1. Loading Speed
4. Appearance / Beauty
6. White Space
7. Clear Contact Information
8. Social media
9. Quality Content
11. Mobile Friendly (Bonus topic)
These website design elements are not listed in any particular order of importance, but they are all important to the success of your website and you should take them into account.
Google has made it clear that a website’s loading speed is an important ranking factor, but it is equally important for two other reasons, i.e. user experience and the fact that your visitors do not tend to hang around waiting for a page to load. They just hit the back button and go to a faster loading website. Google has said that up to three seconds is okay, but that could change any time and the faster your website is, the better it is for your visitors. But, it is likely that all else being equal, your fast page will rank higher than a slower page. And remember that Google has acknowledged that there are at least two hundred factors that go into the algorithm’s decision of which page to rank.
There are also lots of things involved in speeding up your page-load. it may not be as easy as you would like. Really it is a matter of removing things that slow it down and making files smaller, though of course server speed is a major contributor. Another obvious one it images. If they are not reduced to the correct size and optimized they will be a major factor in slowing down your page. The next thing is removing the spaces in your code, not the visible spaces that your visitors see, but the spaces in your code in the back end of the website.
Loading speed can be significantly improved through the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN delivers your page/content from a server nearer to your visitor than it would otherwise be for your visitor. For example, if you are looking at a website that is hosted on a server in the US, it might be fed to you from a server on a CDN in the UK or even in Ireland if your network has one here. This speeds up the delivery because the signal does not have to cross the Atlantic, shaving seconds of the loading time. Test your loading speed here: PageSpeed Insights
People may not have time to read all of your article and then discover that it does not have what they wanted. So they scan through your article quickly and may then decide to read the entire article if they consider it worthy of their time and effort. This means that your article should be broken up into reasonably sized paragraphs with headings that inform the reader of the contents of the section or paragraph. The text should be clear and the phrasing easy to understand. Where necessary it may be necessary to add an image to illustrate a point.
But visitors are not the only ones reading your page. The search engine spiders (programs that find and index websites) read it too. It is, therefore, necessary to make it easy for them too. Using header tags for your headers helps them to figure out what the article is about and the importance of the various parts of the page. Proper use of keywords is also important here. Your website design is important here because the theme or code of your front end can slow up the spiders if they have difficulty negotiating the code and they may give up and just downgrade your website.
Security is very important these days. Just about all websites are hit several times a day by bots. Many are harmless spiders from search engines etc., but many are scanning the website for vulnerabilities to exploit. It is therefore important to add some form of security to your website. We will have a complete article on this soon. If you have a WordPress website this is quite easy. Just install a security plugin and configure it to your liking. Many will block the bots after a certain number of attempts to access files or areas that they should not have access to. Your host will also be taking steps to keep the server secure, but you should also protect your website and keep all of the software used to build it, up to date. Things change with surprising speed and frequency and if you do not keep up, your website can have gaping holes in its security, allowing malware and viruses in and give access to spammers and worse.
Security is clearly important to Google too as they have made security certificates a ranking factor. They do not want to send people from their search results page to an infected website that is likely to do them harm.
Appearance / Beauty
The appearance or in other words the beauty of your website must be appropriate for the type of website that you are building. For example, a website for a bank would look very different from one for a website for a rock star. The bank’s website would be very formal and plain with the emphasis on function and the rock star’s one would be glamourous and be filled with graphics and concert images etc.
The appearance of your site is also important to its success in another way. If your website simply does not appeal to your visitors, they will not take to it and may leave very shortly after arriving. This is bad for your business and also bad for your SEO since Google can detect your bounce rate and will very likely downgrade your page in the search results if there are too many bounces. A properly organised web page that looks nice and is easy to navigate, where the item they are looking for is easily found and it loads fast will go a long way to helping your website appeal to your visitors.
Making your website beautiful will include white space colour matching and how you organise your content, i.e. layout. Imagine this you land on a website where the content is packed into a small space, the colours clash and make the page difficult to look at and the content is neither informative nor entertaining. What would you do? My guess is that you would hit the back button before the page finished loading. Not the kind of website design that you would want for your business.
