already invested in a responsive site, you should do it so users are free to access your site on any sized device. Many designs look great at small sizes, but when they get sized up to widescreen monitors they don’t take advantage of the extra spaces. And vice versa, your site should look just as great on mobile devices as it does on desktop monitors. Mobile web users are growing in numbers faster than Garfield finds pizza, so make sure you are serving up your content in a manner that can be easily accessed and consumed.