I worked with someone recently who loves the “boxed” layout for a website – you know, where there are borders around the page and the content sits inside those borders. I don’t like that look at all.
But at the end of the day, borders don’t make or break a website. I have never known a border to be responsible for someone leaving a website in disgust, saying, “Gosh, that is so 2008! I couldn’t possibly do business here.”
So it’s tough to say what a design “should” be, because if you’ve got ten visitors you’ll get eleven opinions about your site design.
It is, however, easy to pick out a few dos and don’ts that can mean increasing conversions… or losing customers. And you don’t need a billion dollars or a Madison Avenue designer to get them done.
Tone Down The Font Mania
Bad or inexperienced designers and WordPress have one thing in common: font mania.
Have you seen some of those fantastic theme editors? You can pick from about a million zillion fonts and they’re all so fun… if you were doing a third grade art project.
The problem with all those choices is that once we have them, we want to use them. But mixing and matching fonts can cause a discordant experience that interferes with your professionalism and credibility. There’s a reason that designers take courses in typography and that’s because there is an art to using fonts that goes beyond “looks cool on page.”
It’s ok to use more than one font. Probably not more than two. But it’s also important to know which fonts complement each other and which do not. When in doubt, stick to one. Your visitors won’t leave your site if you use a single, boring font. But they just might if you assault their eyes with serifs, swirls, slants and other silliness.
Save Color For Your Kindergartner
Here’s how I indulge my love of color: I have a box of fully sharpened Crayola 64s on my desk at all times. What I do not do is turn every sentence on my web pages into a rainbow of fun.
This is another WordPress conundrum because it’s very easy to add color to your page and it’s so darn tempting! Why not make that important thing red? And the other one green? Because it messes with your credibility, that’s why.
As for your visitors, it makes it difficult to track and read text that is constantly changing color. We’ve been quickly trained by an endless flow of ads to block certain things out. We’ve birthed phrases like “banner blindness” which refers to our tendency to skip anything long and rectangular near the top of a page (ie: resembles an ad).
The same thing applies to colorful text. Besides being difficult to read, people may gloss over it entirely, assuming it to be an ad or some other interruption. Your “important red highlight” may turn out to be the least read thing on the page.
Stick to crayons for color therapy and when it comes to your web copy, good old-fashioned black or dark gray text will do.
Leave Some Room For The Holy Ghost
Yes, that’s what my dad actually did say to me when I went to the eighth grade school dance with a boy. Years later we can all apply the concept to our websites. Think Casper, and give yourself plenty of space – white space, that is.
People online understand the concept of clicking and scrolling. They will follow the path you lay out for them. They do not need to be bombarded with everything, all at once.
White space is a heavy hitter when it comes to creating a good customer experience and it’s one of the easiest things to implement. White space makes it easy for people to focus on specific content. White space makes it easy for people to read and track. White space lets people’s eyes (and brains) rest and process what they are seeing.
Websites with ample white space are perceived as higher end, more trustworthy. They make it easier for people to find content and easier for you to highlight it.
Where should you use white space? In between lines of text. In between paragraphs. Around photos. Around any element on a page or in a sidebar or footer.
You can’t increase conversions if your website is sending people off with a headache. Let your content breathe and your customers will, too – long enough to take in what you’re trying to tell them!
Nothing says “bad website” and even “bad company” like bad spelling and grammar. I know typos slip through. Trust me, I’ve gone back to read pages a year old on my site that I thought were perfect only to find a big, fat, obvious typo.
So I’m sympathetic – and tempted to say that a typo here and there is ok. But when it comes to mistakes it’s better to have a zero-tolerance policy because if we give ourselves slack, we’ll take it. And our credibility will suffer.
Read, edit and proofread your web copy to be sure it is strong and clean. Good copy will build trust. Good copy will compel people to read more. Good copy will encourage them to act.
It’s one of the crazy little conundrums of business – great copy will go almost unnoticed. It’ll glide through your customer’s brain without a snag. But you’d better believe someone is going to get stuck on that one darn “their” you wrote instead of “they’re”.
Make Sure Somebody Is Home
I was recently looking for a particular service and found a company that provided it. They had a fantastic website. Gorgeous expanses of white space. Perfectly chosen fonts. Great information and lovely (un-boxed) design. There were photos of the staff.
But do you know what it didn’t have? A phone number. An email address. A single social icon.
Yes, they had a contact form but it wasn’t enough to convince me to try out their service. They were simply not accessible enough.
You have to remember that everyone you deal with will have different preferences for communication. Some people like to call. Some prefer to email. Others want to hit you up on Twitter. Be available far and wide so that your customers (and potential customers) can reach you how and when they choose.
Don’t Make It About You
The fine art of marketing is selling your products and services without making it seem like you’re doing so… by telling customers about yourself by making them think it’s about them.
We’re often told to “tell our story” but what we’re almost never told is that nobody cares about your story. What they do care about is how it impacts them.
The art lies in telling your story and imbuing your values into your content by telling your customers how you add value to their lives. Customers must see themselves in your story, be able to relate to it and identify with you before they will ever believe or trust you.
Every time you write a single sentence for your website, ask yourself, “How does this benefit my customer?” “About” pages that start out saying trite things like “Our company was founded ten years ago in an effort to bring synergy to the landscape of technological design…” (snore!) are neither helpful nor actually stories. They’re an excuse to tout accomplishments and awards.
Instead of telling self-serving tales, focus on what you bring to your customer’s life and why it matters. And when you do “tell a story”, remember that part of your job as a business and marketer is to entertain.
That’s a lot of hats!
The good news is that improving the experience on your website doesn’t have to be either a chore or expensive. You can have a trustworthy, valuable, enjoyable site even without a Madison Avenue budget.
Your turn. Is there anything that raises a red flag for you when you visit a website? Something that instead of encouraging you to buy, says, “Run fast!”