Good Web Design is the Key to Creating a Successful Site
Businesses that want to gain exposure online know all too well how important it is to have a presence on the Web. Ad hosted blogs and websites are fast becoming an excellent way to make money online, which you can take further by directly promoting products, businesses, or services too. But you are not going to have a successful site without good web design. Good web design does not require you to be an experienced and advanced programmer, rather, it is more about common sense and looking at how users will see your site and experience your content.
The Importance of Good, Solid Design
As a business or ad hosted blog looking to get noticed and increase the amount of high quality, relevant traffic driven to your site, you have to start with the basics, and that is the basics of your website itself. People are not going to want to stay long on a website that is overloaded with graphics, ads, banners, and other content all crowded onto every page, nor are they going to stick around to see what you have to offer if your site is not logical in how one is to navigate it.
The whole point of creating a website is to get potential customers or users to actually visit and look around your site. Having a cleanly laid out site that is easy to navigate and user friendly, that provides a high quality content, is going to ultimately decide the success of your online presence. There are literally millions of websites online today, and users are not going to take the time to try to navigate an overly complicated site or deal with an overwhelming, overloaded site. They will move on, since there are plenty of other places to find information.
A well-designed website will lead to a lower bounce rate, which will improve its overall success in the long-term. A bounce rate can be loosely defined as the percentage of visitors to your site who, rather than continue to explore your site, leave and go to a different site. A high bounce rate is not something a business or an ad hosting blog wants to see, as it shows that visitors are not interested enough in what you have to offer to stick around and see what you are all about.
The basic layout of your website is the starting point in web design. There are a certain number of “required” elements that a successful websites contain, as well as some good rules of thumb to follow when trying to create a solid, clean, easy to navigate layout for your website.
The “home page” is the landing page that visitors see when they come to your site. You want this page (and all) to be clean and professional looking, with minimal ad placement. Home page needs to provide links to all the content found on your site in a convenient side panel or pull down menu. It is of the utmost importance that you keep a consistent format and theme going throughout your site to maintain that well rounded professional look.
As a business, it is always necessary to clearly demarcate a “contact us” page and allow for user questions or feedback. This should be displayed on every page of your website. Happy, informed customers or visitors are more likely to be repeat customers and visitors, so it is vitally important that you have a contact form and contact information clearly visible.
Some rules of thumb to follow are to make your site simple and user friendly, but also provide functionality to meet your visitors’ needs. This means a good basic organizational structure to the flow of your web pages, consistency of design and layout across all pages on the site, not cluttering up your pages with too many ads or a huge amount of content all on a single page – you can provide a huge amount of information with the use of multiple pages, where targeted ads can be placed, which allows you to give users what they need without overwhelming them.
Sitemaps are also always helpful. These are basically outlines (with links) as to what information is provided on your site and where to find it. It is important, especially if you have a website that consists of a large number of pages to create a sitemap so visitors can easily find what they need.
Key Placement of Ads
Ad hosting is an important part of many people’s efforts to generate revenue from their website. As long as you are conscientious in how you use your ads, how and where they are placed, and the frequency by which they occur, hosting ads will be an excellent way to generate income. People are not likely to click on an ad link, or view an ad – which is how you make your money hosting ads – if they are directed to a page that is flashing with tons of ads.
Your ads are likely to be specific and targeted and thus need to be placed in the same fashion on your website. Place the most relevant ads on the pages of your site with the most relevant content. It is important to note that even when using the most optimal of ad placement strategies, ad overload is always going to turn visitors off. Choose well paying ads and place them sparingly on each page. Having just one to two ads per page is likely to be more effective than loading a single page down with ads. You can always create more content, and more pages if you wish to host more ads.
In terms of where you place them on the page itself, there have been many studies that show that there are key areas to place ads that will lead to more clicks. “Above the fold” ads are those that are placed somewhere on the web page that does not require the user to scroll down to see. Common above the fold placements include banner ads, or ads that precede a targeted piece of content like an article or video.
