Best Practices for Great Websites in 2016
All great websites are built to certain standards. These best practices have been established over many years and your visitors expect them. You should adhere to website standards wherever you can. This will help your customers have a clear, consistent, and enjoyable experience. Good standards include:
- Intuitive navigation to help your visitors find their way around.
- A sensible menu and sub-menu structure.
- Clear and concise layout and visual elements.
- Responsive design for mobile devices.
Intuitive navigation and menu structure.
It's vital your visitors can find their way around your website quickly and easily. Your navigation and menu structure should be simple and intuitive. This means:
- Clear menu titles. Don't make anyone guess what a menu does. Label all your menus with clear wording stating exactly what your visitors can expect to find.
- Sub-menu items grouped correctly. Many of your menu headings will have sub-menus underneath them. Collect these sub-menu headings into logical, sensible groups. Interlink your web pages, so moving between them is quick and easy.
- Other ways to get around your website. Provide other ways to get around your website. This could include a search box or a comprehensive footer on each page providing links to your most important content. Use buttons and other visual elements to highlight important web pages.
- No more than two clicks required to access a page. No page on your website should be more than two clicks away from your front page. A visitor must be able to locate and interact with your content. If they need to click three or more times, consider changing your website's structure.
Clear and consistent layout and design.
The design of your website is as important as your content. You're aiming for a clear, uncluttered website that's easy to use and gives your visitors the information they need. Key design elements include:
- A logical layout. Your website should have a clear, logical structure built to be easy for your visitors to understand. Make efficient use of any web pages, and only include valuable content for your visitors.
- No distracting visual elements. All the visual elements on your website should complement one another. View your website as a visitor would and remove any unnecessary or distracting design features.
- Consistent and sensible color scheme. There's a strong psychology to how colors influence behavior. Blues and greens are calming, reds and yellows are active, blacks and grays are straightforward. Your color scheme should reflect the theme and brand of your website. It's fine to have contrasting colors, providing they don't hinder the user experience.
- Good choice of fonts. Your content needs to be easy to read. Use fonts designed to be clear and understandable, whether your visitors are browsing your site on a monitor, tablet, or smartphone. You will probably want to use one of the standard fonts like Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, or another sans-serif design.
- Plenty of white space. You don't want your website to look cluttered. The best way to avoid this is to use white space between your website elements, content, headings, and images. Your visitor's eye needs time to rest when they are browsing, and natural breaks in content is one of the best ways to achieve this.
- Logical headings and subheadings. Headings and subheadings are the best ways to break up content on your website. Group your content into a clear, understandable structure and use headings for consistency and to make your content easy to read.
- Appropriate use of images. Any images, photos, or illustrations you use should add to the look and feel of your website. They will help to define the visual identity of your brand and content, and complement your message and other media.
- Avoid unnecessary media and content. Unnecessary media and content can put your visitors off and slow down your website. Before you add videos, quizzes, or other widgets to your website, ask the question "Does this add value for my visitors?" If it doesn't, you don't need it.
Mobile friendly and responsive.
Over 60 percent of visitors use a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet to access the Internet. You need to design for a mobile audience. You should:
- Use a responsive design. The best websites are designed to be responsive, which means the website looks good on any type of device and in any type of web browser. Use technology and design templates in which responsive design is included as standard.
- Test your website on different devices. You should test your website on as many different devices and in as many web browsers as possible. Use smartphones, tablets, and computers to make sure everything displays correctly and to find any inconsistencies. The desktop version of the Chrome web browser has built-in tools that allow you to simulate various types of devices. Go to "More Tools > Developer Tools" and select the type of device you want to simulate at the top of the screen.
- Make sure you can read your content at any resolution. A good responsive design should resize your content so it's easy to read on any device. If you find any content hard to read, update your design to resolve the issue.
- Check your website loads quickly. Mobile devices often have slower connections than desktop computers. The speed of a website is one of the factors various search engines use when ranking your website. Remove any unnecessary elements to increase page speed as much as possible.
Building a website to these standards is one of the best ways to meet the needs of your visitors. Spend some time looking at your website objectively and checking to be sure it functions as you need it to. Don't be afraid to make changes and refine your website so it's as good as it can be. This will keep your visitors coming back and ultimately help your business be more successful.