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Common website design mistakes that business owners can avoid

by Tim Rimington | January 25, 2013

We don’t often talk about web design within these articles, preferring to concentrate instead on web page content, SEO and general marketing topics; we believe that’s where most of your attention should be. But web design plays an important role in your site’s effectiveness, affecting conversions and the way users interact with the website’s various elements. Web design can attract and it can certainly repel!

Web design needn’t be complicated, in fact, simple is best, with a strong focus on the quality of your page (and/or shop) content - that’s where your primary focus should be. But you need to get the underlying design right first. Web design is a broad term that includes graphic design and user interface design, with the latter including but not limited to layout and navigation.

As a site owner you’ll need to focus your attention on design during the site’s initial concept and design stages and then much later down the track after its completed when you again review the site for necessary upgrades to keep it looking fresh as years pass. That latter process is never ending, much like SEO, because your target market evolves - or shifts - over time.

Common website design mistakes and how to avoid them

When preparing briefing information to present to your designer, it’s likely that you will be asked to make a short list of websites you like and some that you don’t to help give the designer a path to work towards. I’m not a fan of this approach because it assumes that you have a reasonable eye for design and can competently identify good web design from bad. I’ve been present at briefing meetings where the client is hell bent on replicating a site they’ve identified, and no level of reasoning can convince them that their chosen website example is inappropriate for their business (through poor design, poor choice of typography, poor page layout, poor UI experience - the list can go on).

A better approach is to prepare a simple dossier about your business, its goals and its target market. With these things considered, a competent web designer can argue their case for your site’s colours, UI elements and other components that are likely to be effective within your marketplace.

This said, if you have a shortlist of websites you find impressive, present them to your designer but explain which of the website’s elements impress you, and why. It’s no good saying that you like a web design because “yellow is your favourite colour”. A more convincing argument would be, “My target market is children and children identify with bright colours such as yellow”. Remember that your website’s design is NOT about you (unless you’re an artist!), it’s about your market and the people that will use the website. Remove personal attachment from your site’s design and think of your target demographic (considerations such as age, industry, origin, gender and so on).

Web design psychology is important to your site’s success

This brings us to the psychology component of web design, and the acknowledgement that your site’s users respond to certain styles of typography, colour and, of course, content (text, video and images).

It’s not a bad idea to understand colour and its meaning before hitting the design brief meeting, and how your target market is likely to respond to your colour preferences. If you’re a corporate entity you’re likely to use soft tones and perhaps emphasise page elements through typography (e.g. red for strength and power, blue for calm and reasoning). Here’s a superb article that best explains colour psychology.

The same applies to typography and how different fonts can sometimes elicit different responses. Like colour, typography is a subject unto itself. Here’s an article that explains it well:

For a superb collection of typography and colour ‘infographics’, here’s something I found on Pinterest:

Your web designer: finding the right fit

A final word of advice surrounds your site’s designer. As in all industries there are people with varying degrees of experience and different competencies. There are designers who will tell you point blank if they believe you’re on the wrong track with your ideas, before guiding you and offering alternatives; others will simply nod and agree and implement your instructions without question. This can work against you if you’re not qualified or, for want of a better term, “well versed” in web design (and web design is very different to, say, print design or interior design!). In other words, if you’re not qualified, leave the driving to your designer. A good designer will carefully listen to your brief and then put their case forward for the ideas that they have, offering alternatives if they ever feel you’re off track.

A final word of advice. I’ve been present in briefing meetings where an owner has brought along with them an office “young gun” who purports to know all there is to know about the Internet and who won’t take no for an answer; they’re keen to make an impression but can do more damage than good. Unless they have something genuine to offer by way of development or successful design experience, leave them back at the office. The same applies to project management if you’re developing a large site. Only involve people with commercial experience relevant to their area, and nominate one person to head-up the project and act as the sole liaison “officer” with the web designer/developer in the site’s early design phase (although this will differ depending on the project).

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