10 Tips That Get You “Behind The Wheel”
Due to the frequent changes in your competition and consumer expectations, you will likely update or redesign their website within the next year or two.
Yet, most practice owners are a bit intimidated by the design process, become unsure of what they want, and concerned about how the new design will perform.
Fortunately, the keys to designing an effective website can be as easy as getting behind the wheel of a new car. To help you get to your design destination, use this checklist of 10 tips (be sure to print this).
1. It Begins With Your Brand – Notice the brand is always in the middle of the steering wheel. It is important to have a polished, professional logo. Your logo is fundamental to your brand.
- Make sure your designer has a high-resolution copy to formulate the best combination of clarity and speed in your site.
- It is promoted prominently and links back to your home page.
- Revisit the materials, process, thought and insight that went into developing your logo and apply that to your new design. Your logo and brand must be at the heart of your design and you have already invested in this process.
2. Navigation Must Be Intuitive – When you get behind the wheel a car, even one you have not driven before, you can likely find all navigation elements (steering, turn signal, brake, accelerator, gear shift, etc.) blindfolded. They are in places you expect. If they aren’t, people crash and car manufacturers get sued.
Today, primary navigation is typically deployed in a horizontal menu placed high on the site. Many sites utilize secondary navigation options underneath the primary navigation bar, or in sidebar on left-hand margin of the site. The big tip here is to over design and bypass navigation as a key design strategy.
3. Beauty & Efficiency In Simplicity. Just like the dashboard of your new car, if the objective is to get visitors to their destinations, you must make the process simple and remove excess clutter.
“Information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than the brain can process at one time,” Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D, psychologist and author.
Over stimulation can include: 1) pages with too many links and options in the header and footer and 2) pages that have competing visual clutter (competing calls-to-action, lots of graphics, photographs or animated elements), and 3) long, visual blocks of text.
4. Give visitors breathing room. Adjusting your car seat so that you are comfortable ensures you are not cramped or stretching to reach things.
Similarly, you need to create enough space between paragraphs, graphics, photos and sections so your visitors have some “space to breathe.” Leveraging white space as part of your design strategy can really help visitors absorb all of the features your site.
A good statistic to keep in mind: effective use of white space between paragraphs and in margins can increase comprehension by almost 20 percent (Human Factors)
5. Use color strategically. Of course there is no hard, fast rule on how many colors you should use. But keep in mind, choosing the right color palate for your website can significantly enhance your website’s appeal to your target audience, usability and effectiveness.
Avoid too many colors that distract, fail to connect with your audience, and confuse visitors as to what is important. Employ strategic dashes of color for headlines, graphics, and links to help guide visitors to key destinations.
If you are not sure, you can apply the 60-30-10 rule: Three basic colors where the Primary or unifying color makes up 60 percent. The Secondary color makes up 30 percent. And the remaining 10 percent is for Accent to detail and highlight. If you are interested in which colors, read our follow up post.
6. Invest in good, professional photography. Car buyers quickly perceive the quality of a car by its appearance. Savvy website visitors are no different. They quickly identify generic, stock photos, which can leave a generic impression of you and your practice.
Effective practice websites do more than simply provide information and educate. They help visitors develop a stronger connection and rapport with you and your practice, even before they pick up the phone or walk through the front door.
Part of your website development budget needs to include custom photography and/or video (unless you already have high-quality custom production already available). Your photography can set the tone and project the right emotional energy to connect with new visitors. If you need a budget, you can plan on spending anywhere from $750-$1,500 for higher quality photographers. Don’t pinch here. Your investment will be amortized in all of your marketing and will pay off.
7. Choose fonts that are easy to read across devices and browsers. Selecting fonts can be a difficult decision. When choosing your fonts, keep in mind that your visitors will be viewing your site on a variety of devices, with different screen sizes and navigation.
Like colors, you will likely want to limit the number of different fonts on your site. The key is to keep it simple and be consistent. It will project a more organized feel and give you greater opportunity to highlight key elements and say more with less.
You also want to make sure that the font you choose is web-friendly and displays correctly in various browsers and settings. Generally, San Serif fonts are commonly used, but here is a link to more details on font selection.
8. Design every page as a landing page. Most practices develop websites under the assumption that a user enters through the home page and then navigates into the site. Although the home page is likely the most frequently visited page, it is not always the entry page into the site.
Effective SEO results will get Google and search engines to post relevant internal pages in its index. Searchers will enter through these listings directly to target “destination pages,” without ever seeing your home page. You should also be driving traffic to these pages through links in your blog, email marketing, social media posts, etc.
9. Respect the fold, but it isn’t the law. For years, practices have been told that visitors don’t scroll and that if you want them to see or interact with specific elements of your page, it needs to be “above the fold.” Although that may have been the case in usability in the 90’s, statistics indicate that online users are more than comfortable moving down the page.
According to Chartbeat, a data analytics provider that researched over 2 billion website visits, 66% of attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold.
ClickTale analyzed 80,000 pageviews and found that people used the scrollbar on 76% of the pages, with 22% being scrolled all the way to the bottom regardless of the length of the page.
With changes in design strategies and an evolving online community, the usable space has extended beyond what is initially on the screen. Be sure to leverage the ways people view sites to your advantage.
10. Keep testing. Even after your website is completed, the design is not complete. The saying, “Your website is a constant work in progress” is still applicable today; probably even more so.
Be sure to monitor the user activity of your website through Google Analytics and track your lead generation on a monthly basis and see if design changes are making a positive impact. Depending on your traffic volume, you may not see actionable trends for 2-4 months.
Whether you are in the midst of a website redesign or planning and budgeting for one, use this as a website design guideline to plan and develop your project.
~Bill Fukui, Director of Sales & Marketing