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5 best practices for a strong website user interface

Like anything in life, you only get out what you put in - websites not excluded. You can quickly build a website with no thought or you can put in the time and effort to create a substantial online tool. Guess which one will yield better results? As a web designer, companies trust you with their website and it is up to you to create something amazingly powerful that will not only wow the client, but website visitors alike.

There are many ways to enhance a website such as adding engaging features, using noteworthy graphics, and telling a story. Holding triumphant though is something that can easily be overlooked: building the website around the visitor. You can add as much in-depth info about the client as you’d like, but if the visitor isn’t compelled or guided in the right direction they’ll call it quits and hit the dreaded ‘x’ to close the tab. You can remedy this by creating a strong user interface that keeps the visitor engaged. The next five tips are some of the best practices that you can use today to create a solid foundation for a strong user interface on your websites:

  1. K.I.S.S. - Keep it Simple, Stupid

  2. Guide the Visitor

  3. Stay Consistent

  4. High-Quality = High Results

  5. Optimize for Mobile

01. K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple, stupid

People browsing the internet are like wild animals, the slightest sound can scare them and if you look them in the eye they will attack. The first point is the most important, because if you have too many bells and whistles on your site or too many pages, you may confuse your visitors by creating a “sensory overload.” Especially in the modern age of the internet, simple websites are ever increasing in popularity. This is because simple website aren’t too overbearing with information and they help keep the visitor on track with the journey of the website. No doubt, some websites need a plethora of pages and a complex structure. However, most sites really don’t need much to become a powerful marketing tool. It’s important to be able to get straight to the point without confusing or distracting the visitor.

02. Guide the visitor

Imagine taking a child to a theme park, you need to hold their hand and show them all of the attractions. If you let them run loose, they’ll probably only visit one or two of the attractions while missing out on the rest of the park. In this case, the child is a site visitor and the theme park is a website. You want to be able to point the visitor in the right direction so they view the important content that will help guide their actions. The top two ways to do this are:

1. Creating a page hierarchy

2. Using strong call to actions (CTAs)

A page hierarchy is simply the way pages are set up and listed on the site - i.e. Main pages (the first pages you see on a menu) and subpages (the pages you typically see in the dropdown menus once you hover over the main pages). Page hierarchies are typically structured within the navigation menu. In our analogy, think of the navigation as the signs in a theme park pointing you in the right direction. The navigation menu is important because it’s one of the most used elements on a website and it’s where visitors look to view the main pages of a site. If you fail to add key pages to the navigation, you are failing to guide your visitors in the right direction.

A call-to-action is an element on a website prompting the user to perform an action; typically a button leading to a prominent page. Strong CTA’s are very useful in reiterating where to guide your visitors throughout the site and they also create an urgency to perform the action. A simple, yet effective, CTA is a button in a frozen header because it is one of the first things a visitor will see and it follows them around while they’re browsing your website.

03. Consistency is king... and queen, and jack

Style consistency is important to reinforce a strong brand image. A good place to start is the color scheme of the brand. You’ll usually see two or three colors being used by a company in their logo, website, ads, and prints. That’s because those core colors define the brand’s identity. Once you identify the core primary and secondary colors, start thinking about the different shades of each of those colors that can be used around the site. A good idea is to create a stylesheet to layout the brand’s colors to reference when designing the website. Although you can use different shades of the core colors, the last thing you want to do is have the core colors being red and blue while using pink, orange, yellow, and purple scattered across the website. In addition to colors, the practice of being consistent also applies to graphics, font styles, logo files, and page layouts.

style consistency in web design

04. High-quality = High results

As you’re all very familiar with, a lot of clients want the world for a few hundred bucks. While some requests are irrational, you can’t fault a company for trying to save money. There might be ways to shave off a few dollars, but you don’t want to skimp on what goes into your website; after all, it’s usually the strongest digital asset of a company. In fact, 75% of consumers admit to making judgements on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design. How can you gain the trust of the majority of your website visitors?

  1. Use high-definition images that aren’t stretched or pixelated

  2. Keep elements appropriately spaced out from each other and don’t cram too much on a single page

  3. Hire a professional videographer to shoot a killer video, rather than using a laggy webcam in a poorly lit room

  4. Use visuals to explain the brand and to add to expand on the copy

Even if there are budget limitations, there are some amazing resources out there, such as Unsplash (free, high-quality, commercial-use stock images) and Graphic River (low-cost icons and graphics). Don’t publish a site just because “it’ll do,” take the time to build something that you’re proud of and launch the website when you’re thrilled to show it to the world.