Brand Design

how to design a website that makes sense

Can I share a secret about myself with you? I’m severely directionally challenged. I am the type of person that goes into a store in the mall and then can’t remember which direction I was going when I come back out. Having recently moved to a much larger city (Phoenix), I regularly have to build in an extra 20 minutes to get to my destination to account for the amount of time it will take me to get lost and then get back on track. You get the picture.

And yet, I have also managed to travel solo to countries across the world, navigating various fight changes and international airports. Without getting lost. Why? Because airports are excellent at telling you exactly where to go.

They usually have clearly marked signs pointing you in the right direction, complete with big large arrows many times. And if all the big signs and arrows weren’t help enough, there are staff everywhere that can give you more directions. From my experience, airports are really good at directing people to their destination.

So what am I getting at?

When people arrive at your website, they’re a little bit like people arriving in an international airport. They’re not sure if they’re in the right place. They want you to tell them exactly where they are and where to go next.

Only unlike being stuck in an airport, if they get confused, they can just leave. And given the average attention span these days, that’s exactly what they’ll do if they can’t find the information they want fast enough.

Your homepage should immediately let people
know they’re in the right place

So your job as a website owner (or the job of the web designer you hired) is to ensure that the people that land on your page are carefully led through your website to their final destination. And if your website is a business page, the final destination should be the sale.

So with that in mind, I’m going to go through the absolute basics of web design.

Summarize your business and
use a clear call to action on your homepage

Another way to think about your website is to think about it as your virtual home (I’m big on analogies, obviously). When a guest shows up at your front door, what do you do? You introduce yourself and guide them into your house. Your home page should do the same.

You should have at least a basic run down of what you or your business is about, and you should have a clear call to action on where to go next. Don’t make people click around just to figure out if they’re even at the right house or not. And don’t leave people hanging on your doorstep not knowing where to go next.

I’ve seen many homepages go into one extreme or the other, either there is virtually no information on the homepage, or there is way too much information on the homepage. Neither is ideal.

A list of blog posts is also probably not ideal to use as a homepage for your business website, unless of course your business is the blog itself. It can be confusing to be met with a wall of posts when what I want is a summary of who you are and how you can help me.

There are many different ways a homepage can be effectively utilized, but try to consider your homepage from an outside perspective. If you had no idea what this business was about, would you be able to instantly tell? What would you want to click on first? Is there a clear call to action?

Just say no to splash pages

For this reason, I really dislike splash pages. A splash page is a page that usually says something like, “Welcome to ___. Click to enter.” It might have a short description of the website, or it might be a page offering the option to sign up to your email list or to go to the website.

I have reached your website, I want to know more about you and your business, so why are you making me click an extra button just to get where I want to go? Why not give me the good stuff right away? I also don’t think it’s the best idea to start your relationship with a client by asking them to give you something, which is what an email sign up is.

Create a plan to direct viewers through your website

After you’ve looked at your homepage, go through every page on your website and ask yourself a) What is the main purpose of this page, and is what I have working to meet that purpose? And b) Is there a clear direction on where to go next? It’s a good idea to put a call to action on the bottom of each page to lead your visitor through your website. If you go to through my website, you’ll notice that I have options at the bottom of each page or page section with an invitation to go to the next thing.

No matter how big or small your website is, you should have a clear plan for leading your audience through all of your information. You’re the butler, guiding your guests through the various rooms in your house.

A note about the about page

While we’re on the subject of web design, let’s talk about your “about” page for a second. Did you know that the about page is statistically the first page people click on when they visit your website? So it’s really important to “hook” people once they read it. Remember, people on your website are wondering, “Am I in the right place? Is this the right person to help me?” So if they click on the about page and encounter a list of things you like, you’re not helping them answer those questions. Sure, it’s nice that you love coffee and long walks in the rain, but why should I hire you? Your about page should show your audience that you understand what they need and you have what it takes to help. Once you’ve done that, you can add more of those personal little details like your interests at the end.

Get an outside perspective

It’s always nice to have an outside perspective, so I recommend asking someone else to go through your website to give you an opinion on how easy it is to navigate. But make sure to ask someone that you would consider a potential (or past) dream client. As much as I love my dad, his opinion on my website is probably not the most valuable. He’s not in my target audience.

The website is also a great resource. You can submit your website and someone will record themselves going through your website while saying their initial impressions and then e-mail the recording to you. It’s also completely free! This can be a good way to see where people are most likely to click first and if they can tell what you do right away.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Does your homepage:

  •  Clearly and succinctly state what you do
  •  Contain a clear call to action

Does your about page:

  • Clearly explain the needs or desires of your client
  • Clearly explain that you have the solution for those needs or desires
  • Explain your unique qualifications and values to solve those needs or desires

All other pages:

  • What is the purpose of this page?
  • Does this page do everything possible to effectively serve that purpose?
  • Is there a clear call to action?

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