Of course, there are some general principles of design that make a site look professional: consistent and appropriate fonts and colors, high quality images and videos, and clear organization are all important.
You hire someone to make a website when you’re trying to accomplish a goal: make more sales, serve your congregation remotely, or get people to sign up for your event. One of the first things we do here at Tao Websites is figure out the purpose of your website and who you’re trying to reach.
When we understand your purpose, we can use design principles to showcase what you offer. We can also help you decide what not to include on your website. Too much content can overwhelm your audience and obscure your main point. I have seen many organizations design websites that are essentially useful links for employees. This can be useful to employees but confusing for customers. It’s better to keep employee documentation and links on a separate intranet or wiki. Too many choices can overwhelm people. Many great websites have one highly visible call to action, like making a donation or signing up for emails.
Of course, many successful businesses offer lots of services and products. How do you highlight all your amazing choices without overwhelming customers? We can look to megastores like Target and Amazon for the answer. If you go into a Target, you notice that things are in a logical order: The bananas are with other produce in a larger grocery section. There are signs and staff to help you find what you need. Target is similar to Walmart or Fred Meyer, so if you’ve been in one store you can likely figure out how the others work. Seasonal displays and goods near the cash register are helpful for people in a hurry or people who are browsing. All of these are ways to help customers find what they need without getting frustrated.
Merchants use many of these same principles in online stores. Amazon's categories offer helpful ways to browse. If I'm looking for a toy for my nephew, I can browse by price and age. These same principles for organizing products can also be used for organizing other types of information. Libraries, for example, use call number systems and subject headings to group similar books together and organize them so people can find them.
Whatever your goal, whether you sell products or are trying to share information, another important consideration is who you are trying to reach. It’s not kind to stereotype individuals, but sometimes considering demographics like age, gender, location, ability, and language can be helpful to both you and your users. For example, Pew Research shows that people of different ages tend to use different social media platforms--an important thing to know if you’re trying to reach Gen Z or Boomers! Even food choices can vary by age. Tao Websites can help you with market research, too, if you’re not sure who you’re trying to reach, where to find them, or what their preferences are.
If you’re trying to reach everybody, then it’s important to think about who “everybody” is. Everybody includes internet users who only have a smartphone and people with disabilities (26% of the population!). Professional web designers use responsive and accessible platforms to ensure these customers can access your services. Allowing your users to save preferences and customize their experience by location, language, and interests can also make the site easier and more pleasant for them to use, meaning they might stay longer. Everybody wants to feel like the experience is designed for them. This brings us back to the main point: a great website is purpose-driven and user-centered. It is effective at what you (the person who builds or commissions a website) are trying to do. This usually involves getting the attention of a certain audience and persuading them to act. So, a great garden center website persuades people to buy plants and a great synagogue website brings in new members while engaging existing members. Why do people buy plants or join an organization? Because their needs are met and they feel welcome. I think we can all relate to that!