1. Technology

Tips for Improving Your Web Designs

Don't Forget These 5 Basic Tips for Good Design


Working outside on a laptop

Working outside on a laptop

Image courtesy John Lamb / Digital Vision / Getty Images

There are many design techniques to learn when building a web page. But while you're learning there are a few things you can do that aren't difficult and you can implement today.

Get and use a professional logo

Your website logo is one of the first things people see, so getting the best logo you can get is not just important it's critical. It may be tempting to build your own logo—I admit, when I first got started, I made my own logo with basically no knowledge of graphic design. It's so much cheaper to do it yourself, so I understand the impulse.

But every site I've managed since then that has had a professional graphic designer create the logo has done much better than my original attempts at logo design. And before you panic, getting a logo built doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. One company I've worked with is The Logo Company. They create really nice looking logos and are very easy to work with to create the logo that works best for you.

Use Aweseome Photos and Images

As they say “a picture is worth a thousand words” but if your pictures are bad, they will detract from your design. The decision to use photographs or photo-realistic images is up to you and your design, but the images must be as good as you can get. Amateur photographs and illustrations are a sure sign of a low-quality website.

This is another place where most beginning web designers, including myself, are tempted to use their own photos and illustrations, but unless you're a professional photographer or illustrator, this is a bad idea. Luckily there are lots of great sources for cheap and free photos and images.

Don't Skimp on Navigation

If your customers can't find their way around your site, they just won't. Now, this doesn't matter if you don't care if you have a bounce rate in the high 80% range. But most web designers want customers to stick around and enjoy their time on the site. And good navigation facilitates that.

You should keep your primary navigation near the top of every page on your site. That is where most people expect it to be. And it should be obvious that it's the navigation. Don't put more than seven links in your primary navigation, but don't be afraid to include other navigation on your pages as well as the primary. It is commonly accepted that lots of links are hard for customers, but sites that have lots of inline links and secondary navigation channels often keep readers on the site for longer.

Treat Every Page as a Landing Page

Good navigation, as I mention above, is a good way to help people landing deep in your site, but the best way to handle deep linking like you'll get when your pages are linked by search engines is to treat every page as if it were your home page. Make sure that your readers can get around to other interesting articles from whatever page they ended up on.

This is a case where sites with sales goals have it easier than sites that provide information. If your site is selling something, then every page should reference how to buy that product. If the site provides a service, then you want to have every page referencing that service. But if you're trying to provide information, after a while it would be impossible to link to every other article on the site. This is where related content widgets at the end of articles, like those generated by nRelate can really help (they have a free WordPress Plugin too).

Mobile First—Use Responsive Web Design (RWD)

This is a bit trickier than updating your logo, but it can really improve your website for your customers. If you haven't lately, you should look at your website on a mobile phone. You might be very surprised at how it looks. Many web designers leave out even the most basic of responsive elements: the META viewport tag. When you leave this out you run the risk that your beautifully designed web page will look like ants walking across the screen on a mobile phone.

But even if you regularly use this meta tag, your pages can be difficult to read on mobile devices unless you use media queries and RWD to set elements of the design to look better on smaller screens.

More Web Design Tips and Tricks

There is so much you can do to improve your website, if you only implemented one technique a day, you could be working on your site for a full year. Here are a few more articles to help you improve your websites:

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.