There are basic, foundational design rules and then there are best practices for more complex businesses and clients. Remember the goal of any website: To be the best, clearest, most accessible source of information for the intended audience. That includes not just the actual content, such as text and images, but also the layout of the information. The design of a Partner Settlement Management software site is going to be a lot different than a cat meme site. However, there are some tell tale signs of a great designer.
Ideally, complex businesses will find a web designer and manager that has experience in their field, but that’s not always possible. For example, if your company offers EPDM roofing services, it’s unlikely that a web designer has worked for such a company before. It can be challenging to be in a niche, highly technical field, but not impossible to find a complementary designer. Here are a few things that should be on the top of their agenda:
1. Communication comes first
This usually means plenty of white space, fewer sentences per paragraph, and neutral tones that make reading easier. While the DIY Network breaks down color theory on a broader spectrum, it can also be applied to website colors. You don’t want your audience having to power through a neon orange website or stop reading halfway through. Color is powerful and can lure in or drive away readers.
2. Responsive design
Responsive design is constantly changing, but it’s basically a way of designing a site so that it responds well no matter what type of gadget is being used (or web browser). A web designer managing complex information should always prioritize responsive design because if you lose one customer, that could be a much bigger deal than if a general online hardware store lost one customer. Niche industries generally have fewer, yet higher paying and more loyal, customers.
3. Mobile readiness
This is a part of responsive design, and you might not necessarily need it (but it should be on the table). This can be an app, mobile version of your site, or both. Most likely with complex businesses, it would solely be a mobile version of the site. This makes the site easier to navigate on mobile devices, with sparser information and more intuitive design. If one of your potential customers is perusing your website while on their train commute, you don’t want them to get frustrated and go elsewhere.
4. Proper images/videos
This can also fall into the realm of number two and three, but remember that if images/videos are too large then it can severely slow down your site. They may also not display correctly on some devices. However, there are a lot of things that might be slowing down your site, and Life Hacker offers some options for testing it (that your designer should already know). A slow website is a search engine optimization (SEO) killer.
5. Great SEO
Finally, SEO should never be an option for web designers, but a staple. This encompasses many things, and one of the biggies is keyword usage (although you can’t expect a web designer to write your SEO-rich content for you). However, they should be able to check that your outgoing links have authority, that your website speed is reasonable, and that you’re not following any black hat tricks like too many ads or pop-ups. SEO is what dictates your website’s ranking in search engine searches, and as a niche you need to be near the top.
Most importantly, remember that site design isn’t a one and done deal. It requires regular maintenance, which is why having a designer on retainer is wise.