We’ve all had that subtle but wonderful feeling: visiting a website, clicking around for a minute or two, and just enjoying the experience of being there. There are just some sites that are a pleasure to visit, even if it’s not immediately clear why. Indeed, it can be surprisingly difficult to put your finger on what makes a site more attractive. But here, using a few helpful references and a lot of personal experience bouncing around the Internet, I’m going to take a stab at identifying a few of the key factors.
A Bit of Open Space
A lot of people who are trying hard to design beautiful website ultimately end up overdoing it. There’s a temptation to simply add elements until a site is packed with all kinds of good-looking features. Unfortunately, that kind of clutter can actually detract from the overall effect, even if individual pieces are done to perfection. In one terrific write-up of quick ideas to make a website look nicer, “whitespace” was the second item listed. Describing whitespace as the amount of room between elements on a page, it suggested that most casual users will appreciate a lack of clutter. You want a clean presentation that can be described as at least somewhat minimalist.
If you’re also exploring marketing concepts or ways to grow your site, you’ll undoubtedly come across the assertion that content is king. Any kind of successful website needs to have fresh written content, for all kinds of reasons. But when you’re trying to figure out how to give your site that special, almost intangible appeal, visual content is every bit as important. Particularly today, when people have short attention spans for consuming material online, breaking up your pages with interesting photos (or even your own art or animations if you excel in these areas) can go a long way toward making the site more interesting. There are a wealth of resources out there to assist even the most seasoned web designers in streamlining their web presence and optimizing their presentation of ideas to their visitors.
Consistent Text Themes
One of the quickest ways to make a site look messy is to subject visitors to a lack of cohesion in the text from one page to another. The best websites have established, consistent themes in this area. That means using the same font for the same material (meaning every heading has the same font, bulk content paragraphs are the same, etc.). But that’s the bare minimum. To give your site an extra clean, composed look, you might consider adding some minor personality traits (so to speak) to your content. For instance, you might pick a color that works within your greater design, and use it to write sub-headings or highlight key portions of text. Finding a few themes like this to weave into your site is a subtle touch that goes a long way.
One easy mistake to make as you design your site is to limit focus to the visuals. A lot of that special feeling that attracts you to a great website also comes from functionality and ease of use. One interesting web development platform highlighted this idea by suggesting that a good website doesn’t just look great – it also performs. The site advocates considering user-pathways as part of the experience, and I’d second that advice. The user-pathway is essentially how a visitor gets around on your site. Crisp, intuitive navigation is crucial to the experience someone has on your site, and plays into its overall attractiveness.
Limited Color Schemes
This is a simpler point, but one you should take to heart. Consider some of the sites you most enjoy visiting on a day-to-day basis, and then think: do any of them use more than two or three colors regularly? I’m guessing the answer is no. Most great-looking websites use simple, limited color schemes. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of color, but usually design is limited to just a couple of colors that work well together and help to establish a visual theme.
For the most part, I’ve tried to focus on how to make your site appealing upon a first visit. That’s the most important thing, after all. But for this last point I want to cover the idea of regular updates. To be clear, you don’t want to be updating your site too frequently, nor too radically. Big changes tend to annoy even regular visitors, and frequent changes can be jarring. But you should periodically make a slight change to your design just to keep people interested. Returning visitors will likely see such adjustments as a sign that you’re staying engaged with the site and taking steps to make it as user-friendly as it can possibly be. That’s certainly the impression you want to give.