3 simple design principles for an effective website


This is a guest post by Tony Grant. Tony is a CXL and Google Analytics IQ-certified Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) specialist with nearly a decade of experience in the industry. He's worked for and with various companies including start-ups, SMEs and FTSE 100 companies across many different regions and verticals such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and ecommerce. He's a prime contributor to the digital experience transformation book In Demand, In Command, centered around web analytics frameworks and strategies.

When designing a website, it is easy to try and reinvent the wheel when—more often than not—the simple things make the biggest impact. This article is based on a book called Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug, which articulates how key simplicity is when it comes to designing a website.

Here are just a few guiding principles to help you to design a great website that is simple yet effective.

People can only pay attention to a few things at a time

A website should be quick and easy to scan, demonstrating to the customer they have landed at the right place. According to CXL, it takes just 50 milliseconds to form an opinion about your site.

Creating a visual hierarchy helps people decipher information and aid cognitive flow.

You can do this by:

  • Having unique, clear, and relevant headlines (value propositions): Make sure your headlines state "what is in it for your visitors" followed up by a "prove it" statement.

  • Structuring your copy: People first viewing a website don't read, they scan. Make it easy for them with paragraphs no longer than three lines, and utilize bullets points.

  • Using relevant imagery: Use images that convey what your solution/website is all about. Remember, a picture tells a thousand words.

  • Providing one key action point: Tell the person what you want them to achieve. However, do make it easy for people to navigate elsewhere (more on this below).

Make it easy for people to navigate to where they want to go

If you don't make user experience (UX) easier, you could easily frustrate your visitors. However, when people figure out or do something themselves, there is a sense of achievement.

Here are some elements that can help:

  • Sections bar (quick links): to key or relevant pages.

  • Breadcrumbs: they act like "you are here" indicators.

  • Search bar: this acts as the shop assistant—if you are struggling to find something, you ask.

  • Link your logo to the homepage: a simple way for people to get home and start again if needed.

  • Site navigation: make it well-structured.

Use conventions to give a smooth user experience

Conventions can be an advantage—they equal consistency. Tapping into what people know will make them feel comfortable. There are many elements on a website that people have become accustomed to and know how they function.

This doesn't mean to say innovation isn't needed. The context is essential, you need to test, to find out your visitors' pain points and understand which elements make an impact. Don’t rely on co-workers, friends, or even your own opinion. Testing allows you to better understand what is or isn’t working and how different people require different things. So, test, test, and test again.

Tools like Zoho PageSense enable you to understand how visitors engage with your website, collate feedback, test variations to improve, and increase conversions. Testing and data analysis doesn't have to be resource-intensive—in fact, it will save you time in the long run.

To conclude, website design need not always be complicated—it should rather be intuitive. Its prime aim should always be to make it easier for your visitors to find what they want and consume your information.

Check out more insights on UX design, CRO, and Web Analytics

Are there any website design principles you follow that are not mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!


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