• Manu Hume

What Makes a Great Website?

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Welcome to the first blog in the newly relaunched Devs Melbourne website. Over the coming months we will be writing about all aspects of web design and development, starting with what goes into making a successful website that achieves results.

Here at Devs Melbourne we pride ourselves on creating amazing websites that captivate visitors with unique yet familiar experiences. But how do we do it? There are a lot of simple design tricks that can have a huge impact on the appeal and usability of your website. Here’s a list of some of the ones we use the most.

What is the Purpose of Your Website?

Most small businesses understand the need to have a website and a visible web presence, but you also need to clearly define the purpose of your website, and who you are targeting. The answers will feed directly into content choices, colour palette, images used, structure and complexity, and use of calls to action.

So take the time to think about your audience and then write down what you want to achieve, what your audience wants to achieve, and define the purpose and expected outcome(s) of your site before you build.

First Impressions Count

Once a visitor reaches your website you have only a few seconds to capture their attention. Research shows that viewers respond positively to visually appealing sites with relevant content, and will click away if they don’t find what they expected. This means that if they don’t like the look of your website, or they can’t quickly see what they are looking for they will leave. It’s really that simple.

Your website has to be immediately appealing, and must have a clear purpose, so make sure you put a lot of thought into the first section of your homepage. Let your visitor know:

  1. Who you are

  2. What you do

  3. What they should do next

And remember, these things can often be conveyed visually without too much text, through the careful choice of colours, fonts, images and graphics.

The psychological principle behind the idea that ‘first impressions count’ is the “aesthetic usability principle” and we’ll be covering this and others in more detail in later blogs.

Keep it Simple

Your visitor has probably had a busy day visiting many other websites while working, shopping, or just looking for information. So make it easy for them to find what they need.

Use large, bold, easy to read headers and short, concise sentences. And don’t overload the page with too much information. Leave plenty of white space between the various visual components, but not so much that the viewer can’t find what they need.

If you have a lot of information to display, remember that web users don’t read, they scan. Great big clumps of text are off-putting and make it much more likely that your visitor will click away to another site. Break up the text into sections, frame similar sections together, pay attention to the flow of information, and be ruthless with your editing because if it isn’t necessary, it will act as a barrier to engagement.

There are a number of psychological principles behind this imperative, such as ‘Miller’s Law’ which states that a human brain can only hold up to seven different concepts in working memory, and Hick’s Law which says that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.

Use Images not Text

Research consistently shows you have less than 15 seconds to convince a website visitor to stay. So the quicker you can grab your visitor’s attention, the more likely they are to stay and browse and buy. Use striking, impactful images and don’t frighten them with too many words. If you can use a nice graphic or an image to get your message across, do that in preference to a paragraph of text, no matter how well written.

Remember that website viewers don't read, they scan. So only use paragraphs when it is absolutely necessary, and make sure they are readable, concise, and easily scanned by the reader. Which brings us to the next tip: visual hierarchy.

Visual Hierarchy

The principles of visual hierarchy, or hierarchical design, are widely applied in marketing and software development, and they are critical if you want to produce a website that visitors actually use. There are a number of concepts involved in visual hierarchy such as scale, balance, alignment, contrast etc. But one of the most important ideas is the triple hierarchy of Attract, Intrigue, Act.

The first step to engaging a viewer is to attract them to the section where you want their attention. This might be done with a large font header, a striking image, or a bold colour such as red. The second step is to intrigue the viewer with a byline or wording that makes them curious. And the final step is to either deliver the message or have them take action.

And finally, Be Consistent

It’s important that your visitor feels as though they are experiencing a single site, not a jumbled collection of random pages. So make sure you maintain a consistent style and tone on every page. This includes structural considerations such as navigation bars, hyperlinks, and action buttons. Make sure that all your ‘Call-to-action’ buttons are consistent in style and placement, make sure your copy has a consistent voice, use a limited colour palette and stick to a couple of fonts.

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