There are many different types of web design, from those built using website templates and ‘build your own’ site building applications to complex content managed and e-commerce web designs such as those used by big brand names like Amazon, ebay and Tesco. Some companies, even some big name companies, have unprofessional looking and badly designed websites. Some have amazing looking websites but because of their high graphical content and minimal text content can take an age to load, are not user friendly and do not provide what the visitor wants.
Though many aspects of website design differ from Top Website Builders site to site, many things remain the same throughout the majority of websites on the internet. Most notably is the navigation or menu. The way in which a website’s menu works and looks is very important, as ultimately, visitors to a website are looking for certain criteria that will make them either stay and interact or leave. This ability for a website to keep visitors interested is sometimes referred to as stickiness. Visitors want an attractive visually exciting experience, but perhaps more importantly, they want ‘ease of use’. Website usability is a key factor for websites that want their visitors to stick around, make an enquiry and ultimately complete a transaction and order a product or service.
Internet users tend to prefer easy to use websites, because they do not want to have to learn how to use a website every time they find a new one. They should be able to use a website after only a few seconds of looking around a homepage, any more and they will leave and browse elsewhere. The need for fast user interaction is vital and therefore having a fast loading website is also important for a website to succeed. Even with faster internet connections such as broadband, internet users don’t want to wait around.
Just imagine, if you go to a shop on the high street and are totally ignored by shop assistants at the counter for 5 minutes, even after you have made it clear you want help. There is a correlation here to how an internet user may feel, when they arrive at a website that has been poorly designed, is difficult to use, unfriendly and slow to load. Making sure that a website has been well thought out and designed with the user in mind, displays a company’s unique selling points within easily recognizable eye catching calls for action and has a clear, easy to use menu is key to its success.
With recent web design advancements, such as the introduction of Flash animation and high definition video content, impressive websites have been produced to take advantage of much higher levels of visual effects and interaction. However with this ‘high end’ web design, comes a price, more often than not, web designs which rely heavily upon Flash content are often ridiculously slow to load. They often have a progress bar, which slowly goes across the web browser to signify when the website will finish loading.
This is much like the progress bars that you may be familiar with if you use video editing or 3d rendering software, or if you use games consoles where they are displayed whilst you wait for games to load. Internet users on the whole do not want to wait 3 – 5 minutes for a web page to load even if it does feature high resolution images, animation or video. They want fast informative content rich websites. If they wanted to watch an animation or video they would watch TV.
This is not to say that Flash animation is all bad news and shouldn’t be used in web design. If used subtly and in small amounts it can make a website more visually appealing without slowing the load time down too much. Suitable uses for Flash animation in web design are things such as; Flash banner advertisements, Flash video and interactive Flash forms for online questionnaires or business presentations.
Using Flash for a whole website design however, is not such a good idea. It slows the user’s experience down because they have to wait for elements of it to load. Also, sites totally developed in Flash tend to use unfamiliar menu structures and features. This can confuse visitors who just want to quickly interact with the website and not be amazed by the way the menu animates. Just because you can do these things in Flash, it doesn’t mean they have any real working value in the real world. They may look pretty, but if they are not functional and only irritate the visitor then they have no real value.
Another argument against using Flash to create a whole website is that it dramatically reduces the effectiveness of your websites’ Search engine optimisation. Flash web designs are made up of one main file within a web page which search engines find difficult to index. This is because the text within them is usually graphical text and therefore is not usually accessible by search engines. Some recent developments allow some text to be displayed for search engines in Flash websites, but this is nowhere near as effective as text content within traditional HTML based websites.
Although Flash does have its limitations it also has its good points if used correctly. For instance; Flash animation is usually smaller in file size than traditional gif animation and because of the way it is made the animation flows smoother than gif animation too. Having said this, I would recommend only using Flash in small areas within a site to compliment other imagery that makes up the overall design. Finding a balance between minimal graphical elements, imagery, Flash and good quality informative text is the key to a successful user friendly website. This isn’t to say that web design needs be boring. By working with quality web design companies there’s no reason why you couldn’t have a visually exciting, well designed, easy to use and successful website.
When visitors first arrive at a website, they want to be impressed and engaged with what the website has to offer. This will be determined by the ways in which the web designer has laid out the website’s content text, images and features. Arranging elements such as imagery, text, graphics, flash and video in such a way as to keep the visitor interested in the website is the key to good web design. If a website has poor design and doesn’t grab the attention of the visitor in the first few seconds, then it may well be dismissed as just another average website. This ultimately means the visitor will go elsewhere to spend their time and, more importantly, money.
A lot of time and money is spent making sure that the right elements of websites are positioned in the right places. Companies spend large amounts of money conducting research into how internet users use their websites. This type of research shows where their visitors’ eyes concentrate the most, which elements of the website they click on first and generally how they interact and use their websites. Most internet users will look primarily from the top left either across the page, or down the left hand side of the web page through an internet browser via a computer, mobile phone or Tv set.
I would hazard a guess, that they are looking for the company’s name or logo, their main selling points or slogans and then what the website has to offer in terms of what is featured in the menu. After which their eyes are probably drawn across the page content and over to the right hand side. Successful web design usually takes this into consideration and will ultimately affect the way a website looks.
There are of course rather famous exceptions to this rule for instance one rather well known search engine has a web design which is quite different. The main focus and core functionality in their web design is located right in the centre of the page. This however, isn’t any ordinary website with tens or even hundreds of pages of products and services to display, its main focus is its recognisable logo and of course its search box. It does however feature a small minimal menu across the top of the web design, which flows from left to right. So even they have taken onboard some of the research undertaken into internet users’ habits. If you go looking at websites after reading this article, I can guarantee that most of the web designs you’ll see, will have a left hand menu and a defined header bar with a company logo and slogan across it.