Anyone who's spent any time on the internet, whether it's running an online store, regularly checking into social media, or just watching cat videos on YouTube, recognizes that when it comes to the world wide web, what works and what doesn't, what's in and what's out, is capable of changing overnight.
If you're a small business owner, witnessing your well-crafted web presence fade as new trends emerge can be frustrating, and making the necessary changes to remain relevant can not only be overwhelming, it can be expensive and time consuming as well. GIFs or videos. Long pages or short pages. "Under Construction" or "Coming Soon."
Regardless of where you stand on website design techniques, here are a few that you can implement with confidence because they stand the test of time.
Readability If you woke up tomorrow to discover that giant menus and scrolling text were the new characteristics that went into the modern website (don't worry, they're not - at least not yet.), you could take comfort in knowing that those features will never trump easy readability. Trendy templates, nifty plugins, and popular features don't mean anything if its users have to constantly struggle with obtaining the information they need. How can you ensure your website is easy to read? You can start by choosing a clear, simple typeface. Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Cambria, Century, Futura, Times New Roman, Georgia, Tahoma, Trebuchet, even Franklin Gothic can give your website some personality while still allowing its users to quickly absorb its contents. Typefaces like Comic Sans, Chalkduster, Lucida Handwriting, Impact, and Snell Roundhand should be avoided.
In addition to choosing a clean and crisp typeface, you'll also want to make sure that your typeface is large enough. While you may be inclined to go with font size 10 or 12 as you would a Word document, websites are easier to read when the words are a bit larger. It's generally recommended that you stick with at least a size 14 for body copy, but size 16 is usually preferred. Titles and subtitles should be made even larger. When choosing a color for your font, you'll want to pick something that isn't too bright or too loud, while also selecting something that contrasts well with your background. Some of the most common, high-contrasting color combinations are (but are not limited to) black and white, navy blue and yellow, and light blue and orange. Low-contrasting color schemes that should be avoided are combinations like pink and orange, red and orange, and yellow and white. If you're unsure how well your colors contrast, look at a color wheel. The further your colors are away from one another, the better they contrast. With that being said, you may also want to omit red and green combinations as these can be difficult to read for those who are colorblind.
Positive User Experience: Since the beginning of time, people have been looking for ways to get things done easier, faster, and smarter. That direction won't be shifting anytime soon. Therefore, making your website a place where users can do what they want, when they want it, and at instant speed, is a feature that's never going to get old. How do you give your readers, customers and clients a positive user experience? First off, make sure your website is loading quickly and in its entirety. If your website isn't loading quickly for anybody (not just you or your local area), there are a few things you can do to help increase its speed, starting with reducing your media files.
Consider cutting back on images, videos and music as well as reducing image resolution. You may also want to cut back on external links as well as the number of social media buttons. You should also scan your site for any viruses. If you're generating a lot of traffic, or if it's necessary for your site to be media-heavy, it may be time to upgrade your hosting package to something with a bit more bandwidth. After fast load speed comes fast information. You want your users to understand what your website has to offer within three seconds of looking at your homepage. Therefore, you don't want your website copy to waste any time with "Greetings," "Welcome to my site," or any other soft introductions. Use titles, subtitles, lists and images to capture your audience and then get to the point.
If the goal of your website is to get users to buy a product or contact you for your services, you want to make completing that action as simple as possible. Check on a regular basis that your shopping cart works effectively. Reduce the amount of time it takes for users to checkout any way you can – the less information a user has to enter, and the fewer number of web pages they have to go through to complete a transaction, the better your chances are of converting that user to a customer.
Make sure your contact form is easy to find and is up and running. You should test it out yourself at least once each month. Lastly, if your site isn't mobile friendly, now's the time to get on board. With over half of internet users accessing the web through a phone or tablet, you can bet your target market is a part of this statistic. If you had to choose between spending three minutes resizing a company's website with your fingers, or spending three seconds hitting the back button and selecting their competition, which would you choose?
Obvious Contact Information: If you've had your website up for some time, you know that your users get ahold of you for all sorts of reasons, whether it's to acquire a product or service, get a problem solved, schedule an interview with the media, or just compliment you on a job well done! There will never come a time where the ability to contact a blogger, entrepreneur or website owner is not important.
Therefore, having your contact information in an obvious place will always be a priority in web design. Like all other website copy, it's important that you make your contact information easy to read. This is not the place to play with fancy typefaces or tiny little fonts, nor should you try to cleverly incorporate your contact information in images and graphics. You'll want to place your email, phone number, address, and additional contact information in multiple high-traffic locations. Many people choose to add it to their site's header or footer. Not only will your customers and clients expect it to be there, it also ensures that regardless of where users are on your site, your contact information is right there.
Another option is to place the contact information on your home page. As your home page is used as "home base," the chances of your users coming back to that spot for general information is pretty good. In addition to one or both of these options, some website owners dedicate an entire contact page for their information. This page can also include your company's hours and a map of the location.