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It’s funny how everyone tells you to come up with an effective website design, but no one has the answer when you ask ‘how’. Ever wondered why? Frankly, there’s only one way of making a design effective – you make it user centric and that’s just about it. See, it’s simple; if the users (or the visitors, if you put it that way) don’t like your design, it’s not good. No two ways about it. Having said that, given below are 5 different things that can help you create a design that, well, may help you strike a chord with the users:

1. Bestowment

No matter who visits your site, they seek control; that’s as simple as it can get. Bestow the control on them and who knows, they may visit your site more than once. But, how do you make them feel that they are at the helm of affairs? For starters, avoid pop ups. If they are seeing something, they don’t want unexpected surprises. They are not in the mood for something that they didn’t ask for. Likewise, it would be good if you give the poor new browser windows some rest. Leave alone the visitors, even you want to be able to go back to the page you just visited with a single click or two may be (read: the back button).

2. Relevance

Take a look at the template below (and before you ask, yes, the boxes have been left empty on purpose). Now imagine, how would your website look if there are boxes everywhere?

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Not good, right? Rather bad. And the worst part is that any such web page may not show you in a good light. That’s because the visitors might assume that you don’t know how to properly place different items in a structured environment. If too many boxes aren’t relevant, even ads fall in the same category (well, more or less). When someone comes to your site, what do you want them to see? Only you have the answer. Yes, it’s true that the site may be an attempt to make money, but a site with too many ads is a big turn-off, maybe not for you (since you’d be busy counting the monies!), but for the visitors. It should come as no surprise that they visit your site for content. Ads are something they tolerate. Don’t test their patience, unless you don’t mind losing them to a competing site.

3. Simplicity

You know your target audience. You are sure that only middle-aged men and women would visit your site. Fair enough. What if a 10-year old comes, looking for something? You won’t turn him away, would you? You know what? You won’t need to. Chances are that he himself won’t stay for long. Why, you ask? Well, your site may be too complicated for him to browse. Of course, everyone who visits your site won’t be from the same age group as this child, but then you need to keep things simple.

It may sound clichéd, but the moment you make the visitors think, they are likely to make an early exit. Everything has to be self-explanatory. The point is that once they leave your site, they shouldn’t go with more questions than what they already had in mind. Rather, try and give them the answers.

4. User-friendliness

Put yourself in the visitors’ shoes.

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What could be wrong with the site? For starters, it’s anything but user-friendly, right? Perhaps the website designer didn’t use proper H tags, to say the least. So, when you are the one who’s designing a website, don’t make the same mistake. Rather design your site in such a way that the users find it easy to scan the pages and are able to make out what the site’s all about. While you are at it, you may also consider using pull quotes, block quotes and even images for that matter, but then to each his own.

Other things that may contribute to user-friendliness include, but are certainly not limited to:

Right content at the right place

You hire yourself a writer, who let’s say, provides you with some really catchy content for your site. Great; that’s taken care of then. But, where do you plan to place the content? Below the fold, did you say? Not so great! If the visitors need to scroll down, chances are that many of them won’t. Sad but true. However, if your content is above the fold, well, you have already increased the effectiveness of your design. Congratulations.

Tip: In most of the cases, shortening the header height should suffice. Also, you can move the sign-up form above the fold and talk business right away!

Limited number of pages

The more the better – that’s something we swear by, but truth be told, excess of everything is bad. Well then, web pages are no exception. See, you don’t mind designing 10 different pages, that’s totally understandable, but think from the users’ perspective and you’d realise pagination is not something that’s likely to go down well with them. Imagine visiting a site that has three different pages for “About Us”, “About the Company” and “About the Director”. Sounds funny, right? Unless there’s too much information to be shared, these three can be fused into one.

Hope this example helps you understand that if you reduce the number of pages, you make your design more effective. That’s because you give your visitors the opportunity to focus on your content, without making them click around as if they are on some kind of exploration spree. And you know what the best part is? The lesser the number of pages, the simpler your navigation menu is likely to be.

Right colour scheme

Let’s get to the basics. You are designing a website, remember? Don’t make it look like a dress that you are supposed to unveil at some couture event in Milan. Use fewer colours unless of course the content or the nature of the business for that matter calls for more. Play with words, if you may, but don’t play with colours, period. And if at all, you need to make your site more colourful, try using different shades of the same colour. That helps. What user-friendliness has to do with the colour scheme, you may wonder.

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It all comes down to this: don’t get carried away.

5. TETO (Your knight in shining armour!)

Test early, test often, simple. Why, you may ask. Well, here’s your answer: what looks like an effective design to you may have its share of problems and issues. Of course, these need to be identified right away. And guess what – that’s what testing is there for. Just don’t do it too late, when you can’t do much and may not be able to make changes, if the need be. More importantly, do it whenever you can, even it means testing the design right in the very beginning.

Here’s an example:

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Now let’s see what may happen if you test the design when it’s nearing completion:

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It’s also worth mentioning that testing is in fact, an iterative process. Say, you test your design, find some errors and fix them. How can you be sure that the design is now error-free? You need to test again, right? If not for anything else, do it for your own good; there may be problems that you might have missed during the first round of testing. Finding them is equally important.

A Website Designer is a blog by Dan Norris a passionate small business Web design expert from the Gold Coast, Australia. Read this full post here 5 Things That Make a Website Design Effective

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