It’s clear that in the modern age of information overload, we have trained ourselves to quickly judge whether a webpage is worth our precious time. Obviously, it’s unlikely that users are reading an entire web page in 10-20 seconds. More likely, they are judging it based on the page design.
Since you want your organization’s website to be a boon to your cause (and not a detriment), you need to discover how to make it well-designed enough for your target audience to stay and read your content. This is easier said than done, but exploring a few best and worst practices will make it easier
EXAMPLES OF WELL-DESIGNED SITES
Livestrong foundation is a non-profit providing support for cancer patients.Their website has several key strengths:
- Color – Livestrong has developed strong brand recognition around their bright yellow wristbands and black and yellow logo. The site is strategically designed around the black and yellow color scheme.
- Navigation – The mouse-over drop down menu at the top shows clear and easy navigation to various parts of the site.
- Strong Imagery – The largest part of the initial view of the home page is taken by large high-quality scrolling images of people who have been helped by the program.
Counterspill is a website documenting oil spills and other energy disasters. You’ll see they use several highly effective design techniques including:
- Vivid color – the color-scheme of the site is bold and aesthetically pleasing
- Legible font – All the fonts are plain, high contrast, and legible, but not immediately recognizable stock fonts
- Interactivity – the best thing about this site is the prominently placed, interactive, infographic on the home page: a map of the globe which provides information on spills when you hover over. Creating widgets like these, although potentially difficult, is a fantastic way to keep your audience interacting with your content.
It is not my intention to be negative or hyper-critical; I certainly knew very little about web design until recently. However, for the sake of a best practices discussion, I’ve included the following example of a health related blog that could use design improvement. (I’m sure the content is great, but I had a hard time staying on the page for more than 20 seconds to find out…)
Better Health for All http://betterhealthforall.org/
- Bland colors – with the exception of a picture of fruit at the header, the entire site is white or off-white, with black or dark green text.
- Poor navigation – several of the quicklinks at the top are confusing or uninformative as to what they are. What is FPH? “Competition in NHS… etc” sounds like an article title, not a quick-nav tab. Also the twitter feed on the side does not have any unique formatting, coloring or branding to distinguish it as a social media feed. Embedding the tweets would be much better.
- Content of posts – The blog posts are visually uninteresting to scroll through. They rarely if ever use photographs or figures. In fact they seldom even break the articles into subsections or use bold eye-catching headers and titles. This discourages readers from bothering to skim your content for an interesting section or post. Instead they are more likely to exit the site altogether and continue web-surfing elsewhere.
- Use clear, legible high-contrast fonts.
- Don’t shy away from vivid colors and visually interesting backgrounds.
- Use lots of high quality photos to drive home your message and maintain interest.
- Use lines, section breaks, embedded widgets, etc. to liven up and visually organize your page.
- Make your navigation toolbar informative and easy-to-understand for first-time visitors
If you stick to these tips, users just might stick enough to read your fantastic content!