5 Web Design Strategies That Work For Everyone

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emmadavis | Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

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The divide between ‘online’ and ‘real world’ business is closing rapidly; does your website hold up to today’s design standards? More and more people use the internet to shop or book services every day, which means your website must stand as a good representative of your company while still selling your products. If your web design is stale you could be losing business as we speak to competitors with slicker, more innovative homepage designs. While you tend to find the most creative web design elements featured on graphic design or web design company sites, there’s no reason why these streamlined design tactics can’t perform well on retail and other business websites. Here are five strategies of imaginative web design that make a business site stand out from the crowd.

1.) Pick a Theme, Then Stick With It

When you browse websites today it can be painfully obvious which web pages were designed more than two years ago. This may not sound so bad but we all know that in online time these websites are true fossils in their antiquated use of what was once modern design strategy. One common sign of an outdated site is an inconsistent theme. The logo is colorful while the content is displayed in stark black and white; some pages have illustrated images while some feature photography. In order for your business to stand out you must choose a strong theme and then follow through with it, ensuring that it carries over across not just your pages but your blog, your email newsletter, your social media accounts and anywhere else that your brand may be viewed. For brands with a strong offline presence it should be an easy task to translate the offline branding to the online elements of your brand, but too often marketers think a brand’s website needs to seem “new” or “different”, often to the detriment of their online efforts. Whether your site is bursting with color or has a more sleek and metallic aesthetic to it, as long as it complements your brand, you should go with it full-force.

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2.) Put Your Products On The Forefront

This point seems obvious especially if your site is a retail e-commerce business, but it seems like every day I happen upon a new site that does not clearly show what it sells on the first impression. No matter what your site is selling, your customers should never be more than one or two clicks away from being able to view your products or services. It’s okay to have an artistic ‘intro’ homepage but too many layers of content hiding your products will frustrate your website visitors. Remember, the purpose of your site is ultimately to drive business and there is no better way to do that than putting a spotlight on your popular offerings. Individual product pages are great for SEO purposes and creating links to popular items within your site from your front page can help to strengthen your search engine ratings overall. Besides, with the commonly used layouts on most website designs it’s easier than ever to incorporate a rotating product feature into a sidebar or news box element on your site. Another aspect to this point is featuring a prominent and accessible search function that helps visitors find what they’re looking for. No matter how nicely you’ve designed your site to be navigated, a search function will generally let visitors find what they need in the least time. This means happier online customers that are more likely to convert.

3.) Incorporate Artistic Flair

It’s true that not every business needs to have an artistic side but when it comes to your website, you want it to look good, don’t you? If that’s the case then you should seriously consider using a graphic designer (and I don’t mean that guy in sales who can kind of use Photoshop) to add some aesthetically driven elements to your site. One especially eye-catching trend in web design is the use of 3D visual elements to trick the eye into seeing depth on a website. Realistic shadows, folds, textures and shifts in focus can bring a website to life while also highlighting the best aspects of the site’s content through the design. Check out this site for some well-executed examples of three-dimensional web designs on live sites: Beautiful Examples of 3D Elements in Web Design. This point also refers back to the idea of sticking with a consistent theme: rather than refreshing your website with different colors or graphic elements, think about making the jump from flat and boring 2D to eye-catching and color-popping 3D! Plus, these attractive design elements can carry across every page on your site in some way or another, strengthening the overall aesthetic and branding of your business.

4.) Be Creative With Your Site Content

I don’t just mean that you should write compelling content and make sure your site stays fresh with regular updates (although you should do that too: 10 Ways To Serve Up Fresh Content). Your site holds a lot of information and the more interesting it looks, the more likely your visitors are to take time to read your content. While this is obviously important when it comes to product information and PR-style news updates, don’t forget about the other sections of your site like About, Contact and Help. You’re missing a huge opportunity if you don’t use these often-forgotten site areas to express yourself and your brand. In past job searches I’ve become enamored with companies I had just discovered simply because of their creative forms or job listing sections. Again, these were often creative-industry companies but there’s no reason this strategy can’t work for more traditional industries like retail and business. To get inspired, check out this article: The 35 Most Creative 404 Pages Around, and this one: 91 Trendy Contact and Web Forms for Creative Inspiration. Really though, the best and most creative ideas for you will be ones you come up with with your own business in mind. The first step is finding the opportunity in sections of your site.

5.) Feature Human Faces Front and Center

When a friend sits you down to show you vacation photos, you know he’s proud of the gorgeous architectural shots and sweeping landscapes, but you’re really just interested in photos of your friend and his family. Websites are no different. When you visit one, as a human being yourself your eyes can’t help immediately being drawn to the faces of other people. When a website features a human model prominently, it makes you feel like the site is truly a business that people like you might use. A site full of text, no matter how compelling the copy, will come off as boring and will likely have an uphill battle ahead in trying to attract visitors and convince them to return. A site design heavy on visual graphics but lacking the human presence can be effective but won’t benefit from that immediate connection we can’t help but make with a person looking back at us from a website. Browse the images of sites featured here: 20 Websites With Unique Layouts. Many of the designs I find the most attractive on that list are sites that feature a human model front and center. There are so many ways that using people on your site can help you connect to visitors: a friendly-looking customer service rep inviting a live chat, a pretty model displaying products, an average person like the reader himself benefiting from a service. Just make sure you use the highest-quality images you can find and avoid low resolution photos like the plague. We are talking about design here, after all!

What interesting web design elements have made you stop and look twice recently? Leave your favorites in the comments, and get in touch to learn more about how web design and SEO can improve your company’s online marketing efforts.

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