Your website should look pleasing to the eye when you arrive at it. If you want an effective internet site, you need to pay close attention to many different aspects of laying out a website. I have been designing websites for years and have seen many horrible websites designed over the years. I have made a lot of mistakes and have learned a lot from the mistakes I have made. In this article, I will show you 12 best practices for creating an effective website.
Your website needs to be up 99.9% of the time. This is probably the most important part of a website. If your website is constantly down your visitors will be turned off by the amount of downtime. Signing up for a dependable web hosting service can ensure that your site is up as close to 100% as possible.
You need to minimize the 404 errors that you might have on your website. There are many different error messages, and I wrote a post about this. Broken links on your site frustrate your visitors and also damage your SEO.
One of the easiest ways to tell if a website is developed by a newbie is by looking at their navigation. Your navigation needs to be consistent throughout your site. When you go from page to page, your navigation can’t be in a different spot each time. This will annoy the user, and there is a good chance they will just bounce off your website.
Search bars are great for helping visitors find exactly what they want. You can develop pages that have all your articles in one place. There are some WordPress plugins that make this easy. See this plugin WP Sitemap Page.
Nothing is worse than trying to read a website that gives you a headache. What you think might look “good” may actually not be very good regarding readability. Stay away from the fancy fonts for body text! You should only use those for your headings. The content might be great, but if you need Aspirin after reading it you’re killing a lot of your potential users. Use fonts that are easy to read on your website. The body font needs to be 16 pixels minimum. Use Sans for your typography, not serifs.
You don’t have to have a masters in English. I am sure there are some typos on tbwhs.com, and I’m perfectly fine with that. A lot of webmasters actually hire outside help to write their content for their websites. Make sure you proofread your content before publishing it. If you have to you can always hire someone to proofread your content. Try your best to make your writing entertaining for your readers, but don’t bore them to death.
Break up your paragraphs into chunks. I won’t even read an article that doesn’t break it up into smaller chunks. Why? It scares me! Don’t make the mistake of writing a 1000+ word article and not breaking it up into smaller digestible chunks.
Make sure you are writing only high-quality content. If it isn’t valuable, you don’t need it. Every once and awhile go through and update different articles that you have written. This helps your SEO and also keeps your content relevant.
It’s not all about your content, though. More and more websites are implementing videos onto their websites. Truth be told if I had an option between reading something and watching a video I would probably watch a video every single time.
Make sure you break up your content with images. Your content might be great, but if it looks like a book a lot of users might say, “not today” and close out your website. Remember that your images should be flushed to the right or centered. This helps make them look more visually appealing and doesn’t distract their natural reading pattern. Feel free to take your own pictures. You don’t have to spend any money on images either. There are good sites you use to purchase stock photography, too.
Simple = Better
You don’t have to be fancy with your website. In fact, I really like websites that are simple. They are easier to navigate, less clustered, and appeal to me visually. Your header, main content area, sidebar/sidebars, and footers should be the same. You should have your sidebar flip from left to right when you go to different pages on your website.
This is a subject that is very broad. Colors that clash, don’t go together, or are a distraction to the user will diminish the effectiveness of your website. Don’t develop a website with a black background and then have white type on it. That is the biggest web design flaw you can make as a site designer. Another thing I can’t stand is bright yellow type or fonts that change colors throughout the entire article. This makes it hard on the eye. I have written an article on choosing your website colors here.
More and more people are using mobile devices or tablets to surf the internet. If you’re using WordPress, there are tons and tons of themes you can choose from. Most of them are mobile-friendly. You can always start out with a free theme and them migrate over to a premium one if money is tight.
I actually created an article that shows you how you can check if your website is mobile-friendly or not.
Your users have about 3 to 5 seconds to decide if they want to bother navigating through your website or hitting the back button. You need to make it easy on them. Don’t overwhelm them with loads of options. People have a very short attention span when browsing the internet. Make sure your website loads quickly. You can install a WordPress caching plugin (WP Super Cache) to help speed up the loading time. You can use GTMetrix or Pingdom Tools to test the loading time of your website.
No one likes to get their banking statement and see charges they did not approve. If you run an eCommerce internet site, you need to make sure you purchase an SSL certificate. People are hesitant to make purchases online because they don’t believe websites are secure. Assure your readers that your site is secure. You don’t need service like SiteLock.
If you’re using the WordPress platform, you need to update WordPress to the latest version within 2 weeks of it rolling out. Hackers like to deface websites and do hateful things with them. You can always check your site if you think it might have been hacked. I have been using Wordfence and iThemes security for years to help keep hackers out of my web sites.
In my opinion Flash is dead. Don’t get me wrong Flash sites looks really neat if implemented correctly. But, there are three big problems I have with Flash websites. One, not everyone has the latest version of updates. Meaning a lot of times, you either have to install a Flash plugin, application, etc. on your computer to view your Flash based website. Second, iPad and tablets you need to install an app to view Flash. This is a hassle, and a lot of users will be turned off by this. Third, for SEO Google can’t read the code in Flash. Therefore, if you rely on your Google rankings, you’re essentially killing your SEO.
If Flash is a must make sure on your homepage you have a Flash based site and a regular HTML based site.
A good professional logo can really go a long way. I don’t know how many times I have been to a website and they had everything done correctly but failed to have a professional logo. This kills the professional aspect of an effective internet site. You could get a second logo created for you at Fiverr.com, but typically these do not look very professional at all. I have used 99designs in the past and even had the tbwhs.com logo designed there.
There are various places that you can get feedback on your website. This is a good article by KissMetrics which shows 5 different ways to get feedback on your site. One trick I have learned over the years invites a friend over to your house and have them sit down at a computer and see what they think of your website. Is it hard for them to navigate? Can they find what they’re looking for? Is there anything that annoys them?
Optionally, I have written an article on Criticue which is a credit bases system, that allows you get feedback on your website. Also, Wealthy Affiliate does have a great feature for getting feedback on your sites.
I have found a lot of very good resources for creating effective websites (see this post at smashingmagazine). This post on Forbes points out 25 web design tips and this post on webdesignledger.com shows 20 do’s and don’ts of effective web design.
Happy website building.