Have you ever found yourself staring at a web page and thought: “Wow, I actually hate this?”
The days of cringe-worthy websites are (mostly) past us. We lived through MSPaint graphics and amateur GeoCities sites, and now we have web builders like Wix and Squarespace making it easy to create decent pages. Templates and guides exist to keep amateur web devs from making anything too atrocious, and designers are always around the corner to lend a hand whenever needed… For a price.
Aside from a few outliers (like the one above), bad websites are usually not offensive to the senses anymore. A “bad website” nowadays is one that doesn’t convert customers, drive traffic, or otherwise serve its function.
Even if all of the other aspects of a company are firing on all cylinders, a bad website can hold the entire operation back. When prospective customers feel like a website doesn’t jive with them, they bounce.
Websites are more than just placeholders for your company’s quarterly updates. A good website will drive demand, generate leads, and provide shareable content for your audience, but you have to get it to that point first.
Before designing or redoing your website, make sure you fully understand your marketing funnel and the route that you’d like your prospects to take from beginning to end. This will help you get a sense of which functionalities your website needs, making the design process smoother.
The parts of a web page
All websites are made from the same few elements, regardless of how they were created. Your users don’t know if you used a template, made it in InDesign, or wrote the raw code yourself. What they do care about is whether or not your site speaks their language and lures them in for more.
Most websites feature the same basic parts across every page. While there are some industry-specific exceptions, like e-commerce or web applications, the most common and substantial types are used repeatedly and should be understood.
To someone unfamiliar with web design, typography might just mean “which font should I use here?” To a dictionary, typography is “the style and appearance of printed matter.” A better definition, especially for digital marketers, comes from our pals at CareerFoundry:
“In essence, typography is the art of arranging letters and text in a way that makes the copy legible, clear, and visually appealing to the reader. Typography involves font style, appearance, and structure, which aims to elicit certain emotions and convey specific messages.”
Typography plays a strategic role in captivating audiences and building brand recognition. When a brand or entity consistently uses the same typeface, users will begin to associate the brand and typeface together, creating familiarity and quicker recognition.
Good typography serves to enhance the user experience. Typeface experts are able to select typefaces and typographical elements that subconsciously align with a company’s tone, style, and voice, while also remaining aesthetically pleasing and legible. Your fonts, and the style in which you use them, becomes your brand.
As an easy example, simple messages might be written with minimalistic fonts in shorter paragraphs, and official-sounding messaging might feature long explanatory paragraphs with a formal font.
When choosing a typeface, shoot for something that
- Is unique and interesting
- Is clearly legible; none of the letters look confusing together
- Matches the company’s vibe
- Carries the tone of the company’s messaging
In web page design, a hero image is any large, banner-style image that occupies the top of the web page so that users see it first upon entry. A hero image should be high-quality and clear, as to not cause any strain or confusion for the users.
Hero images serve as a visually appealing landing feature to immediately create a good impression on your users. Because of their versatility, a hero image can be just an image, or can also feature text and buttons over top of it.
Hero images can be anything from video content to technical graphics, as long as it does a good job of conveying the brand’s message. Some companies use hero images as an opportunity to showcase their products and display their benefits, whereas other companies use hero images to build trust or facilitate emotional reactions. It’s all about using graphics that match your brand.
Pro tip: Hero images with huge resolutions will slow down page loading speed. Be sure to re-size them to screen size.
In marketing, a value proposition is a concise statement that describes why your prospects should do business with you. A value proposition should also paint a clear picture of what your company offers its customers.
Value propositions are unlike mission statements in that a mission statement is a static piece of unchanging information, whereas value propositions change to fit each audience.
If you’ve done your market segmentation, you can alter your value proposition in each campaign to ensure that it speaks to each audience. Savvy spenders might react favorably to a message that boasts a low price tag, for instance.
Pro tip: To facilitate real trust with your audience, avoid diluting your value proposition with buzzwords and jargon.
Beautiful technical graphics and process images are a phenomenal way to creatively describe what you do without even having to use words. A good technical image will make a clear point without requiring much of an explanation.
Technical images differ from hero images in two key ways. Where hero images are meant to be a visually captivating way for users to land on a web page, technical images can be used anywhere on a web page and are meant to show the product and its benefits in a stylized way.
TSheets does a great job using tech photos on their site as a substitute for hero images and icons. The tech photo above clearly shows that TSheets users clock in and out on their phones, and then use timesheet management tools on their desktops. This technical image gets an A+ because this is exactly what users do with the software.
One of the more common types of iconography is trust icons of a brand’s clients and partners. Featuring your customers’ logos on your site is an easy way to inform your users of your trustworthiness. This phenomenon is called social proof, and is super effective in marketing.
To avoid an overly-psychological explanation, social proof is the “they tried it so I’m gonna try it too” phenomenon. This is the reason statements like “40,000 US-based tech companies use our software” are more impactful than “tech companies like our software.” If you’ve got a solid customer base, your future customers need to know.
Icons are tiny little pictures that are used in web design to help your users understand content more quickly. Many companies use similarly-styled icons across their entire brand in order to facilitate more widespread recognition from their potential customers.
In web design, icons are generally used to:
- Accompany content on text-heavy pages
- Draw attention to specific features
- Enhance infographics
A call to action (CTA) is to marketers as a sales pitch is to salespeople. It’s the marketers’ chance to take their shot and ask something in return from their audience.
Calls to action aren’t as high-stakes as a sales pitch. A typical call to action might be something like “sign up for our newsletter” or “sign up for our free 14-day trial.” Worst case scenario, the user just ignores it. No harm, no foul.
Graphically, calls to action tend to exist in the form of buttons or other links that redirect the user to a new page, form, or download.
A call to action shouldn’t be a heavy lift for your users. Instead, it’s better to try to pitch relevant ways to keep them engaged without expecting them to make a huge commitment. For instance, don’t try to sell your product at the end of every piece of content; That’s just spammy.
When creating web pages, it’s important to keep the design exciting and engaging. Lots of words, walls of text, and lengthy paragraphs are a sure-fire way to bore your visitors to death and subtract from the quality of your content.
Try to find ways to say less with more. Remember, you don’t have to tell the entire story right on your landing page. If your visitors care enough, they’ll click around and get the full story.
Coupled with icons, a few quick blurbs and paragraphs can paint a clear enough picture for your visitors to decide whether or not they want to learn more. Keep them short and concise, and save the lengthy writing for lower in the marketing funnel.
Again, social proof is extremely valuable as a way of boosting your brand’s reputability. If your business has customers that are willing to be featured on your website, you are in luck.
Customer testimonials can come from either another business or a single person, depending on the type of products or services you offer. The format, however, can be whatever works best in your specific scenario.
Testimonials can be formatted as:
- Standard quote (with photo)
- Video testimonials
- Social media posts
- Yelp/Google reviews
- Case studies (written by you about your customer)
- Case study (written by your customer about you)
Useful resource: Free case study templates.
A testimonial given by a customer can be used in a variety of ways. Outside your site, the same content can be chopped up and posted on social media or used in advertisements, telling the story as far and wide as possible.
Long-form testimonials like case studies are also perfect content for prospects who are looking for a nudge in the right direction. Hearing a story about a buyer just like them might even bump them to the next pipeline stage. 💪