If you're a website owner, would you say you've got a high quality design? Be honest with yourself. Compare your site to others in the same category. How does it compare? If you did not own the site and you surfed into it, would you stay? Good quality content is very important as everyone knows. But, if you have a poorly designed site, it's pretty much guaranteed that anyone visiting will not stay long. You need to lure them in with quality design and make them stay with quality content. What makes me an authority on this? Actually no reason other than the fact that I've been online since the early 1990s, and I've seen thousands of websites. With all this time online and all the sites I've seen, I believe there are a number of things that a website designer can do to make people want to stay. If you have a poor design or extremely spammy site, you can bet that any visitors will be gone within 30 seconds of arriving.
Here are a list of things that I believe make a really good website design.
1. Do not expect your visitors want to spend time thinking about now to navigate your site.
When a visitor arrives at your website, they should understand its purpose almost immediately. They should know how to navigate to various pages and posts without putting a lot of thought into it. They should never have to say "what page am I on?". Remember, not everyone has been online forever. Many people are newbies and simply do not want to bother with trying to figure out how every single website is laid out. Make it easy for them to get around your site.
2. Do you have excessive advertisements?
If you've got popups or pop-unders or any other type of harassment advertisements when the user arrives then you can bet they are going to be leaving in a hurry. Nothing irks me more than arriving at a website only to be lambasted with ads that pop up and do not allow me to do anything until I either click out of it or just leave the site. It's like walking into a car dealership and before you've even had a chance to look at a single car you've got a car salesman in your face trying to get you to buy a car. I understand that people want to monetize their websites, but there are ways to do it and not harass your visitors.
3. Empty space on the pages.
Do you have any space on your site that is NOT filled with content? If you do then you have some white space. If a website is completely covered with content, even if it's not advertising, then it's not legitimate and it's a lousy design. More white or blank space dramatically increases clarity and gives your site a nice fresh, clean look. Make your site professional looking by having some empty space.
4. Is there excitation factor?
Is your site generally attractive? If it's powered by WordPress, did you use a good quality theme? Ask a friend to give their honest opinion on the design. What do they say about it? Does your site make them think: "Wow I really like this" or does it make them feel ill? If you ask a number of people what they think and the majority of them like the design, then you can be sure it's ok. Many sites today are a ripoff of other sites. That's OK as long as you keep it clean. If you can not make a nice design yourself, then hire someone to do it. You can find lots of places online that have very reasonable rates and are willing to do design work to your specifications.
A well organized website is laid out logically and orderly. It has meaning. Is your header image a big monstrous picture that just screams "cheesy" and takes up a large part of the page? If so you better think about a new image. Do you even have a header image? There's nothing worse than a WordPress blog that uses text as the top header. Design yourself a logo, or have someone design it for you. If you're site was designed with organization in mind, your visitors will get much more out of it.
6. Grammar, Font and Typography.
What font have you chosen to use? Is it a font that all browsers and operating systems can support? If a visitor's computer does not support your chosen font then a default font will be used for them. That could be very ugly. When you write a post make sure to use proper spelling and grammar. Not everyone is an English major, but I've seen some spelling and grammar errors that just should not happen. When writing a post use a text editor that supports spell check. Then simply copy and paste into your website. Stick with a font theme through the entire site. There should not be any reason to change fonts in the middle of your page or even in your site. Also be sure to use good contrast font and background colors. Just because you think the colors look pretty, does not make them easy to read.
7. Colors of the site.
Along with font colors, what about site colors? Do your site colors make someone want to lose last night's dinner? You can find all kinds of internet sites that talk about what types of colors work well together. But it all comes down to one statement: Does your site look pleasant to the eye, or is it an assault on your senses? If the colors are unpleasant and distracting, your visitors will not stay long.
8. Site consistency.
Is your site design consistent? Do all the pages have the same look, feel and navigation? Do not make a visitor have to look at different colors, or learn different navigation techniques whenever they visit another page on your site. Inconsistency is very frustrating to visitors. Keep a common theme through your site without it's absolutely necessary to change for some legitimate reason.
9. Cross Browser Compatibility
Fortunately and unfortunately there are many different web browsers in use. It's fortunately because companies like Microsoft can not lay claim to the browser world and force their methods upon everyone. It's unfortunate because not one single browser designer follows the design specification exactly the same way. This means that what looks good in Firefox might look bad in Internet Explorer. You need to test your website at at least the major browsers to ensure it looks the same. If it does not look the same you need to figure out why and fix it. Each browser has a big following. You do not want to alienate any visitors because of browser incompatibilities.
10. Site Load Speed
Your website needs to load quickly. If it does not visitors will not stick around. If it loads very slowly then something is wrong. Maybe you're still using dial up. If that's the case then test it on a broadband connection. Maybe you've got broadband and it still loads slowly. If it is very slow, then figure out why. Do you have a lot of large images that load with the page? Does your hosting company have problems? Do you have lots of annoying advertisement scripts running in the background? People today are impatient and will not wait long periods for your site to load. There are sites on the internet that will measure your load speed. Just do a search for "test my site load speed". Then compare your load speed to other sites that are considered fast.
The bottom line is this: A good clean website design is paramount to get visitors interested in your site. Good quality content is important to keep them interested. The design of your site should not detract from the content.
If your site has any of the issues I've mentioned above you need to fix them. If you can not fix them yourself you need to hire someone to do it for you. Like I said previously, you can find good developers and designers for a reasonable price all over the web. If you can not do it yourself, take advantage of them.