For the past four years, I’ve participated as a judge for the annual WebAwards. It’s really exciting to be a part of this highly respected event, such an honor to be asked year after year, and it requires a lot of time since I take this task very seriously. People who submit their website for competition include large public companies as well as smaller local and regional businesses. All of them believe their website is worthy of this challenge, and are genuinely interested in the feedback they (anonymously) receive from the Judges.
What the WebAwards gets right is their criteria; this isn’t just a design contest, and it’s not about a website being pretty or which one has the newest or flashiest technology. This particular competition is about how effective the website is. At the end of the day, that’s really what a website should be about, isn’t it?
Just think about it: how many times have you seen a website that LOOKS beautiful but just isn’t EFFECTIVE? If you walked in to a beautiful furniture store and couldn’t find prices or a sales person or even measurements of the pieces you were interested in, then the beauty would be inconsequential. Sadly, many websites focus on design rather than ease of use. We always tell Section 101 clients that what matters equally to design is how well a User can navigate the website.
I’d like to share my key take-a-ways from this experience, which may seem obvious, but it’s always good to have a reminder:
1) If your website is heavy with content, make sure you organize the content so a user can access it with ease on both mobile and desktop. With this type of website, your #1 priority should be your content followed by design.
2) Don’t hide your “Call to Action,” i.e, the main point you want people to understand when they visit your website. If you want someone to book a hotel room, or sign up for a newsletter, or listen to a song, make sure that information is front and center, and no one has to search for it.
3) Image-heavy websites were all the rage this past year. If yours is one, make sure you’re optimized for load time on both desktop, and more specifically, mobile. If the photos take a long time to load, people will lose interest and leave your website.
4) Staying with images –if you use them on your homepage with no copy, they don’t tell the whole story. You need supporting headlines and/or copy. Make sure your photos don’t leave too much room for a User’s own interpretation –spell it out no matter how obvious you think it might be.
5) If you put copy OVER a photo, make sure it can be read. You’d be shocked at how many websites I saw that had white copy over a photo with a white background, which rendered the image un-readable.
6) If you have a great backstory, share it. It’s easy enough to add an “About Us” or “Biography” page to your website, something we always tell Section 101 clients. An interesting background or history gives people who are captivated by your product or project something to char about. Additionally, early adapters will be proud to share this knowledge.
Technology continues to change, design standards continue to change, but what doesn’t change is that a good website must quickly get its point across to be effective. Your goal should be that people visiting the site, for the first or fiftieth time, don’t have to work to understand your objective.