With the growing popularity of content management systems (CMS) as marketing tools, web design skills are becoming a must have across the marketing industry. Now that you don’t need coding skills to edit the company website, employees from all different backgrounds have the ability to contribute to the company website. While this is great from a content perspective, it can leave designers cringing. Nothing is worse than delivering a perfectly designed website to a client just to see it go a little further downhill with each and every edit by a well-meaning layperson.
While the ability to have anyone edit a website is an added convenience for companies, most of these website editors don’t have an understanding of best practices. The good news is, you don’t need a degree in design to keep the company website up to a designer worthy standard. Keeping these seven tips in mind will not only save your designer a headache, but they will contribute to your thinking on any future design related project that crosses your desk.
1. Keep it Simple
Less is more, but less is often much harder to achieve than more. The biggest mistake I see non-designers make is to add elements (bold! underline! symbols and pictures!) to emphasize a point. Simplicity is the key to effectively getting your point across and making it easy for your website visitors to understand your message.
This key term is something I find myself repeating all too often in our office. Make sure that all elements on a webpage are relative in size to their importance. Every element on the page cannot carry the same importance so, it shouldn’t carry the same visual weight. More important elements can be easily distinguished with placement, size and color.
Pick up where your designer left off. Your website’s color scheme has been taken into very careful consideration, so utilize it. Choose colors in your scheme that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, it will help viewers distinguish elements and take the appropriate action. Do NOT choose colors that are not in the website scheme simply because you think it will catch someone’s attention – too often, you WILL catch someone’s attention, but not for the right reasons.
Get rid of the excess. Keep your buyer’s journey as simple as possible. Your choices should keep the number of times a user needs to click to get to their destination to as few as possible.
2. Downplay Color
Yes, I will admit, color is generally the “fun” part to any design. With that said, it’s easy to go overboard really quickly. This is the biggest gripe I have with non-designers who get a hold of the websites I’ve designed. Color should be used sparingly (don’t forget tip one) and for emphasis, to really drive home a point – NOT as decoration. I know the gray your designer chose to implement for supporting elements seems boring, but I promise they had their reasons for using it. Neutral color choices for background elements put the one or two colors in your brand’s logo at the forefront. Your visitors will understand when they should take action because that button on your landing page is the boldest thing in front of them.
If you do decide to go against these tips and use extra color, please do so responsibly. Request the hex codes for the main colors of your site so that any and all color you do use is accurate according to your brand guidelines.
3. Limit Font Selections
Typography is a tricky thing to master, and most designers will admit they are in a constant state of learning about this element. Always use caution with typography. The “less is more” rule applies here with absolutely no exceptions. Too many typefaces will make your site feel chaotic.
Don’t put your user in a panic (and please don’t remind them of a bake sale poster their seven year old created in Word!) – pick one typeface for your headers and another for your body text. Stick to these choices and don’t incorporate any more unless you plan on replacing a typeface entirely. Before making typography choices on your own, make sure your brand guidelines don’t have strict rules already planned out. Chances are someone has already made this decision for you.
4. Keep it Readable
If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know how we feel about content. Content is King if you are using inbound marketing to attract prospects and convert them to leads. At the root of things, what makes content possible? Typography. Make sure it is formatted for the best user experience possible.
Your copy should be significantly darker than your background, or significantly lighter than your background so that it is easy to read.
Your website is not a dictionary, don’t treat it as such. Set your line-height from 1.5 to 1.75 to ensure that lines have enough room to breathe. In most cases, this will be set up for you in your website’s CMS, but it is still something you should keep in mind.
Who is the target audience for your website? Is it an older demographic? If so, you may want to make your font larger so that folks with reading glasses aren’t straining to read all that content you’ve created.
We touched on this in tip one, but it is worth mentioning again. Users scan copy, so make it incredibly easy for them to absorb what you are trying to say. Make use of headlines, sub-headlines and list structures. In doing so, you will also benefit from an improved search engine ranking because search engines LOVE keyword-rich headings.
5. Responsive, Responsive, Responsive
I cannot say it enough, responsive websites should now be considered a requirement. If you aren’t optimized for mobile, you will be penalized. Always have mobile users in mind.
If you take tip one into consideration, things should work out fairly easily for you on mobile. To create a great mobile site, you will want to eliminate any clutter (utilizing whitespace), maintain a visual hierarchy and make it super easy for visitors to take action. Forms should be large enough so that big fingers can easily complete them and call to action buttons should be large enough to be easily tapped and difficult to miss.
Not only should you have amazing website copy, but you should always be thinking about stunning imagery. Take some pride in your image choices. You don’t have to have a design background to know something looks good. My advice is that you take a few extra minutes on your stock photo search and don’t just use a relevant photo – use one that pushes the envelope a little bit.
Images should spark emotion. If your image is large, clear and relevant it should do just that.
I cannot stress this point enough. The right image can make or break a design. Despite how beautiful a website layout may be, a generic image can divert the user’s attention. This tip could arguably be more important than our advice about copy. Remember that users scan pages before really diving into the copy. Make them want to read your copy, don’t just add an image because you think you should, make it your showcase.
7. Make It Obvious
It’s all about the conversions. Creating an enticing call to action (CTA) takes into account every single one of the aforementioned tips.
Be as obvious as possible. If you want your user to sign up for something, say so! Tell the user exactly what you want them to do using action-oriented words like “click here” or “download it now.”
Make it big. Make it colorful.
Your call to action button shouldn’t look like a billboard on your homepage, but it should carry enough visual weight to immediately attract the user’s attention. Employ visual hierarchy here and make sure that your CTA button takes second place only to your headline.
Incentivize your call to action. Always make the CTA about the user, not about what you want from them. Even if you just want them to sign up for an email newsletter, make sure they are receiving a valuable incentive for the type of information they are providing you with.
These seven tips are fail-proof for every piece of content related to your inbound marketing. The tips discussed here can be utilized throughout print, web and ebook creation. Just remember, conversions are always the end goal and the more transparent you make a user’s choices, the easier it will be for them to do what you want them to.
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