The textbooks remind us that communication does not occur until someone understands. This all important point can be overshadowed by technical advancements and “best practices” in website design. Whether it is responsive design, adaptive, flat, desktop focused, the most important thing is communicating clearly. Here are 5 tips that will help you do just that and fundamentally improve your website.
1) Think Past the Design
Your ultimate goal is not a beautiful website. What you really want is to motivate action, change perception, educate, or in some way make an impression on people. Stop trying to picture what the site will look like, and instead focus on what you want it to do. Try to encapsulate your vision into one goal and three subordinate objectives, none of which can be longer than a sentence.
2) Less is the New More
Now that you have a clear goal, focus only on the things that will directly help to accomplish it. This is twofold. First, you want to pour your creative and financial energy into what will create the biggest impact. Second, you want to remove things that may distract you or the user from the intended outcome. The less you have on the site, the less there is that can sidetrack people, the less time needed to load it, the less that can go wrong, and the less confusion there will be. The more you have that you do not need, the less attention will go to what is important.
3) Chose Every Word
I recently visited a website that had one image, one title, one sentence, and a button. I studied it for a moment. It became clear they had chosen every word intentionally, and this minimalist site communicated its message beautifully. This is not just about fewer words though, it is about using words to communicate the message clearly. But keep in mind, as soon as words become complicated or cumbersome they get ignored.
4) Not Every Site Needs to be Pretty
But every site does need to be effective. Design and branding are important, but a beautiful site that is ineffective is more harmful to the brand than a plain site that is easy to use. Do not ask the question does this look good? Instead ask does this work well? The better it works, the more users will appreciate it. Form follows function. And ideally, any added aesthetic charm should support function and help communicate the message.
5) You Are Not the Target User
Find people who are in the target market, or at least outside of your office to give you feedback on your ideas, both conceptually, and on their own devices as you build. Even if you are part of the target market, being the builder changes the way you see things. It’s hard to beat direct feedback from the real people you hope to reach. And remember, if they do not understand, your site is not communicating.