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Why Good Web Design Can Help Your Business

Now that technology is intertwining itself into more and more aspects of our lives, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to keep up. While it may be difficult to fathom, many small businesses do not have a dedicated website. Some business owners don’t see the point, especially when they believe it’s easy to manage a Facebook page and Twitter feed on their own.

Having an official website legitimizes a business’s web presence in a way that Facebook and Twitter cannot. Potential customers are much more likely to search for a business’s website than its social media feeds. A good strategy is to have the official website linking to the social media pages and vice versa. Interlinking your sites demonstrates that they are, in fact, your sites and increases traffic to each of them.

This traffic boost can increase your customer base, improve your image, and pass along your message by word of mouth. However, a poorly-designed website can detract from all of the boons of having a site up in the first place. Being sure to have a website that is well-optimized, fast, and easy to navigate will help customers find what they are looking for with minimal effort, allowing you to serve them without actually being present.

The best websites follow modern design practices and aim to make navigation as simple, visually appealing, and readable as possible for the visitor. Visitors who have an easy time navigating your site are more likely to find what they are looking for and therefore more likely to become customers.

Minimalism in Practice

Minimalism, the aesthetic practice of reducing design elements to the minimum necessary, is a popular design trend for modern web pages. Unless a site has a wide array of information which it needs to convey to site visitors (think, for instance, of most government websites – and reflect on how unattractive most of those sites are), it is typically advisable to reduce design to all but the bare essentials.

One extreme example of this trend, though it is fitting for the source of the site, is www.altmansiegel.com. This site, for an art gallery in San Francisco, is little more than white space, a few links at the top, and a large picture displaying one of the gallery’s exhibitions. But it works, and it even looks fairly good, though the choice of font is somewhat unfortunate.

Less obviously minimalist, though still very much so, is www.westerntriallawyers.com. This site, which promotes the Western Trial Lawyers Association, a trade organization which provides continuing education retreats to trial attorneys, does not at first blush appear especially minimalist, but that’s simply a function of its essentially sound core design. If you spend more than a few moments looking over the homepage, you’ll recognize that there is very little to the site’s design, with the most eye-catching element being a large, fluid image at the very top, showing off the organization’s summer and winter resorts at, respectively, Hawaiian beaches and western ski resorts. Aside from this, there’s little more than a toolbar and a few paragraphs of content on the homepage. This is the very definition of minimalism: reducing design elements to the essentials, which, for a site for this type of client, may be more than an art gallery.

Sidebar Variations

Sidebars are extremely useful tools for website development: they can help to organize disparate information and navigation options into a single, uniform design, and easily allow website visitors to access whatever parts of a site they wish to. There are a number of different ways to incorporate a sidebar into a website’s design, and, depending on a website’s overarching goals, different design strategies may be appropriate for different sites.

The website www.cnn.com has an extremely standard sidebar form. With four different sidebars, organized based on type of content, the site can easily organize its content for visitors to browse and read through. Because the links to this content are not the most high-value content on the news giant’s website, the sidebars have minimal design optimization, consisting of little more than bulleted lists and buried somewhat far down on the homepage. While this has the effect of deemphasizing this content to some extent, it works for the website, because it isn’t the content which is necessarily desirable to be emphasized.

The website  www.legalhelp47.com has a somewhat novel take on the sidebar. The site features its navigation and content in the same area, using short blocks of text that help guide visitors to the part of the site they seek. This approach works for the site because the navigation choices in the text blocks are, unlike those on CNN’s website, likely the most critical portions of the site and, as a result, visibility for visitors is much more critical.

Balancing Information Needs with Design Optimization

One of the most basic goals of good web design is finding a way to balance the need to convey information, which is, after all, what clients visit most websites for, with the need to achieve a certain level of aesthetic quality in order to ensure that visitors aren’t overwhelmed with navigation options or turned away by unappealing visual arrangement. One Houston attorney’s website, www.alimokaramattorney.com, does an admirable job of achieving this balance.

On the homepage, there are a wide range of different navigation options, allowing site visitors to either pursue additional information or to interact directly with live chat operators or fill out contact forms for the attorney. While the sheer number of choices that are given to site visitors as soon as they come to the homepage could easily be overwhelming with a suboptimal design format, the site’s appearance is actually quite attractive and streamlined. The majority of what a site’s visitor initially sees is simply a picture of a motorcyclist, with a navigation bar underneath and a sidebar containing contact and interactive navigation options. Importantly, these options are neither so large that they overwhelm a site’s visitor, nor so small that they have to be sought out. As the best website design is supposed to do, the site makes it simple for visitors to find what they’re looking for without losing anything in terms of professional appearance.

Multi-Objective Designs

A business’ website often must meet more than one objective. Depending on the type of business and its target market, goals such as establishing a desired image, providing useful information to potential clients, and demonstrating goods and services may all be necessary elements of a website’s design plans.

Looking at a toy store located in Austin, Texas, it is clear that all three of these goals can potentially be achieved in a single site. The website, www.toyjoy.com, is for a toy store with a wide target market of customers, ranging from small children to college-age students at the nearby university to adults. To appeal to these diverse groups, the store has carefully cultivated a whimsical, alternative image for itself, and this image is represented on the website by the eccentric illustrations in the background, as well as the written content’s tone. However, the site is also designed to allow ease of access to whatever information the customer may be looking for, largely through the incorporation of a smartly organized header and a side-bar of different toy categories. Finally, the site features a wealth of professional-looking photographic representations of the various products on offer.

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