Starting a new business or starting a website for your existing one? Have no idea how to create effective and visually compelling marketing? As an experienced web designer, I often take my knowledge of design basics for granted.
For this post, I’m going back to visual design and web design basics for those new to the field.
Visual Branding Basics
You want to stick with a couple of primary colors for your brand. Successful brands stick to a minimal color scheme in order to closely associate those colors with their brand: Starbucks green, Crown Royal purple, any professional sports team, the list goes on. This isn’t to say you can’t use more than 2 colors in any of your design or marketing. Pick a handful of accent colors and use them in less prominent ways.
Stick with clean and simple modern fonts. Avoid any overly decorative font, or something gimmicky. Make sure the fonts are legible at large and small screen sizes. The reality is that text’s most important function is to give information to your viewer
Use photos and graphics to break up long blocks of text and make your site more visually appealing. If using stock photos or graphics, make sure they all look similar or are done in a similar style. For example, avoid using a detailed 3D graphic on one page, and a flat 2D graphic on another. Whatever style you go with, make sure it’s consistent throughout the site.
Web Design & User Experience Basics
You want to strike a balance between clever text & branding, and being completely utilitarian & boring. Too much fluff and you’ll come off as sales-y and trying too hard to market yourself. Too little fluff and your message isn’t compelling and you lose people’s interest.
Many people feel the need to come up with clever page names on their website to differentiate themselves. This can be counterproductive.
For example, a majority of websites have a “Contact” or “Contact Us” page. This is a common name for it, and visitors know they can find emails, phone numbers, addresses, and other contact information on this page. Let’s say you want to name that same page “Join The Conversation”. This is going to be unfamiliar to your visitors and may deter them from going to that page.
You want your site to be organized and concise in order to make your visitor’s journey through the site as painless as possible. One of the biggest mistakes I see on websites is having too many pages with a tiny amount of content. Consider consolidating content of multiple small pages into a single one. One common example of this mistake is seen in pages like:
- Who We Are
- Mission Statement
Those all potentially have valuable information, but usually don’t warrant their own pages. Combine the content of those 3 pages into a single “About Us” page. This means that your visitor will only have to click once, rather than three times, to get the same information.
This is extremely important for websites. Nothing drives people away quite as fast as having to scour a website for information. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and anticipate what they need.
For example, let’s say you run a construction company in Chicago. What information should you have on your site? Some obvious things are:
- General information about the company
- What services you offer
- Email and/or Phone numbers to contact you for those services
That may seems like enough, but try to anticipate the different questions your customers might have, such as:
- “I live in Wisconsin. Will your company work in a different state?”
- “I’m a real estate developer looking for a contractor. Does your construction company do commercial projects?”
- “I’ve never worked with a construction company before. What is involved in the process?”
Now if any of those potential customers visited your site, they wouldn’t be able to get that information without contacting you (if they don’t go to another company’s website instead). That creates more work for both you and your customer. With that in mind, you can add things to your site:
- Have a list or a map letting people know which states you work in
- Specify which industry you work in, i.e. “We are Chicago-based Commercial Construction Company”. One word can make a huge difference
- Create a page on your site that briefly outlines the process and sets some expectations for your customers.
If you anticipate those questions and put the answers clearly on your site, you’ll have happier customers who’ll be more comfortable making the decision to contact you.
Write For The Web
Writing for the web is much different than writing for other marketing channels. Unless you’re a news site or a blog, most people won’t spend the time to read every word in a large paragraph of text. People are coming to your site to efficiently gather information. They generally skim until they find the information they are interested in, so make use of clear headline text, short paragraphs, and bullet lists.
Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Responsive
A responsive website is one that adapts to various screen sizes. A website can be viewed on a smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop (and even a watch). It’s important that the site is functional no matter what device your potential customer is on. A site that isn’t responsive will try to fit the entire page in your device’s screen, making navigating it painful and making the text unreadable. A responsive site will resize and rearrange items on a page so the user experience is smooth no matter what the device is.