Below the fold ads are useful, but only in certain applications. They are successful when used at the bottom of the page, at the end of a piece of content. If your visitors have to scroll down to view a piece of content in its entirety, then it is appropriate to place your targeted ads at the end of the article, but remember, they shouldn’t have to scroll down below the article to view the ad.
With the use of certain types of content such as images or videos, placing targeted ads next to the content is a highly successful placement strategy, as the ad is within the view of the visitor and they are already looking at targeted content related to the ad.
Studies on eye tracking have found that people naturally look to their upper left first and with the most focus, so keep this in mind as well when placing your ads.
One of the most important factors in web design is the ease of navigation of your site. If your website is difficult to navigate it will be useless to even have it. Visitors will be put off by a complicated or poorly structured site, which means they won’t stay long enough to view your content, see what you have to offer, or click on any of your ads – the whole point of having the site to begin with!
Navigation can basically be defined as the way a user is able to interact with your site – how they are able to find what they are looking for. It helps them to orient themselves on your site. This needs to be made as simple as possible and is often done by, for example, using a side panel that is consistent on every page that provides links to all the different elements of your site. It is also highly recommended that you title each page of your site in an easy to understand way that allows your users to easily see if they are looking at the information they were searching for.
A great way to lay this out is to have a sidebar with main topic categories that have drop down menus that link to sub-categories within a given category. This will make the sidebar much smaller and thus less cumbersome to the visitor, and it will allow you to link, in detail, to everything on your site, on every page.
It helps to imagine yourself as the website visitor. We’ve all gone to a site where we came across a homepage that does not really give us any indication as to how to proceed with finding information on the site. It is frustrating to try to fight your way through useless information to find what you want, or to have to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for what you need. You will need to stay in the mindset when creating the organizational structure of your site. Make it simple, logical, and easy to understand. Otherwise, the visitors will do what you do when faced with a similar situation – look elsewhere.
Another key point to remember is that while your homepage is generally defined as the “landing page” of your website, if a visitor finds your site through a keyword search or a link, they aren’t necessarily going to be entering your site on your home page; they may be directed towards a specific page. This is why it is important to have good navigation and organizational structure, as you want this visitor to know about all the other information you have to offer, regardless of the page they land on your site.
User Friendly Interface
The purpose of a user friendly interface is to give your website’s visitors a pleasant overall experience. The site should be easy to view, simple to navigate, and certain steps can be taken to increase the overall user friendliness of your site, which will ultimately make it of more use to visitors.
A basic tip is to use a neutral background, center all your content, and use a traditional font that views well on computers both old and new.
It is also recommended that you code your website in proper HTML (and CSS if you use cascading style sheets) as this allows for greater accessibility. Nothing is worse than viewing your site using a different web browser, only to find that your layout is all out of whack and doesn’t display as you intended it to. And as handicap accessibility online becomes more of an issue, having properly validated HTML code will allow you to stay on top of the accessibility game.
Another step towards a user friendly website is to create a search function, making it easy for users to find what they are looking for, fast. Locate your search window prominently, as you want users to be able to see this option clearly, on every page, in a consistent location and style. If your website has a large repository of information, having a search tool is vital, not optional, though it is useful for even the simplest website to have a search feature as Web users are comfortable and familiar with these, and it will help them find what they need fast, in a manner that they can understand.
Testing and Analyzing for Efficiency and Optimization
Throughout the process of designing your site, as well as the maintenance and analysis process of your efforts to meet your marketing goals, there are certain testing procedures and analysis that you can do to optimize the process. There are many different types of testing that will allow you to get a concrete idea of how users experience your website, which you can then analyze to increase the optimization of your site. Below are just some of the many types of testing you can do to get a more clear idea on how your website fairs amongst users and what you can do to make it better.
