You’ve heard the expression “you only get one chance to make a first impression,” right? Well, it holds true online, too.
This lesson can help you avoid common mistakes in your website design that can drive visitors away. We’ll cover how to make sure your pages load fast, making your site mobile friendly, general accessibility and the quality of your content.
First, you need speed. Internet users aren’t famous for patience, and if your pages take too long to load, they’ll leave.
There are lots of technical things that you, or whoever builds your website, can do to speed things up, like choosing the right technologies and hosting solutions. But there are also some simple fixes.
If you have images on your pages, use the smallest ones you need. Ditch large, high-resolution files if they’re only going to appear as thumbnails. Plenty of software programs can resize or compress images to make them smaller, and this translates to faster loading times.
Simplify your design. Generally, the more you limit what your visitors’ browsers have to download and re-use, the faster pages will load. Use the same background image across many pages, and ask whoever is building your website to be efficient with code and scripts. If you want to test how you’re doing, try opening the site on your mobile – using a data connection, not WiFi – and see how quickly it loads.
Next, make sure your website is easy to use on a mobile. More and more people are using their smartphones as their primary device for browsing the web, and if your site is difficult to use on these devices, you’ll potentially lose customers.
The easiest way to have a mobile-friendly website is to build it that way from the start, using an approach like “responsive design,” which automatically detects the type of screen being used and displays the site accordingly—doing things like stacking text and photos vertically on a smartphone being held upright.
If you want to get a sense for whether your site is mobile-friendly, try Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Keep in mind things like swiping or tapping, which are unique to touchscreens. Be sure the components of your website respond properly to these kinds of “inputs.”
Using widely recognised icons and making content clear and well organised will help visitors using smaller screens to find what they need.
Next, make it easy to find your address and phone number. Many devices are equipped with GPS and mapping features, which can help visitors on-the-go. And of course, when accessing your website from a mobile, it should be easy for visitors to give you a ring.
You’ll also want to remember that people will be viewing your site on different browsers—like Chrome or Firefox—and different platforms, like Windows or Mac. Do a test run from as many computers, devices and browsers as you can. Does your site look right in every case? Are you prompted to download plug-ins? That’s an extra step that may send visitors away.
Last, remember that your website is not just for selling—it’s for solving.
Imagine you’re a visitor. Ask yourself, why am I here? What am I trying to do? What problem am I trying to solve?
For example, if you own a bakery that makes custom cakes, someone is probably visiting your site because they need one. You could write pages about your decorating style and inspirations. But a testimonial and photos from a real-life customer might be a better bet.
So those are some common mistakes that trip up many websites. To avoid them, make sure your pages load quickly, and look and behave properly, no matter what device and browser a visitor uses.
And think of your customers when you create content. Answer their needs, and you have the best chance of bringing them in.