The internet was born in March 1989–just 26 years ago. When this bouncing newborn was made commercially available in 1991, it only took 7 years for a quarter of Americans to start using it. Now everything from our phones to our TVs connect to the world wide web. The internet is not old at all. In fact, chances are, some of you remember the early days of the modem. The internet was a different beast back then, littered with flashing marquees, sparkles that followed your cursor, and multi-colored fonts in one paragraph. If businesses took advantage of this new fangled invention back then, their sites tended to be short, to the point, and aimed towards directing you to their brick-and-mortar places of work.

The internet has changed since then. Everything from internet protocols to available technology to consumer behavior now shapes how businesses need to look online. Sparkling cursors and rainbow font doesn’t cut it in 2015. In the spirit of our mission to help you put your best face forward, we’re sharing our top ten tips for effective web design.

  • Effective websites tell your visitors what you’re about in five seconds or less.

    These messages need to be short and concise, especially on your homepage. Not only should your homepage tell who you are and what you’re doing, they also should do this in a way that draws in your consumers and makes them stay awhile. Websites without proper messaging are in danger of losing users with the dreaded back button.

  • Effective websites have a clear CTA (“Call To Action”).

    These points simplify things for the user and let them know what steps need to be taken next. It should be very clear what you’re offering them and where they need to go to get them. Common CTA include “Buy Now”, “Contact Us”, and “Request a Quote”. The best CTAs are near the top of the page, in the body, and at the end.

  • Effective websites keep their design fresh.

    They need to keep up with whatever your business is doing on the ground. This means you shouldn’t have last Christmas’ coupons online–this makes your users think you’re no longer active online. What this also means is that you need to make sure your site is easy to update, was created with clean code, and is up to date on industry standards.

  • Effective websites incorporate social media.

    Social media is booming and you’re missing out if you don’t incorporate it into your website. If you do this, you are allowing your audience to share your products and your mission. This is a great way to develop loyalty, trust, and brand advocacy by your consumers while also driving more traffic to your company.

  • Effective websites address the user’s needs, not yours.

    Your visitor’s journey through your website should be easy, straight forward, and clear. Front and center should always be what you can do for your customers and nothing should be hidden. An underlooked consideration is also speed. If your site takes more than three seconds to load, you have a problem and your customers aren’t going to wait around for you to fix it.

  • Effective websites are secure.

    Businesses pop up here and there in the press when their security fails and someone makes off with thousands and thousands of users’ data. This seriously damages trusts and, while a big company might be able to weather this, you likely cannot. Never store private or compromising data on your website, never put off security updates, and make sure the code is up to industry standards.

  • Effective websites start with SEO in mind.

    SEO is short for “Search Engine Optimization”. This is important because it helps decides where your company falls in a search engine result when someone searches for your products or services. Targeted keywords, title tags, URL chains, H1 and H2 tags can help your website rank better. Keep in mind that webpages are the ones that rank. Spend time developing each page.

  • Effective websites have your contact information clearly visible.

    This might seem like a no-brainer, but many businesses forget to add this vital information to their site. Worse still is when the contact information is there, but the user has to hunt it down. Stay in line with #5 and keep your contact information easily accessible. The easiest way to do this is to have it in the header, footer, or both.

  • Effective websites embrace responsive design.

    Consumers are no longer only accessing your site from desktops. They’re accessing it from tablets, mobile devices, wearable tech, and more. With the advancement of technology, more devices will be adapted to access the internet. Make sure your website is developed with responsive design so that each consumer, no matter their device, can effectively access your site.

  • Effective websites don’t have eye-straining text.

    You can guard against this with short and simple messages, effective text contrast, and big font. Don’t have long-winded paragraphs, stick with black text on white background, and don’t upload content with tiny font. This goes back to #5 as well–if your user can’t read your website, they will not stay.

It’s no longer enough to just have a website on the internet. Consumers are sharp-eyed and if they get the sense you’re not serious about your website, they’re not going to be either. Worse, this reflects on your business as well. The internet dictates and controls the way many consumers think about and buy products in this day and age. To meet your customers’ expectations and needs, your business site should incorporate the essentials for an effective website.

To read more about web design tips, click our Forbes sources here, here, and here.

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