To keep up with today’s rapid-fire, internet-orientated world, it’s become more or less standard for organizations and businesses, including SMBS, to have their very own websites.
A great website should be purposed to help tell the story of who you are and what your business is all about, while maximizing the discoverability of your brand, products and services.
To increase chances of success, it is crucial that your website be not only functional, but also compelling, fashioned with your target audience in mind. But is it possible to design a professional-looking website without a designer?
Great Website Design for Non-Designers: Beginner Tips
The answer to the aforementioned question is a resounding YES – meaning you don’t have to dig into your precious budget, shelling out hundreds – if not thousands – on professional designer fees.
Here are some top tips that cover the key fundamentals of building and designing your very own business website:
1. Reputable, Reliable Website Hosting
Before you can get to the fun, meat-and-bones part of designing your website, you first need to find a place to host it. You will, of course, need to register and assign a suitable URL (domain name), too.
Website hosting is renowned for being a highly competitive, bustling industry, so it’s vital that you pick a provider that is not only trustworthy, but also capable of delivering the necessary tools and service levels for your website and business’s unique needs.
Investigation time! Before deciding, ensure you’re fully satisfied that the prospective host can deliver the goods in each of the following areas:
- Bandwidth – A hosting plan’s allocated bandwidth must be able to accommodate for projected traffic levels, including spikes
- Reliability – Given the industry standard is 99.9% uptime guaranteed, you should expect no less than this figure
- Storage – The server disk space offered for your website’s database, web files, emails and so forth, must be sufficient
- Security – The provider should offer reassurance through protocols such as DDoS attack protection, 24/7 monitoring, along with regular system, server and software updates
- Scalability – Should your website experience a sudden surge in traffic, your host should be able to provide adequate scaling in order to circumvent a potential crash
- Features – All-important features such as CMS (control management systems) like WordPress, one-click plugins, themes and website builders (more on that below), can save you oodles of time, and should be expected
- eCommerce – The right host should cater to your website’s online selling needs, providing business-related essentials such as eStores and marketing, analytical and SEO tools
- Support – Should your website suffer from a technical issue, or even go down, it’s essential that your host offers a multi-platform support service that you can rely on
HostGrid provides a reliable website hosting service with all the tools you need to market your brand.
2. Time-Saving, Hassle-Free Website Builders
Now that you have your eye on a suitable company to provide hosting and a domain name, you’re ready to focus your attention on a platform that will make the whole website design, general management and update process significantly easier.
Here are a couple of the most popular quick-fire DIY methods for launching a fully-functional, affordable, professional-looking website:
Website Builder All-in-One Plans
Many providers offer all-in-one plans, meaning you can have everything up and running in the same place. For instance, a host may offer a business plan that includes hosting, a website builder and free domain name, along with eCommerce and marketing tools to help you become a successful online seller.
A good website builder should make the design process both enjoyable and fast, with no coding knowledge required. Courtesy of a clean interface and ultra-simple drag-&-drop tool, you can dive right in, adding themes, colour schemes, text, images and videos, plus galleries, product pages and checkouts.
While all-in-one website builder plans do provide the quickest way to get an elegant website in front of your audience, full customization (not necessarily a drawback) cannot be achieved. Which leads us to…
WordPress(.org) Website Design
WordPress, a juggernaut CMS (content management system) platform, can also be used as a website building tool; it differs, however, since there are no restraints or limitations when it comes to design control, opening the door to complete customization.
While the aforementioned website builder option does have a gentler learning curve, it’s still possible to quickly create a WordPress website that is unique and elegant, with thousands of themes and plugins available to choose from.
The best way to decide which is the better option (WordPress vs. All-in-One Website Builder) is to consider what your immediate and future ambitions are, for both business and website. For smaller, lighter-featured websites, a website builder may be better suited.
If, however, you’re planning on creating a large-scale, feature-heavy website, you’ll likely need more control over its design and long-term direction/development. In this case, WordPress may be the better solution for serving loftier needs.
For further information relating to WordPress, click here.
3. Elegant Design, Compelling Content
With your website building platform decided upon, you can start to plan and create content – the most important aspect of any site. While content can vary greatly depending on the type of business you run, you will most certainly require the following fundamental pages (at the very least).
Arguably the most important page on any website – since it’s where most organic traffic tends to land first – your Home Page should instantly communicate what your business is about, along with the flagship products available for sale.
And so, it will need to not only ‘pop’ in terms of style (more on that later below), but also include the right amount of substance to keep visitors hooked and eager to explore. To achieve this, try to include most, if not all, of the following content:
- Logo – A well-designed, memorable logo implies professionalism, and also helps establish your brand and business identity
- Tagline – A short, snappy, single sentence that best summarises your business and ethos
- Products & Services – Your flagship products should take front and centre stage, with engaging descriptions and striking images
- Call-to-Action – Big and bold, well-placed Call-to-Action buttons will serve to capture a visitor’s attention and lead them to, for instance, your website’s eStore or Contact Page
- Testimonials – If you’ve received praise from existing customers, you can display a few snippets right to entice new visitors
- Sign-Up Form – Providing customers with a simple subscription form (for receiving news and updates) can encourage brand loyalty, leading to increased repeat traffic
- Short Company Bio – A stripped down, three-sentence version could inspire confidence, especially if you’re able to mention awards and notably long industry experience
- Contact Info – This can help to establish trust and transparency, and is especially vital if your business hinges on clients reaching out to you for quotes, etc
Products (eStore) Page
This is where visitors will browse through your products and or services. It’s of course highly beneficial to show off what you have to offer in the most effective, engaging way, with vibrant images and compelling descriptions.
