Design Tips from a Non-Designer

Clear calls to action

Remember the Post Turtle? Well, the most important part of the five-second rule test is Part 3 – what action do I take next?

The thing you want the customer to do on your webpage is called the “call to action”. It may look like there’s more than one, what with links in the header and footer, menu navigation, search boxes etc. but there should be one, just one, that stands out above all the others.

Your call to action should be like The Highlander…
There can be only one!

Amazon does this really well. Take a look at a typical product page on Amazon and there is only one type of button that is ever gold… the “Add to Cart” button. Every other option is grey because although Amazon wants you to do them, they want you to add to basket most of all.

There’s one other thing, not a button, that’s gold on that page – and it’s the basket. 

You know – the place you go to give them your money.

Make sure every page has one clear and definitive call to action, even if there are lots of other options for the customer as well.

Avoid too many adverts and banners

On the topic of making your call to action clear, it’s advisable not to clutter your web page with adverts, banners and other distracting elements. 

If your main call to action is revenue generating – e.g. you will directly benefit from the user taking that call to action – then you should minimise these items to zero.

If your website generates revenue through advertising however, this balance is more difficult to get right. Google created the “Above the Fold” update to penalise websites that were focussing on delivering ads to the reader over delivering content back in 2012, but many websites are still force-feeding adverts to their visitors.

“We’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away.

So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold, or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience”

As always, putting the customer’s experience first is key. Remember what they came to your website for – I’m willing to bet it wasn’t to see adverts.

Avoid pop-ups and pop-overs. Forever

On the same topic, website pop-ups, pop-overs and “interstitials” are to be avoided at all costs. If you’re not sure what these are, you’ll recognise one the next time you see one – they are the annoying messages that appear over the content that you went to the website to see asking to sign up to a mailing list, or register, or do something else.

Most customers hate these. Google hates them enough that it updated its algorithm to specifically penalise websites that committed any of the following crimes:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Interstitials are especially horrible on mobile devices as many of them don’t cope well with being resized and reoriented to fit on a mobile screen. Close buttons vanish off the edge of the screen, content fails to load, and everything slows… down.

The result is something the customer doesn’t want, sitting on top of the thing they do want, but with no easy to way get rid of it.

Despite how bad a reputation this technique has, people still use it. If I had to take a guess as to why, I’d say it is because they do work… at least on some people. The mistake people make is to measure the number of people who, for example, sign up to a mailing list without comparing this to the number of users who exit the website completely.

Make sure your address and phone number are on every page of your website. This helps SEO and helps your visitors

This may seem obvious. It should seem obvious… and yet I see people get this wrong time and time again.

Talking to customers is good – so make it easy for them.

The purpose of your website is not to reduce the number of customers contacts that you receive.

Make sure your phone number, address, and link to a contact page are prominent on every page of your website.

Remember to optimise your homepage. Too many homepages are graphics-heavy, text light, and hurt SEO

When it comes to homepages, there is a trend at the moment to make these graphics heavy and text light.

It’s a bad move, because it reduces your ability to define your product and service on the most frequently visited page of your website.

Would you fill your shop window with posters but no words?

It might work for a fancy boutique, but I prefer to leave an “air of mystery” as the province of ladies with alliterative names who arrive to engage the services of a private eye in the middle of a rainy night. 

Your homepage should always be optimised.

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