Great web site design is very important for making sure that your customers see your company in the way that you want them to. Just as you put a great deal of effort, time and resources in ensuring that your bricks-and-mortar storefront is bright, clean, and attractive, your site needs the same kind of attention.
Less is more. People really appreciate the simplicity of a clean, uncluttered look on web sites. The success of Google's web site design is a prime example. Look how clean Google's home page is compared to its major competitors like Yahoo and MSN. They have so much white space, they even offered a black background for the 2008 Earth Day in order to reduce power consumption on the monitors of their millions of users.
The simplicity and ease of use have allowed a single company to capture half of the market share of the entire search engine industry, and catapult them to market leaders and innovators in many other areas as well. Remember, give the user what they want (not what you want).
Simple, intuitive navigation. Many times in my online browsing experience I have come across sites that have a beautiful home page, and then completely change the design on their inside pages. Menu items that were clearly outlined across the top have now moved to the left hand side, or have disappeared altogether. I have no idea how I am supposed to progress through the site.
A much better approach is to use clear, consistent navigation. This means that the links to your various pages should appear in the same place and in the same order on every page on your site. If you have many pages for your users to navigate, a drop-down menu can be a very effective tool. Everyone is used to clicking or rolling over a menu at the top of a program like Microsoft Word and having a menu drop down from there. If your web site allows them to navigate in the same way, you keep the experience consistent and help users to get around your site with ease.
How do we make it beautiful? What is going to create an emotional response to your site similar to the one that you create when people walk through your doors into your bricks-and-mortar storefront?
The use of high-quality photography really separates a great site from an average one. The key is to use the right photograph, and not to overdo it. A collage of 9 or 10 images all blurred together on your home page, many of them indistinguishable because they are wide shots reduced greatly in size will not be effective. Instead, a single large, high-quality close-up photograph that showcases your product or service can work best. If you want to use more than one image, a moderately paced Flash slideshow can create extra emotion by having them fade into one another.
Now you have the essential elements you need to create a fabulous web site. Great design includes a clean uncluttered look that eliminates unnecessary information. You need an intuitive navigation system to help people get around easily. And finally, you should use great, high-impact photography to create an emotional response. That's it! Now, go and check your web site to see if it meets these criteria. If not, it could be time to redesign your site!