Thanks to Financial Marketing Solutions for their presentation at the ABA’s Bank Marketing Conference. Tim Pannell and his wife and business partner, Laurie Campbell Pannell, are doing great work for banks and provided the following best practices for building and maintaining a website that are relevant to any marketer and any media.
Your company’s website is a living, breathing organism. It is the hub of your online channel. It should reflect your brand promise and dedication to customer service.
Your website is no longer a brochure you place online. It should be designed to be a unique and user-friendly experience for your online visitor—one that keeps them engaged and coming back for more.
Below are ten tips to keep in mind when designing/redesigning your website:
1. Fulfill a Goal
What is the purpose of your website? What do you want people to do once they get to your website? Once that is determined, everything else including design, content, etc. should work to achieve that goal.
2. Design with Hierarchy in Mind
As with any well thought-out design piece, don’t design your website for design’s sake. Everything should have a place and a purpose. The hierarchy of items and color palette should still work together to support the overall message.
3. Avoid Flash
Flash (no matter the version) just isn’t getting the job done anymore. Not only is Flash slow to load for a lot of users, it doesn’t work well with some of today’s technology. You can’t even see Flash on the commonly used iPhone and iPad. Not to mention—search engines don’t like it either. While there have been advancements in search engines capabilities to read and understand Flash elements, it still isn’t the preferred method. Therefore, a lot of developers today are integrating it with HTML5 and CSS3.
4. Implement User-Friendly Navigation
Creating a visual sitemap (roadmap) before you start building your website can tremendously help your site’s structure and information architecture. If you know what pages you need initially, you can plan the design flow and content structure ahead of time. An effective navigation structure is instrumental in ensuring friendly usability for your online visitors.
5. Organize and Optimize Content
When it comes to implementing an effective website, content is key. Content is not only read by users, but also by search engines when deciding whether or not to include your web page within their index. There are a number of strategies that can help organize and optimize your content for both the users and search engines.
• Use proper navigation architecture
• Implement keyword rich content
• Use clean, specific URL structure
• Use image alt attributes
• Implement unique Meta Data
• Use header tags properly (H1 specifically)
• Use descriptive text links when linking to other pages within your site
• Implement Robots.txt files for pages you don’t want search engines to index
6. Allow Users to Share Your Content
Social networking is becoming more intuitive for today’s consumers. With the rise of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc. people are increasingly providing more information about themselves to the online atmosphere. In addition to that, users want the flexibility and control of sharing content that they find intriguing. Therefore, if you want users to share your content with others, make sure you implement social sharing tools throughout your website.
7. Focus on Font
Make the font large enough. While it may seem like no-brainer, this is a
common design flaw for many websites. The font size shouldn’t be a thought
in the user’s mind. Don’t make the font so small that the user either has to
increase it his or herself or squint to read the material.
8. Implement Clear Calls-To-Action (CTAs)
Implementing clear, compelling CTAs will be one of the most important steps when developing your website. CTAs are not merely buttons; they are the roadmap that gives your users the guidance they need to continue down the right path toward conversion.
9. Cross Platform Integration
Today’s consumers are busy! They want information when they want it. Therefore, you can’t automatically assume that consumers are going to go to your website in order to access their information anymore. Smart phones are forecasted to outsell personal computers by the end of this year. With the rising trend, your website design and functionality will need to be mobile compatible, although simply being mobile compatible might not be enough. For example, the user experience for iPhone users is vastly different
from those using a Blackberry. The iPhone uses fingertip navigation, while Blackberries still use the track ball. Therefore, designers must keep these different experiences in mind. Today’s consumers have multiple touchpoints with the Internet on a daily basis (desktops, laptops, SmartPhones, tablets, etc), which means your web content could be accessed from any of these devices … at any point. Therefore, it is important that your brand be properly reflected and functional on all devices.
10. Think “Outside of the Box” Design
Web design allows for more flexibility than most other design channels—print, direct mail, billboard, etc. Therefore, keeping up with rising design trends and user behavior is important to staying fresh. It might be beneficial to look outside your industry and take a look at what some of the larger companies are using on their websites. Web design is going to continually evolve, so keeping up with the newest ideas/strategies will help
keep you on your toes.
While this top-ten list doesn’t highlight everything that is needed to ensure a proper website, it is a good place to start.
In summary, best practices for website design and development are constantly changing. The advancement in technology is determining a lot of these trends. With transition from Web 1.0 to Web 3.0, the average online user today anticipates a more targeted,
effective and efficient experience. The most important thing to keep in mind
is the user’s experience. They must leave happy.
What are your best practices for website design that we did not cover?