For convenience and easy absorption, dense information, such as a service plan’s multiple features, can be broken down into quick-fire, bullet-pointed copy. Other important information, such as shipping details and return policies, can also be listed.
By providing a means of contact, such as email, contact forms, social media, etc, your customers can get in touch regarding products and services, or any issues they may be experiencing. Remember, even if you don’t own a physical store, providing an embedded Google Map and company address will help establish transparency.
This is where you will provide information about what your business does, who you/your team are, what you stand for (your values), plus mentions of any awards/accolades you’ve received, etc. Remember, including photos and short bios can help establish trust – so don’t be shy.
Other Pages (for Now or Later)
- Testimonials Page – Displaying feedback from satisfied customers can help to inform new visitors of what to expect, putting them at ease and increasing conversion potential
- FAQ Page – To take some of the strain off your inbox, you can provide answers to the most frequently asked questions (alternatively, this could be featured on your Contact Page)
- Blog – Used for various types of posts, including industry news, product/company information, offers and promotions, etc, blogs can help drive serious traffic to a website
Website Design: Clean, Simple, Brilliant
While you are free to design your website any which way you like, it’s highly recommended that you stick to keeping things simple, clean and user-friendly. Remember, the objective of all this is to create something that will appeal, inform and engage your target audience in the best way possible.
Before you go any further, take some time to check out several competitors’ sites, followed by a handful of eCommerce giants. What did you notice about their designs? In all likelihood, you probably found that they shared several common traits and components, such as the following:
When it comes to themes, colour design/palettes, images, headers and fonts, etc, figuring out how to express and display all that content can feel a little overwhelming. As you’ve most likely already discovered, the clean and simple look is what tends to works best.
Don’t confuse clean and simple with bland and vague; quite the opposite, clean and simple refers to website design with a clear, considered message, displayed in a vibrant, minimalistic, uncluttered way. Content consistency is also important as this helps to create more cohesion and flow, tying pages together better.
The substance and style of each page is crucial for any website, particularly the Home Page. Since most visitors are likely to bounce from those lacking in immediate interest and appeal, it’s your job to refine your design by generating and displaying only the most appropriate and relevant content to best hook your audience.
What good is a beautiful, well-crafted website if your visitors are struggling to find their way around? Since you want potential customers to stick around and explore what you have to offer, you need them to feel comfortable from the get go.
To achieve this, ensure that you provide a clear, easy-to-spot navigation menu. If your site is fairly minimal, with just a handful of important pages, your menu should reflect this; if your site is rather dense, however, it may be wise to create sub-menus for a more transparent, organized feel.
Remember, the copy on your various pages (and Blog, should you decide to create one) can feature handy hyperlinks which can help direct visitors to other important areas on your website, such as products, testimonials and contact pages, etc.
Engaging, Compelling Content
As we’ve already touched on above, it’s vital that your content is presented in the best way possible. Since visitors have a long list of other things to focus on during everyday life, easy-on-the-eye-and-brain content tends to be preferable; in other words, well-written, to-the-point copy, accompanied by non-intrusive, uncluttered graphics.
If you’re eager to show off your expertise regarding your chosen area of industry, or knowledge of a particular product/service, you absolutely can – just keep in mind that lengthy, in-depth copy is usually best reserved for a Blog section (which could feature absorbing articles and news relating to everything you do).
Generally speaking, the content across the main, most-trafficked parts of your site should be snappy and relevant. Your Home Page, for instance, should be capable of instantly communicating a clear message about your brand, what you sell, and why you’re the best company to provide that product/service.
Try to maintain a consistent, appropriate style when it comes to your images. For copy, do the same, settling on the right type of voice; to achieve this, consider the kind of vocabulary and tone that will best connect with your target demographic (for example, youthfully hip and humorous or strictly serious and sophisticated).
Copy vs. Image Balancing
Implementing just about the right amount of copy and images is all about balance; too much copy can feel daunting to read, whereas image-dense pages can feel shallow. To strike the right balance, keep in mind that images are generally best used to complement copy while revealing relevant information about your brand and products.
Search engines analyze websites based on content, rewarding the most SEO-friendly with higher rankings. While search engines, such as Google, don’t disclose precisely how their algorithms work, it is widely accepted that well-written, relevant, helpful, keyword-specific content can lead to significant increases in organic traffic.
By keeping SEO (search engine optimization) in mind when designing your website, such as when producing copy and image captions, you can work to build an SEO-friendly environment that could wind up drawing in serious search engine-based traffic, at no financial cost to you.
Clear Contact Info & Social Media Links
Providing clear contact information on your website is particularly vital since it can establish upfront transparency and trust. It can even be imperative, especially if your business hinges on people being able to visit a physical store or email you for quotes to initiate projects.
If you don’t include conspicuous contact information (or a striking call-to-action button linking to it), you’ll run the risk of losing out on potential leads – simply because some visitors lost patience, became frustrated, and decided to bounce.
In addition to an email address, phone number and physical address, you can include a map (many customers expect to find a Google Maps embed), along with other means of getting in touch, such as via social media channels including Facebook and Twitter.
Responsiveness & Compatibility
With so many internet-connected devices and platforms available, you can bet that your audience won’t all be visiting your website from one single type of device and web browser. Some may visit from a desktop or laptop using Edge or Firefox, while others may visit from smartphones using Safari, Chrome or Opera.
The issue is that websites tend to function differently depending on the device and browser being used, meaning it’s your responsibility to ensure that there are no technical/usability flaws – or at least no major ones – when it comes to responsiveness and compatibility.
Thankfully, website builders from reputable providers enable you to tinker around with theme design and functionality specifics, making multi-device optimization simple and achievable. This can also be achieved with CMS platforms, such as WordPress, which offer higher levels of customization in this area.