1. Define the goal of your web site: Are you selling a product or service? Are you posting news, commentary, or information? Understanding why your website exists will help you make design choices. For instance, a site focused on selling products or services will probably feature more visuals, pricing, and ordering information, whereas an information based site may lean more heavily on text.
2. Make it easy to use: After identifying your site’s reason for being, you can focus on making it as easy as possible for visitors to use. For instance, if it is an information-based site, make the information easy to access, with lots of attention-grabbing headlines that link directly to the full article. If your site is designed to sell products, then the design should allow customers to easily find all the info they need to make a purchase decision (price, product features, shipping cost, etc.) and it needs to be laid out in a fashion that makes it easy to order. The biggest obstacle most sites face in generating more revenue is their sales process is too complicated. It may take too many steps to place an order, or a company asks for more information than they really need to collect, which is a huge turn-off for customers. Keep your purchase forms as short as possible, asking only for the needed information, and make it take as few web pages as possible to buy.
3. Balance visuals and text: Regardless of the intent of your site, it is good to achieve a balance of visuals and text. Too much text will be too boring for visitors to look at. Too much text won’t provide the information visitors are seeking, and it will hurt you in the search engine rankings as well, which could cost you lots of valuable free traffic. Look for opportunities to use visuals that are attractive or visuals that add something to the story or product description. In lieu of photos, you can use visuals that convey important statistics or data points. This can also be of great value to the visitor while also keeping the look of the site fresh and engaging.
4. Provide proof, verification, and certifications wherever possible: There are more web sites out there than you could possibly begin to count, With so many sites, it is hard for visitors to know which ones to trust. You can help yourself win that trust, and in turn future repeat visits, by displaying logos of official groups you may belong to, such as the Better Business Bureau, local chambers of commerce, or professional trade organizations. And if you are selling products or services, use logos of the companies that you use to verify the security of your web site. Letting visitors know that their transaction is secure will make them feel more comfortable in buying from you.
5. Enable feedback: The best way to find out what you are doing wrong is to simply ask! This is true in all walks of life, and web sites are no different. There are many ways to find out what your visitors do and do not like about the design of your site. When they place an order or send you an email, you could have a feedback box where they can pass along suggestions and thoughts. Or there are applications which allow you to insert surveys in your site, so as someone is browsing the opportunity to take a survey might pop up. Or you could periodically email a questionnaire to visitors whose email address you have collected. Your visitors will tell you what parts of the site were hard to navigate, what kind of information they would like to see added, and what features they liked and would prefer to see more of. You can gather all this valuable feedback and adjust the design of your site accordingly.
6. Measure your success: There are many different tools out there which allow you to find extremely detailed information about your web site’s performance. Some are paid tools and some are free, so no matter your budget there is something for you. With these tools, you can analyze how long visitors stayed on each page, which pages they visited most frequently, which pages they stopped at during the sales process, and much more. These insights can help you identify problem areas that you need to adjust in the design, as well as the strongest performing areas which you can then capitalize on. Find out what people like on your site, and given them more of that content in that type of design.
7. Test, test, and test again! You should always think of your web site as a living organism. It can always grow and improve and be re-shaped, and you should use the data you gather with the aforementioned tools to do so. Put your initial design out there, see how it does, identify areas for improvement, and then test out new solutions to address those areas. Let the new design elements run for 30 days, see how they do, and then test more! You should always be collecting and analyzing data to see how visitors are responding to your design changes,. Only through this constant data gathering and testing can you get the most from your site.