Web design is both an art and a science. A lot of artistic talent can go into creating a beautiful, modern, and intuitive website. At the same time, those artistic aspirations can and should be backed up by data and experience. We web designers spend a lot of time researching what works and what doesn’t. Clients can gain a lot by relying on that experience and wisdom.
There’s an intricate process that goes into mapping out a website’s UI/UX, such as placing call-to-actions (CTAs) in the right spot, picking the right color palette, and building a brand in a way that resonates with customers and reflects your company and industry positively. The biggest difference between a professional web designer/developer and an amateur how thorough they implement each of the following:
- a clear message of who you are, what you’re offering, and who it’s for
- clean design aesthetics coupled with straightforward navigation
- the necessary functionality “under the hood”, and in working order
- optimized image dimensions & file sizes to ensure good pagespeed
For new website owners, the quality of the finished product may well be the difference between a 1% conversion rate and a 10% one. Let’s break some of the best practices for web design down even further.
1. Have a Clear Objective & Funnel for Visitors to Complete it
A serious website should never be a collection of disparate pages, yet many of them are. Instead, an entire website’s “tree” should be mapped out from the first landing page or homepage down to the fine print in the terms & conditions.
Your website should present a clear message of what it offers and why. Visitors will be forming opinions within milliseconds of visiting your site, and will only grant you a few seconds total before choosing to stay or leave. You must make the information they’re looking for readily accessible. Make that first impression a good one.
You also need your visitors to complete an objective. If they just look and leave, the traffic is pretty much useless. Get them to sign up for an email list, to schedule a booking, or buy your product. Getting visitors to convert is a science in and of itself, but professional developers will have an A/B testing process they follow.
2. Your New Website Must be FAST
There are only so many seconds before the next distraction comes along, and web users don’t like to stare at loading pages. You’ll only get a moment to secure their attention before they will click away. That’s why having fast loading times on your website is essential.
Your website’s pagespeed will be affected by both the website itself and your web hosting server. Having a fast website requires both well-optimized code & images and a solid web host with high performance hardware & regularly maintained software.
Your designer/developer should do each of the following in some form:
- making raw/stock photos web-friendly by sizing them to more practical resolutions
- running all images through an optimizer like TinyPNG, EWWW, or WP Smush
- using a well-maintained builder or, if building from scratch, writing clean code
- cutting out bloatware & unnecessary plug-ins (perhaps research Clearfy)
3. Mobile Responsiveness is a Must
Over half of all traffic is now coming from mobile devices. In fact, nearly 54% of traffic is coming from mobile, while just 43% is coming from desktop. Often, visitors will visit your website on mobile first, and if they want to learn more, they’ll revisit with their laptop or desktop.
You might be asking yourself, if that’s the case, why does a mobile site even matter? Won’t they revisit with their desktop anyways? Probably not. If you lose out during a customer’s early research stage, you’ve probably lost them for good.
4. Tools for Insights, like Google Analytics, Should be Enabled
Remember my bit about science & conversions? Numbers don’t lie. When it comes to pagespeed optimization, lowering bounce rates (getting visitors to complete your objective before leaving), and SERP rankings (SEO), empirical data is vital. Fortunately, Google and other companies make it easy to help you gather this data.
Yet, sometimes I build websites for clients who are eager to launch, or work on pre-existing websites, Google Analytics is completely skipped over. Getting your website to work with Google Analytics is free, and all you have to do is email your web designer the code snippet Google provides for you. Still, some amateur web designers or overloaded business owners skip over this step.
A professional web developer should then be able to explain what to do with your data and offer you A/B testing in some capacity. Many professional web developers also provide search engine optimization services (on-page, off-page, or both), while others will simply point you in the right direction. In our case, FissionBlue Creative works with a close-knit network of a few SEO agencies & specialists and refers SEO work to them.
5. Integrated Social Media Pages & Share Buttons
Your social media efforts must be tied in directly with your website. They should not exist in their own lonely silos. Link up your site’s URL into your social media pages and integrate a social sharing tool like Monarch or Social Warfare. Having social media buttons on your product pages, blog posts, and other links can increase sharing, which will in turn increase reach.
6. Ironclad Security to Protect Both Yourself & User Data
Security is front & center for websites both big and small. If you have a WordPress site, then it is only a matter of time before someone tries to hack it. This very site receives over a thousand various attack attempts a month, and we are by no means “big time”.
Many people, including web developers and system admins, fail to properly secure their websites and servers. A professional web developer will not only ensure that your website is secure, but will also work with you to teach you the basics of securing your site post-development.
For example, one of the simplest yet routinely overlooked things you can do is use a password generator or a “strong” password. We have a separate post on how to secure your WordPress site and protect against hackers if you want to learn more.
So…Why You Should Hire a Professional Web Developer?
So why should you shell out for a professional web developer? Hopefully the answer is to avoid getting an unfinished or botched delivery, where basic due diligence wasn’t followed. Building a new website right can get expensive quickly, no doubt. Though with the alternative being a site that performs below expectations, or worse, becomes another bill, any serious business owner can see why considering a professional web designer or developer is a must.
The above list represents only some of the topics and risks that come bundled with owning a website. Feel free to add your topics, opportunities, & risks for those I missed!