Establish your digital content first, what is the purpose of your web application? Is it a store, blog, portfolio or campaign? You need a purpose before investing the time and money in a web design project. There’s no point in launching a website that has no direction or is just acting as a hit-and-hope business card. If you only need a place for people to get in touch, then use your social media account. A website or app is a place for action, information or transaction. Your website is primarily a tool to run your business operations. When people land on your page their first thought is “what’s in this for me?”. People won’t hang around to admire cool design features if there is no useful content.
Your business plan is a great starting point for developing the tone and content of your website. Communicate your products or services in a clear and concise way. Once you’re clear about your business goals, approach a design project as though it were a physical store. Designing for computer screens is really about reducing complexity and building an app for human beings. Think carefully about how you use the web yourself, as a consumer. What annoys you about competitor websites? And just because an app is owned by a multi-national company doesn’t always mean the design is good. As a small business owner you have more time and less bureaucracy. There’s no excuse not to design a great experience for your own customers.
What really matters is simplicity. Will your design make sense to strangers you’ve never met? Research the demographic of your target audience. Are they likely to have disabilities, poor eyesight? Are they a young audience more in touch with modern design trends?
Brainstorm alternative solutions to a design problem before hiring a developer or consult with a User Experience (UX) Designer in advance. Your cool idea might be unworkable. A professional designer will suggest solutions to deliver maximum engagement for users and higher conversion rates. Ensure you understand the cost implications of a design route. Is it really worth the extra expense?
Designing for computer screens is about eliminating clutter, getting to the point and not being abstract. Sketch out rough prototypes using notepaper. Think about how users will interact with your product on different devices. For example a smart phone is smaller and more awkward to use. People use each type of device in different ways. When using desktop computers or laptops people are more focused and attentive. On a phone they are being constantly distracted so your website shouldn’t add to their noise.
If you are feeling brave, then try your hand at creating design prototypes with Figma. Get friends or family to test your designs. You can also hire people to test designs quite cheaply. Designs can be tested via a Zoom call using the screen sharing feature. A cheaper option is to use PowerPoint or Keynote to build a rough layout. How do the pages link together? What are the calls to action? UX design is more about interactivity than it is about aesthetic design. Choosing colours and fonts can come much later in the process, that’s the easy part!
What you must nail down right from the start is the purpose of your website, think of this as though you were designing a public space. Or if you sell products, how would you lay out the shop. Are the products clearly labelled? Is it easy to checkout and pay for something? Are the products properly categorised and easy to find?
Optimise images for fast loading pages. Reduce file sizes using the PhotoShop “Export As” feature. Photography is what really draws the viewers eye, preferably images featuring other people. Don’t be too fussy about colours and font styles. Readability is the priority. Design is an emotional experience, users are not focused on small details.
Need further help?
I’m Paul Kent, with 20+ years design/development experience. I offer competitive rates for small businesses. I will help you improve your existing website or help you get started. Please drop me a line and I will suggest practical solutions, whatever your budget.