With all of the robust tools, applications and options available, you might be asking the most essential question: where to begin with website design? While sorting through all the technology may not provide any easy answers, you can begin with a few simple and critical principles to guide any website built for your business. Such essentials include designing for your target demographics, selecting a simple navigational schema, and ensuring your site is accessible.
In an article on Forbes Online, writer Ilya Pozin discusses several mistakes in web design. One of these is rushing to create a site without first understanding one’s customer base. This sometimes turns into an expensive mistake, costing more money down the road in redesigns or time spent to make multiple corrections.
By now, you’ve probably already performed some research about your customer base. Use those findings to understand how they will interact with your site. For example, older individuals benefit from larger fonts and sufficient contrast between text and background colors. And since mobile Internet usage has increased steadily in the last five years, ensuring that it is easily accessible on smartphones, tablets and other devices is critical.
Whether you’re coding from scratch or using a service that allows you to make your own website, your basic layout should be simple. It must permit visitors to move between pages and easily reach all of your content. Additionally, keep in mind that most Internet users are accustomed to seeing navigational bars and menus on the top or left sides of the page.
Furthermore, it’s a wise idea to avoid overly flashy or busy designs. They not only get in the way of navigation, but also make your pages inaccessible for mobile and disabled users as well as those with slower Internet connections. Additionally, too much flashing or rapid motion could actually be harmful to some visitors, such as those with epilepsy or migraines.
Accessibility means that your site does not include any barriers that make usage difficult. Sticking to a basic layout and schema will avoid most problems. It will also permit assertive technologies, such as audio screen readers and speech-activated navigational tools, to move around your site. And while image-rich pages can attract customers and boost sales, it’s good practice to include alternative text descriptions for your photos and graphics. Screen readers read these descriptions aloud, so that users who are blind or have low vision know what the images depict.
More information about accessibility for multiple settings, user populations and platforms is provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3). According to the W3, using valid W3C technologies increase the chances that your site will work for users on older platforms. This is particularly important if your customer base consists of older people, those in rural areas or those in lower economic brackets.
Starting with a layout plan before creating your specific content is wise. Make sure you create a site that’s accessible on different platforms and by different groups of users, and design with your target market in mind. Once its structure is complete, you can focus on your copy, images, e-commerce integration and other elements.