People land on websites because they are looking for something - usually a product or service, but sometimes just for information or interaction, especially if the site is related to an educational subject, technology, science, history, government, etc. For businesses that offer products and services for sale, the importance of a memorable website is far more critical, because they want people to come, navigate about, buy and return. Making a site memorable means that it lodges in a visitor's mind, even after having left. The reasons may be just subtle aspects of a site design or bigger bolder factors, but those aspects are what a site owner wants to have. Here are some things that can make a site memorable. See how yours stacks up.
It Begins with a Name
Visitors need to be able to remember a site name, because, in their haste of surfing around, they probably won't bookmark one that they may like. This is easy for the "big boys" - it's just their company name with a .com added, like Kohls.com or HomeDepot.com. For an "unknown" to be memorable by name, it is often a good idea to create a brand name that is simple and easy to remember. Amazon.com is such a brand name. A website cannot be memorable unless the name itself is memorable.
More important than any visual appeal, than any product or service, is a site's usability. People want user-friendly sites - those that they can navigate easily and that are laid out logically with links and pages that load quickly and provide them with the information they seek. Visitors will not spend much time trying to figure out where the menu is or what link will give them what they need. They will lose interest quickly and bounce.
When visitors find a fast, well-organized, friendly site, they will stay longer. Adding interactive elements that include great images, videos, even games and other interactive elements, if appropriate, can be fun and entertaining and not only compel visitors to participate but also to share that site with their friends. Toms Shoes is a great example of this. Because of its charitable work (donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased), there are captivating images of children getting their new shoes fitted by a volunteer. Jack Daniels invites its visitors to share weird bar stories and pictures and holds contests around them.
Toms landing page is pretty compelling, and certainly easy to get to what you want - one link to women's shoes and one link to men's. Or, if you want to see more about the charitable program, there is a piece of text and an arrow that takes you there. In any event, visitors will remember this website, even if they don't buy a pair of shoes during the visit. The will probably return and tell their friends about it too.
Usability is also tied to the text that is provided - not just the graphic elements of that text but by what is said. Visitors are only willing to give a few seconds for text to grab their attention, so words must be engaging, catchy, and/or inspirational, but also useful. People travel to a site to get something, often by means of a search engine. They want information to be presented in a simple and concise way. Typography is important too. Scripts that are difficult to read are not usable. If the use of quirky type is appropriate, be certain that it is easily readable. Above, the words, "Better Tomorrow" use a less than standard script; however, there is plenty of space between the letters and they are easily read.
Any chunk of text that you have on a page should be scannable - headings and sub-headings, bullet points and such allow a reader to scan quickly and focus in on the specifics s/he wants. And break up large chunks of text with visuals.
When you think about usability of your site design, think about other sites you have visited. What elements made you want to stay and what elements made you want to bounce? Keep those in mind - most people respond to the usability of a site just as you do.
And Now the Eye Candy
Visual appeal cannot be underestimated, and it includes so many elements.
- Graphics should be original and maybe just a bit quirky. It's good to think outside the box at times, but not to go overboard.
- Photos should be of high quality to give your website a professional "look," even if you are selling kids' toys. If you can't create great photos, hire someone who can or purchase stock photos (not free - everyone uses them). It's that important.
- Videos: Which would you prefer - a written explanation of how to use a product or a video explanation? Of course, you would want the video. Keep that in mind.
- Interactivity: If you can involve your visitor through a poll, a survey, or other types of interaction, do it. These are the things that keep visitors engaged and sharing your site with others. There are great tools to do this - Survey Monkey, Canva, and SnapApp, to name a few.
Colors and Themes
There are a few "rules" that should guide your color palette. Using the color wheel, complementary colors traditionally work well together. However, experiment with color contrasts, because combinations that might not appear to be compatible end up being so when placed into a design (e.g. certain shades of purple and green). Here are some other factors:
- Use contrasting colors for print against background - the print is easier to read
- Use colors that match your theme. If you sell luxury, high-end jewelry, then you are not going to select bright colors that might be great in a kid's bedroom. On the other hand, if you sell toys, you are not going to use black and grays that connote sophistication.
- Think about the psychological aspects of color use as well. They should match your theme and business purpose.
- Another "rule" is the use of white or "negative" space. This will give your site a sleeker less cluttered look - always a good thing.
Layouts and Patterns
- Using a grid for your layout will give your site pages a logical flow and a sense of organization. Elements scattered all over a page give an impression of chaos - not a good impression to leave with a visitor. You want a balance that a grid gives.
- Remember that people's eyes track left to right and top to bottom when viewing a page. Don't force a visitor to change this natural pattern. Put your elements in this order of importance - the most important being on the top left of a page, the least important at the bottom right.
Remember the Purpose
Above all, you have a reason for a website - you want visitors to get information, to view your products and services, to return, and, ultimately, to buy. Keep that front and center in your mind as you design your site. All of your elements must provide a great experience - keeping these 5 key ingredients in mind.