This article outlines the five most important conventions for writing and designing your webpages.
Your presentation is every bit as important as your content. The world’s best content won’t ever be read if the presentation is so bad that nobody stays long enough to read it. If you maximize your website usability, your visitors stay longer, read more, and make more sales.
If the purpose of your website is to educate your readers and/or lead them to a specific action (like buying something), then you should seriously consider following these design and writing conventions…
- Start Each Page With Your Most Important Content.
- Use Meaningful Link Text to Provide Information.
- Write Scannable Pages.
- Use Simple Website Designs.
- Use Clear, Consistent Website Navigation.
Start Each Page With Your Most Important Content.
People are impatient; they will scan your page quickly and leave as soon as they get bored. Put your best, most important content near the top of the page.
Design your layout so that nothing pushes your most important content down past the “page fold”. That is your “Prime Real Estate” — don’t waste it. Large logos, unnecessary graphics, ambiguous headlines…. all these things are a waste of your must valuable space.
Begin each page with a summary or a short list of page contents. Be specific, and place the newest items at the top of the list or in a “What’s New” section.
Use Meaningful Link Text to Provide Information.
Web surfers decide in seconds whether or not your page is worth reading. When you use bland, content-neutral words for your link text, you miss an important opportunity to provide information. (Also – visually impaired web users often instruct their computer to read the link text aloud, “Click here” won’t help them.)
The words used in your anchor text should suggest what the reader will find when they click on the link and help them decide to click or not. You can make your links even more informative by following them with a blurb. You may want to check out our complete on-page SEO checklist with more helpful tips to improve your page visibility on SERPs.
Write Scannable Pages.
Offline, books and magazine articles are designed for sequential reading: You start at the beginning and read to the end.
Online text is not necessarily sequential – it relies upon smaller chunks of text, which the reader often does not read in order. So each page of your website must make sense to a visitor who did not see the preceding page, or just arrived from a search engine.
Meaningful, informative headers & subheadings, bulleted lists, and bold keywords all help readers scan the page quickly and easily.
Use Simple Website Designs.
Your visitors didn’t come to see your fancy graphics. They came to find information about prices or availability, they’re looking for contact information or directions, or maybe they just want some technical details…
Unless your website is about cool graphic effects, I can guarantee that your visitors don’t really care about your spinning logo or dancing unicorns, or even whether or not your menu buttons blink or change background images on a mouse-over.
Web-savvy visitors have ‘trained’ themselves to ignore ads. Anything that flashes, shimmers, blinks or dances around will not get the attention that it deserves.
The more such things you put on your page, the harder your reader will have to work in order to find what they want. Too much of that and they are gone, never to return. Use images wisely. Every image on your page slows it down, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot….
- Use smaller images whenever possible.
- For large collections of images, use an index with thumbnails to click if they want to see the image full-size.
- Use an image editor to reduce the file size of your images.
Use clear, Consistent Website Navigation.
Next to pages that take forever to load (and pop-ups), the biggest complaint that surfers have is difficult to understand and/or inconsistent website navigation…
- Use the same menu on all your pages.
- Use a logical link hierarchy, with related items together.
- Be perfectly clear with your link titles & descriptions.
- Use text links whenever possible.
- If you must use image links, use the alt=”link destination” element.
A website with more than ten or fifteen pages may not need a link from every page to every other page… you can link to each section from each page, but give each section its own “Table Of Contents”.
Every page should have a link to the home page and the site map. (If you have less than ten pages, you may omit a site map, but your home page should have a text link to every page for search engines.)
Following these 5 simple guidelines will help your website be a success.
With faster-loading pages and easier-to-find information, people will read more of your content and are more likely to take the action that you want them to.