- Focus Groups
Focus groups allow actual users to provide input on how they use your site, as well as to give feedback on how they think it could be improved. This gives you powerful information from the people who actually use your site, which is vital information to have when trying to optimize the design and layout of your site. This can be done by inviting visitors to participate in a quick survey. You can also submit this survey via email if you have some sort of mailing list. This is an affordable, fast way to get subjective information as to how people use and view your site.
- a/b Split Tests
a/b Split Test are tests that allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of certain variables on your web page. This is done by choosing the variable you want to test (such as the layout of your home page) whereby you use your home page, create alternate version of your home page, and then survey users on which they prefer. Hence the name of the test: A is original element you wish to test and the B is the alternate model you wish to try out. This is an excellent way to test multiple, individual elements of your site.
- Page Load Time Testing
There are many free sites (such as Pingdom, the page load test can be found here: http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/) that you can use to test your website or page load speed, and this is becoming an increasingly important factor in website design. Major search engines – Google is already a confirmed one – are starting to use the amount of time it takes to load your page and all the elements included on it in their determination of page rank.
- Usability Testing to Improve Navigation and Other Aspects of Your Site
These tests essentially test the user friendliness of your site. These tests work by selecting a sample of testing subjects that have little or no experience with the site you run. You then ask them to perform certain tasks such as finding a particular article and see how they perform. In a less formal manner, it is also helpful to have inexperienced web users test your site for overall user friendliness, as these are the individuals who can give you the greatest pointers on how to increase the effectiveness, and thus usability, of your website. It is vital to know how your site is used and how your visitors experience it if you wish to optimize your results.
- Keep Up With Studies to Improve Optimum Design
Scientific web-related research can be your best friend when it comes to designing your website. With, for example, advanced studies of eye tracking patterns, we have seen that there are certain areas whereby our ads and content will have better results – we gained this knowledge and edge simply by gaining a deeper understanding of how the eye works when viewing electronic information. By using the results of studies such as these, you can often see remarkable results in the reception of, and traffic driven to, your site.
How This Increases the Bottom Line
The main reason for having a website is to draw users to see what it is that you have to offer – whether you are business promoting your product or service, or an ad hosting website providing keyword content. Traffic that doesn’t actually stick around long enough to view what you have to offer is essentially useless traffic as it isn’t going to have any impact on your bottom line.
By creating a well-designed, simple, informative, easy to navigate, and user friendly website, the traffic driven to your site will be provided with more relevant content. A well-designed site will be attractive to visitors and provide them with logically placed, useful information that will make them want to look around at what you have to offer.
Optimal placement of ads on your site will lead to more clicks or views, which is how ad hosted websites earn their revenue through the common PayPerClick (PPC) or PayPerView (PPV) payment systems. More clicks mean more money, and the way to maximize the effectiveness of your ads is to place them in the most logical, prominent, and easy to see places. With the latest studies and constant market research, it is easy to design an ad supported site with optimal placement of key, targeted ads that will increase the stream of revenue generated by your site.
Having an easy to navigate, user friendly site is likely to become a site that users will actually stick around to explore, lowering your bounce rate, and increasing the pool of potential customers (or clickers). If your site is designed with care and optimal layout, your visitors are more likely to return. And if they have a positive experience on your site, they are more likely to tell their friends or even link to your site on their blog or other social networking accounts.
An accessible site that is tested and optimized as new information and data come to the foray, is one that stays ahead of the curve and is always optimized for superior functionality and ease of use. Testing certain elements of your site will allow you to see, and enhance or fix what elements are helping, or detracting from the success of your site. It also allows you to analyze the success of your design campaign over time and allows you to see real results from your efforts.
Taking the time to make a plan for a properly designed website really pays off in the end, in real dollars and cents. You’ll see the results in increased traffic, more relevant traffic, repeat visitors, as well as a good deal of new ones. And this is music to anyone’s ears who is trying to get the most out of their website.