Having a website is all but a necessity if you want to have any kind of business presence on the Internet, and although it’s easier than ever in some ways to build a website, web standards are always changing and evolving. What’s current today might be outmoded tomorrow.
Making sure your website meets the highest possible standards for accessibility, design, and clarity is key to your site’s success. Whether you’re creating your first website or looking to overhaul an old one, here are some best practices you should be aware of.
Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. According to estimates, over 72% of internet users will be accessing the internet exclusively on their cell phones. Designing solely for desktop and laptop computers is literally a thing of the past. Ideally, your website should have responsive design so it can work well on any device — but at the very least, make sure you have a design that’s primarily mobile-friendly.
Use captions and alt tags. Some visitors to your website are likely to be vision-impaired. That’s why using captions and alt-tags for any illustrations or photos is vital to making your website as accessible as possible.
Consider color choices. Similarly, some visitors may be colorblind, making it a good idea to think carefully about the colors used in their design, to make sure they’re as broadly accessible as possible.
Maximize readability. Using a tiny gray font on a dark background is not only a terrible design decision, it also makes it extremely difficult for some users (particularly older visitors) to read your content. Don’t be afraid to make your text big and bold.
While we’re on the subject of content, let’s talk a little about how best to present it. A lot of business websites have fully embraced video over text, which is fine — but if the purpose your site isn’t well-suited to video, it’s a good idea to make your text snappy and easy to get into.
- Use short sentences. The average attention span of a website visitor is about 54 seconds. Make sure they’re not wading through thick paragraphs of material, or they may very well bounce.
- Use bullet points.
- Have simple website navigation. No one enjoys digging through complex menus trying to find what they’re looking for. Ideally, put the most vital info (like phone numbers) front and center, so users can spot them right away.
- Include a clear call to action if your website is business-related. A surprising number of businesses don’t do this, and that’s missing out on an opportunity to guide your visitors toward the next step in engaging with your content.
Making a well-designed site can be tricky, especially if you’ve never done it before and aren’t relying on a paid service or contractor. If you’ve never put together a website before, or just don’t quite remember how to make a website, don’t be afraid to check out tutorials and videos to get yourself back up to speed. No one’s going to judge you.
As far as design choices go, here are a few tips:
- For mobile design, use the “thumb rule,” meaning keep the most useful information within a single thumb scroll, and make CTAs and other items easily tappable with the thumb.
- Use feedback, such as links that change color when they’re clicked or visited.
- There’s no need to get clever with navigation titles. Keep things simple and straightforward: “About Us,” “Contact,” etc.
- Ideally, your navigation should have breadcrumbs so not only do users always know where they are on a website, but they know how to get back to another page should they need to. One easy way to include this is to make sure your company or website logo is clickable and always leads back to the home page.
If you’re taking any kind of payments or storing customer information with your website, security is critical — and it’s still highly important if you’re doing neither of those things.
- Choose a secure web host with a solid reputation and features like firewalls, encryption, malware scanning, and an SSL certificate.
- If you are using a CMS that has security plugins that do things like limit login attempts, install them (after vetting them first).
- Use two-factor authentication if possible, and make sure you’re using strong passwords.
Finally, it’s never an idea to test your design with online tools. Tools like Hotjar, Screenfly, Google Optimize, and other software can help you determine what’s working on your site, and what isn’t. I
t’s always best to thing of the user experience first and foremost when putting together a website, and the best way to do that is to find out how the users themselves are behaving when they come to your site. Remember to put the user experience first, and you can’t go wrong.