Web design is the process of designing and creating a website, which can range in complexity from coding HTML or CSS to constructing a visually engaging site with graphics, photos, and video. Website designers must have an extensive knowledge of website technologies such as search engine optimization (SEO), and how to use them. However, these skills are not always needed given the proliferation of user-friendly tools that can make the process easier for non-coders.
The first step to any successful new website is an analysis of the needs and goals of your business. A good website designer will help you figure out what functionality you need including, but not limited to, a blog, content management system (CMS), ecommerce system, social media integration, user-generated content or interactive forms.
Any professional designer should do research on your competition to see what type of website they have and how they rank in search engines. You can use this information to determine where you need to make changes in your website.
You should not just rely on a designer who solely focuses on design and a programmer who is also the only person who understands user experience. Having different roles in the team will make your website as successful as possible by allowing everyone to be engaged in the process from the very beginning of your company’s life until years after its conception. Studies have repeatedly shown that employees are more productive when they feel personally committed to the company’s mission, vision, and goals.
Another way to ensure that your website is user-friendly is to employ unpaid interns. These students are best suited for usability testing since they are familiar with the software and have a good idea of what your business needs. They can be trained and guided by the designer on how to use the site, making them knowledgeable on how users interact with it.
A unique feature of a non-profit organization like yours is that it has no tangible product, so visitors may not know what your website does or who your audience is. It is important that your website highlights your mission and what you do.
You need to consider how much time visitors are willing to invest in your site before they make a purchase decision. There is no sense in spending lots of time developing a good website if it would only be viewed once or twice before the user decided not to buy from you.
Using redirection, an easily understandable navigation scheme, and clear communication is key to creating a user-friendly site. Some navigation schemes include:
As the viewer approaches a certain page, they should be encouraged to go to a new page.
Scroll down the page and look for words with an icon or word picture associated with it.
Click on arrows, buttons, links and text labels.
These elements have become part of the user interface design in web browsers and web applications. If you do not think that visitors are going to understand where to click or what it does, you should not use these features on your site.
When designing your site, check out sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other sites where people leave comments. It is good to incorporate feedback from these sites in order to make sure that you are developing a user-friendly site.
User-friendliness is about making the website more effective at meeting the goals of your business and your audience. You should assess all of the ways that people interact with your website including email communications, social media platforms and mobile devices so you can design a site that meets all of those needs.
Next time you finish a website design, don’t forget to ask how easy was it for people to learn about your business and buy something off of your site. Knowing this will help you make future improvements in the design of your site.
*Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/joseph-belanger-photography/3042761486/