As we mentioned above, navigation helps your visitors find what they are looking for on your website. If you have hidden your menu in some strange part of the footer. They may never find it and never get past your front page. The usual and sensible place for the navigation of your website is where people expect to find it, i.e. the top of the page. So, that is where you should put it. Mahe it clear and easy.
Don’t link to every page on your website form your home page. organise your pages in a logical order, categorising them if necessary. Then link to the category or archive pages (pages with links to subpages) in the menu. Those pages then link to the content. This is a structure that Google likes and it makes it easier for visitors to find your content and understand it.
This is related to the paragraph on appearance. White space is important to the appearance of your web page. Without enough white space, your page will look cluttered and it will be difficult to find anything on your page. It is also distracting to have everything jammed into a small space when you are trying to read something else. I won’t say that there is no such thing as too much white space, but be brave and spread out your headers and images. It gives a feeling of space on the page. But, be careful to not make your visitors have to scroll more than they really should expect to.
Clear Contact Information
If your business needs people who visit your website to phone you or your office, then make it easy for them. Your phone number and maybe your email and street address should be at the top of the page. Don’t make them search around for it. They may not bother and will probably go to your competitor’s website instead. Make this information clear and phone numbers clickable. Every website has a contact page these, but you may prefer to have people call you, so prioritise your preferred method of communication.
Social media has worked its way into just about every area of modern society, even business. Every business should have a business page. Why not? It’s free and can bring visitors to your website and also even bring visitors directly to you. But where you can really benefit from social media is the like and share buttons that you can put throughout your website. They allow people to quickly add your pages to their own Facebook pages, advertising your business or product to their contacts. It does not take too much time to maintain social media accounts and the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience.
This one is probably obvious, but there is a surprising number of websites out there that have rubbish content. Of course, you do not see them very often, because they are filtered out of the search results. Google, in particular, has become very good at showing good content. Good content means content that the search engines deem to be something that they think their users would enjoy or benefit from. In other words what they thing their searchers are looking for. There needs to be good information and covering the topic of the page in enough detail and depth that it will be of use. This usually means a lengthy article, but it is not necessarily so. If Google thinks the search intent of their searcher is to find a short article what gives them an answer without having to read through thousands of words, then they will show a short article that they think answers the question.
Typically, as mentioned above, a well-written article will be broken up into easily readable paragraphs and will have headers indicating the content of the paragraph. There will be few if any grammatical errors and the wording will be simple and the sentences short. These are necessary for general consumption, but academic articles aimed at students of science articles aimed at researchers would, of course, be different and are outside the scope of this article.
Optimisation falls into two main areas. Site optimisation and content optimisation. Site optimisation includes lean and fast code that is mobile-friendly, easy to spider and understand (codewise) and secure.
The content optimisation is where the content is optimised to make it easy for the search engines to understand the content. This is important because they need to know what to present when someone enters a keyword. If they do not understand your content, they are highly unlikely to rank it and present it in their results. If they do understand it and do not think it is quality content, it will not rank either.
A quick tip: search for your keyword and see what type of content is ranking for your keyword. Produce that type of content. Don’t copy the pages at the top, but produce your own content of the same type, be it a list, report essay etc. that has a chance of outranking the existing results.
Also, do your research before you produce your content. Make sure you are going after the right keywords and that the big websites are not already dominating that space. e.g. it will be hard to outrank the likes of Wikipedia and Facebook etc. for their top keywords. Really much of this work falls under SEO and this is not an SEO article, but On-page SEO is arguably part of the design of the page.
We all know that mobile traffic has outgrown desktop and tablet traffic in a big way. So obviously you will be losing out if your website looks wonky on a small screen. Of course, you do not need to build a second website. Just build one responsive website, i.e. one that can adapt to the size of the screen it is being viewed on. This is important for the sake of your business, your visitors and also for Google. Google has publicly stated that mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor. So, if your website is not mobile-friendly, make it so. Google has provided a page where you can go to check your web-page’s speed and see if it is quick enough, but also a page where you can get your page tested for mobile-friendly here: mobile friendly test.