Web Design Best Practices for Content Presentation
In the past 10 years, the number of people who use the internet in their daily life has skyrocketed. As a result, many jobs now include adding or writing content that is ultimately posted online. Your business depends on your ability to create cohesive, complete information presented in an aesthetically pleasing, and memorable way. How can we know if the content we are writing is presented in the appropriate fashion? There are a few best practices to keep in mind that will keep users coming back to your site, time after time.
- Consistency: When you post content to your website, one of the first things that will drive users away is a lack of consistency and styling. Think about websites that you visit often. In general, they won’t have random colors, changing fonts or sizes, or different designs on different pages of the website. By nature, humans look for symmetry - and websites are no exception. Here are some areas that should be consistent throughout your entire site:
- Fonts: Are you using a consistent font type? If your website is using “Arial” as the base font, you should stick with it everywhere on the site. Changing fonts and having a mix of Serif and Sans-Serif fonts will detract from the look and feel of the site. It conveys a message of unprofessionalism that can turn away visitors and potential customers.
- Colors: The colors on your site need to be just as consistent as your font styles. All the links on your site should be using one color, and all the titles on your site should be another color. The main body content should be a color that works with your website and is readable against the background of your site. It is essential to avoid bright colors, at all costs. It should be as easy to read your website, as it would be to read the content printed on a plain white paper.
- Layout: Another very important thing to remember is the layout of the content you are presenting. Each page of the site should retain a similar layout. This way, users know how to navigate and access the information they are seeking on any page. If a user pulls up a new page and everything is located in another position, it is as though they are on another website. This is very bad for user retention and will almost certainly cause a user to navigate away from your site.
- Content: The content on your site is just as important as the constancy of your styling. The best way to create content is to imagine your website as a magazine layout, as opposed to a book. Your average visitor is looking for information that can be easily located. They do not want to hunker down and read page after page of content to find what they need, it also helps to have a clear graphic that represents the information.
- Paragraphs: Considering the notion that websites should be laid out like a magazine, each paragraph should be simple and only a few sentences long. Within that paragraph, it’s imperative to make sure the information is easy to understand and provides the user a resource link for further information. The paragraphs should also flow together, each one building upon the last. This will keep the reader interested in the topic and make it easy to follow the flow of information to its conclusion.
- Grammar: The importance of appropriate grammar should go without saying. Unfortunately, there is an inordinate amount of simple grammatical errors on many websites. Poor grammar can be a huge turnoff to potential customers. How can you expect them to pay for your goods or services when you're not careful enough to make sure your content is grammatically correct? Not everyone is going to nitpick your site to this degree. Those who do, however, are going to let you know about it every time, just to “let you know”. It’s important to have your content reviewed before it is published on your website. The ideal editor for your content is someone who has not looked at it before and is unfamiliar with the topic you’re presenting. To go beyond basic grammar edits, you can question them about the topic. Did they understand what they just read? The easiest solution is to have content that can be understood easily and is grammatically correct.
- Relevancy: Another topic that should go without saying is the relevancy of the content you are presenting on your site. It is important to make sure that you never feature a new article on your homepage that contains outdated or irrelevant information. For example, if your company is adding a new service to your business offering but the actual service is not new to the industry, you don’t want to make a big deal about it. Advertising this service will tell potential clients that it’s taken you this long to catch up with all of your competitors. The last thing your company needs is to leave visitors with the feeling that you are not on top of your game. Instead of making the new service the focal point of an update to your customers, use it as a way to bolster your already established services with a post about all your service offerings - including your new service.
- Conversions: Arguably, the most important part of having your content presentable and accurate is getting the user to engage with your site by clicking your Calls to Action and, ultimately, converting them into customers. A few ways to encourage a user to engage are often overlooked by many people when working on the web.
- Access: How accessible is the information that you’re presenting to the potential customer? Consider how many levels are required for the actual Call to Action forms that you are asking the customer to fill out. If you need to dig beyond one or two levels, then you are asking too much of your customers. Best practice is always to have at least one Call to Action on your homepage. In general, this should be a simple Call to Action that offers something desirable to your potential clients, and most importantly, something that is free. In order to capture their contact information, you should always require them to fill out a few simple fields. This form should not be lengthy or in depth and the free information they get should focus on the value of your service not the benefits.
- CTA: A Call to Action (CTA) is typically your best option for drawing attention to items you want people to click on. Everyone has been to a website where there is a “click here” button. While most visitors know to use this link to find what they are visiting your site for, they tend to shy away from a “click here” button. We can avoid this issue with a good Call to Action. The best practice should be to create graphics for these “click here” areas rather than simple text. You will also want to have the CTA be the same color as your branding for consistency purposes. You should have several CTA’s in various locations throughout the site, and each should be specific to the content that is provided on the page.
In conclusion, each of the items above should be integrated into your company’s best practices. A few best practices, such as the ones mentioned above, have been battle-tested to help you capture new customers. By presenting your content in a easily accessible manner with proper formatting and consistency, your website will give a future client the confidence that your company and staff are the best of the best. Always remember, your website is your face to the world. By following these steps, you afford your company’s website the ability to present the best face possible.