How to: Maximize the Design of Your New Website

How to: Maximize the Design of Your New Website
November 7, 2011

This is the fourth post in a series on building a new website. This is a deeper compilation of tips and tricks around one of the most important and arduous elements to a website: the design. To get a refresher on other important aspects, check out the previous posts in the series:

4 Things to Question When Building a New Website

How to: Organize Content on Your New Website

Buidling a New Website: Best Practices for Design (more general)

Let's go a little further into the weeds than our last post. Here is an assortment of best practices to consider in your website design journey. 

Site design is important but the content is the priority and it needs to be current, useful and accessible. Ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Is your content timely? Archive or remove older content. Be sure to update hyperlinks or provide redirects to content’s new location(s).

  2. Is your content easy to access? Put your highest priority information on the homepage. Place the most important information above the fold.

  3. Do all of your hyperlinks function properly? 

Your palette does more than make your site pretty. It’s a color system providing a visual hierarchy that performs multiple tasks simultaneously. It reinforces your grid system. It helps the viewer mentally prioritize the content. It helps draw the viewer’s eye across the page. Be sure to:

  1. Use it consistently and in a complimentary manner.

  2. Have enough contrast to ensure legibility.

  3. Kick up the contrast if your target audience is using a mobile device to view your site!

Hopefully you’ve implemented graphics, audio, video and/or multimedia on your site in order to vary the content and the visual appeal.

As we move through this checklist, you can see that it’s all details, details, details. Here are more best practices to consider.

  1. Have you used common fonts in legible sizes?

  2. Viewed the site in multiple browsers and on multiple devices.  

  3. Consistently place your logo, your mission statement and/or your menu on each page.

  4. Use page titles to tell users where they are.

  5. Include the following on the footer: the name of the site, the copyright, all contact information, a hyperlink to a privacy policy, and if applicable a site map, any legal disclaimers or return policy information.

All of this can be overwhelming. Perhaps you are considering using preexisting designs or templates. If so, here are some additional things to consider.

  1. Are the designs or template(s) appropriate for your site’s use case?

  2. If the template says it’s free, make sure it really is free.

  3. If you are surfing and find a site that you like, it is definitely not a best practice to steal, appropriate or repurpose the design. You could end up embarrassed or in trouble.  Just in case you are wondering about copyright and the web.

For additional best practices, consult this comprehensive checklist. Hopefully your web presence is up and running.  Next up is how to improve search engine optimization and drive traffic to your site.