What to avoid when designing in the digital age

As a former publication designer, I constantly find myself commenting – I’ll admit both positively and critically – on the layouts of newspapers, magazines, and websites. But I cannot help it since the format and layout, i.e. the design, of all media can essentially make or break the way we interact with the content.

Recently, Mashable published an article about the top web design mistakes common to small businesses. However, after reading through the article, I would have to say that small businesses are not the only companies guilty of these design errors. Companies – small, medium, and large – are at fault for poor web design, so it is worth noting what it takes to improve your brand’s webpage.

The appearance and usability of a website are critical to a company’s success, and many companies do not consider how a poorly designed webpage can negatively impact their business. But to increase profit, consumer engagement, and customer appeal, companies need to avoid the following mistakes.

Poor Navigation: Simple, organized, and efficient. These three words need to be kept in mind as every company considers how users will navigate through the different pages of their brand’s website. Consumers should be able to find all information they are looking for quickly and easily – companies do not want to be known as disorganized. The longer it takes for people to find what they are looking for, the more discouraged they will come, and the more likely they are to move away from the page and search elsewhere. But companies want to keep people on their website, so making navigation effortless and natural needs to be a top priority.

One suggestion to achieve optimal navigation? Icons on a webpage can serve two purposes: they guide the user through the multiple pages of a site and are visually appealing. Many companies include “suggestions” or “you may also like” links as another method for keeping consumers on their site. Try incorporating icons, suggested links, and recommendations into your webpage to increase usability and leave users with a simple process for working their way through your site.

Lack of Color and Contrast: Typically, companies do not consider color, alignment, and other elements of visual appeal to be as important as the content of their websites. However, it should be a priority. Not only do the color, contrast, and alignment affect how easy pages are to read, but also these elements make a website visually interesting and create a natural (or lack thereof) flow for directing user attention to various features on the page. Underestimating the impact of color, text size, font style, and alignment can seriously decrease your company’s chances of keeping consumers on your page – in turn eliminating the hope of increasing your bottom line.

A tip for the visual appearance of your company website? According graphic designer, Steven Bradley of Van SEO Design, some white space is needed to direct user’s eyes to the most important elements of the page. Furthermore, some colors, such as red, are viewed as signifying something of greater importance or meaning. Keep these tips in mind, as you use the appearance of your website to define the hierarchy of the content and prioritize where consumers should visit first.

Too Much Content & Clutter: A rule of thumb for every company should be the following – do not include every bit of information about your company, products, and services on the website. As I mentioned in point #2, some white space is necessary, otherwise website users feel overwhelmed and confused by content overload. If a website is too busy, it comes across as disorganized and confusing, which is not something any business wants. People will not return to your webpage if they do not know what to read or if they feel overwhelmed by the extent of content (and images) on the page.

How can your business avoid a cluttered website? Keeping in mind that most users scan a website for points of interest, creating a visual hierarchy is a useful place to start. Emphasizing some elements more than others helps designate the most important content on a page, and visual keys can indicate this content hierarchy. Also, breaking up elements into smaller pieces of information helps decrease the appearance of content overload. Lastly, ask yourself if every single piece of information and image on the website has a specific purpose, and if one doesn’t, remove the item from your website.

Avoiding these mistakes, and keeping in mind how to overcome them if you have already made an error in website design is crucial to your business’ success. Keep consumers at your page, keep them engaged and interacting with your website, and you can see it positively affect your company’s reputation and bottom line.

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