We often turn to our friends and family first when we’re looking for an opinion on our creative endeavors. However, they are rarely the best placed to be objective and truthful about what they think.
Let’s face it, unless your grandmother is a skilled designer, if you ask what she thinks of your website, she’s unlikely to tell you it sucks (unless you have a particularly mean grandmother).
While it can be tempting to seek out positive reactions to your new site design in order to get a bit of an ego boost and make you feel like all the hard work was worth it, we all know that friends and family are biased and tend to be complimentary, even if they dislike your website.
The next time you’re tempted to elicit the opinion of your nearest and dearest, compare their reactions with the following and gain some insight into what they’re really telling you:
1. “It looks really professional!”
When you’re on a tight budget, it can be tempting to try and do everything yourself, but when it comes to your website, this is rarely a sensible strategy.
Creatives especially seem to have trouble handing over control of at least the visual aspect of their site design. Good design is a very subjective concept and what looks great to one person may look hideous to the next.
However, rather than being a control freak over the creation of your site, it’s a much better plan to find a web designer who has a similar design aesthetic to you and make sure that you both have a clear idea of what you want before work starts.
Just because you’re a great photographer, illustrator, artist or graphic designer does not mean that you’ll be a great web designer. There are many unique considerations to be made when building a website and if you don’t have specialist skills and experience in this area, it will be immediately evident.
An amateurish-looking website reflects badly on you, so take a deep breath, step back, and hand over the controls to a real professional.
2. “I love the font you’ve used!”
Not so long ago we were restricted to a handful of basic fonts when it came to building websites. If you wanted to use something other than the likes of Arial or Times New Roman for menu items or headers, you’d need to create an image. Not only does this take longer, but it also opened up a can of worms in terms of usability issues and SEO.
Now, with the invention of web fonts, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to typography on the web and can pick and choose fonts to our heart’s content.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can choose any font you like doesn’t mean you should.
Certain fonts are just not cut out for use on the web and while they may look great in print, they can be hard to read on a computer screen. In today’s world of the mobile web, it’s also important to ensure that fonts are still readable as they are scaled up and down for different size screens.
It’s equally important to limit the fonts you use to a small number. It’s usually sensible to use one main font for your content, one for headings, and possibly a third for quotes and asides from the main text.
Typography is one of those things that can really make or break a website, so you should really put a sufficient amount of time and energy into choosing appropriate fonts.
3. “I love the color scheme!”
As in any other area of design, color is one of the cornerstones of good web design. As with your font selection, it’s best to stick to a limited color palette and think carefully about the colors that work best on screen.
Font choice isn’t the only thing that affects readability – background and text colors are also an important consideration when it comes to making your site clear and easy to use.
In general, it’s best to make sure there is a high contrast between your text and background colors. Black text on a white background is the easiest to read. Be aware of the fact that light text on a dark background color can be tiring to read, so avoid it on sites where there is a lot of textual content.
The colors you choose for your website may need to work with your existing branding (for example if you already have a logo, you’ll probably want to use it as inspiration for your color pallet).
If you’re starting from scratch, it’s a good idea to read up on some basic color psychology and using that as your starting point. For example, a great number of financial institutions use blue as their main website color because this color evokes a sense of calmness, security and authority.
4. “Your design is really original!”
It can be tempting to follow along with the crowd, but web design trends come and go like anything else, so be aware that if you copy the latest styles, your website could quickly start to look the same as everyone else’s.
By all means take inspiration from sites that you like but try to impart a little of your own style and personality so you’re not just creating a carbon copy of another site.
Creating an original and unique web design will not only help to make you stand out from the crowd and crystallize your personal branding; it’s also a way of establishing yourself as a leader rather than a follower and is more likely to stand the test of time.
5. “It loads really quickly!”
How your site looks is of course very important, but it is not the be-all and end-all. You could have the best designed site in the world, but if it crawls along at a snail’s pace, nobody is going to want to stick around long enough to see what you have to say.
With today’s terabyte broadband connection speeds, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has lightning fast internet connections and pile on the high-res images. However, there are still a lot of people out there on slower connections, not to mention all the mobile users on 3G and other slower technologies.
Designing your website to be speedy is always a great strategy. Not only is it more user friendly but it can also help your SEO. Google list load-time as one of their site ranking factors so if your site loads slowly, it could really be hurting your online presence.
6. “I love your logo!”
Your logo is one of the most important parts of your overall branding package and yet for some reason when it comes to web design, so many people seem to believe that a logo they knocked up in 10 minutes in Photoshop or ordered for $5 from an outsourcing site will do the job.
Just as you’d expect to get amateur results if you didn’t shell out the cash for a professional photographer, skimping on logo design really isn’t worth it.
Your logo is right at the heart of your website. It should be attractive, memorable and provide a visual representation of your brand. Designing a good quality logo like this is much harder than it seems so it really pays to go directly to a professional and make a sensible investment.
7. “Your site is so easy to navigate!”
So your website looks good and loads fast, you’ve thought carefully about what fonts and color scheme to use and you’ve got a professional logo, but is it clear how to get to the information your visitors need?
A website is not a static piece of design like a flyer or a poster where all the information is easy to see at one glance. On rare occasions, with a well thought out design, a one-page design works perfectly, but in most cases you will have multiple pages and on-site components to organize.
Before you even start the design process, it’s important to sit down and plan out how your content will be organized. Your site structure and navigation system form the backbone of your site so you must take the time to get them right before you do anything else.
As well as a clear layout, simple navigation scheme and descriptive menu labels, you may want to include a site map and search functionality so that visitors who can’t find what they need at first glance can refer to these tools before giving up in frustration.
8. “I never look at websites on my phone anyway!”
Employing responsive design or building a separate version of your site can be time-consuming and expensive, so it’s tempting to dismiss mobile-friendly sites as an unnecessary fad.
However, mobile users have become a surprisingly large proportion of overall web traffic and their numbers are increasing all the time. Overlooking mobile users when it comes to your site design is almost certainly short-sighted.
In many cases, the original site design works well enough when scaled down to a mobile phone or tablet, but it’s definitely worth testing out your new design for ease of use on a couple of devices before you make it live.
There are plenty of tools and responsive WordPress themes available these days to help you design your site for mobile users, so you really have no excuse for having a site that’s unusable unless you’re using a computer.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Build Bad Websites
We’ve just touched on some of the fundamental basics of good (and bad!) web design but there’s a whole lot more to learn when it comes to building a site that is both attractive and easy to use.
Luckily, when it comes to making a great WordPress site, there’s no need to go it alone. We’ve done all the hard work, applied all of the lessons and we’ve created a selection of beautiful, functional, professionally-designed WordPress themes that make building a great site unbelievably easy.
Is it time to give your website a facelift? Check out our WordPress themes for photographers, artists, bloggers and creative types of any persuasion. Don’t forget to tell your friends 😉