The Basics Of An Effective, Accessible Website

August 13, 2013

In the scheme of online marketing, getting people to visit your website is only half the battle. Once they’ve arrived, you need to keep them there. Effective layout, design, and usability are all key to a website that engages your audience and inspires conversions.

On the other hand, a confusing, unattractive, or poorly designed website can result in users leaving without exploring anything beyond your home page – and worse, never coming back. Whether you’re building a new website or enhancing your existing one, you need to create a positive user experience at both functional and aesthetic levels.

Navigation

Your navigation defines the way visitors use your website. If prospects have to work too hard to find the information they’re looking for, chances are they’ll give up and try to locate another source. A clear, logically organized navigation structure helps your visitors locate valuable content on your site quickly and easily – and it helps establish a sense of trust and reliability around your brand.

  • Use a consistent style, and put navigational elements where people expect to find them. (For example, most websites have a primary menu across the top of the screen.) Make your most important pages the easiest ones to find.
  • Stay simple. Don’t create clutter with too many menu items, and avoid multiple menus (such as sidebar menus and layered horizontal menus) unless there is a clear reason for their inclusion – such as providing access to related pages in a large category. When confronted with dense, overwhelming layouts or lists of options, visitors are more likely to scan and miss important links.
  • Use distinctive menu descriptions. Unique descriptions say more about your business and differentiate you from your competitors (and they’re also better for SEO). Avoid getting too creative, though; try to name your menu options using words your visitors will easily understand.

Remember, the less your visitors have to think about how to obtain the information they need, the more time they’re likely to spend reading the content on your site.

Design

Looks may not be everything, but they’re definitely important. An attractive website design goes a long way toward engaging your visitors, persuading them to learn more about your business, and inspiring their confidence in your brand. HubSpot researchers have found that while visual design isn’t users’ only impression of a website’s quality, it is one of the first assessments they make. To encourage visitors to return to your website, keep your design clean, elegant, and organized. Here are some things to pay special attention to:

Any images on your website should be appropriately sized. If they’re too small, their impact may be lost; if too large, they can load slowly. Either scenario increases the likelihood that your visitors will lose interest or develop a poor impression of your brand. Images should also be relevant to your content, and optimized for search engines with relevant ALT Tags. If your site includes image galleries, be sure to limit their size to avoid overwhelming your viewers. Choose quality over quantity – it’s better to include just a few polished, high-quality images on your site than a large number of lower-quality ones.

Video can be a valuable tool to support content or reinforce industry expertise – for instance, through testimonials, demonstrations, or in-depth tutorials. Be strategic, however. If used too often (or redundantly) or without clear identification, it may become more of a distraction than a marketing strategy.

The colors on your website should complement those in your logo, collateral, and other marketing materials – and, of course, they should be appropriate for both your industry and your audience. Avoid using too many colors (2-4 should be your goal), and make sure the ones you choose are well-coordinated. Using too many bright or opposing hues, for example, can make your website seem busy and chaotic. Avoid dark backgrounds with reverse fonts, too (e.g: black background with white font), as it can be hard to read, especially on small devices.

Stick with one or two primary fonts, and make sure they’re legible and consistent. Use headers, bullets, and clear paragraph breaks to keep your content easy on the eyes and make it easier for visitors to scan quickly and pick out the information they’re looking for.

Mobile Compatibility

According to the Online Marketing Institute, mobile search queries have grown 5-fold in the past two years – in fact, 4 out of 5 consumers now shop via smartphone. More people than ever are using the internet as part of their everyday lives. Though some of your competitors still may not be using mobile-friendly technology for their web presence, it’s risky to assume that your visitors will be content with a website that’s not optimized for their mobile devices.

To drive traffic and ensure that your visitors keep coming back, make sure they can access your website through any type of viewing device, browser, or application. Consider a responsive website design (one that allows your website to adjust automatically to whatever device formats your visitors may be using). This ensures consistent usability across devices (the same viewing experience on a smartphone, for instance, as on a laptop or desktop computer), which means that more people will be able to explore your site easily and learn more about what you have to offer, no matter where they are.

Your website isn’t just a sales tool – it’s an active part of your successful marketing strategy. It gives visitors a definitive impression of your brand and educates them about your unique value proposition and offerings. By integrating effective design elements with friendly, functional navigation, engaging images and content, and a responsive framework, you’ll create a positive, productive user experience that persuades those visitors to become invested customers.

If you’re looking for guidance to bring your online presence up to speed, contact the professionals at Pulse Marketing Agency. Your first one-hour consultation is always free of charge!

photo credit: Anomieus via photopin cc/p>

 

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