Keep it Simple
Internet users are a very impatient breed. Don't believe me? Just think about the last time you Googled something. How quickly did you click the "back" button after visiting a website because it didn't instantly grab your attention? Once you've won a click you need to keep that visitor on your website. In order to do this not only does your site's navigation have to be clean and simple, but the purpose of the page itself needs to be clear and obvious. When creating each page on your website you should ask yourself "what is this page about?" If you can't find the answer within the first few seconds of scanning the page then it's time to redesign!
Make Opting In Easy
Sure, we'd all love to collect as much information about our visitors as possible. But asking too much on an opt-in form is a great way to scare that customer away. When it comes to getting customers to 'pull the trigger' less is often more. Make sign-up and opt-in forms short and simple. Asking for name, email address, best time to call, and their question is all you need to generate a quality sales lead while not scaring your prospective customer away.
Direct the User
Focus attention where you want it through clever design. Riding the theme of "less is more", don't be afraid to have empty space on your pages. Strategically located and utilized empty space can do wonders in helping direct user activity to links or forms that you want them to interface with. Users easily get lost on cluttered pages. Think about the geometry of your page and how edges, shapes, and images cause the eye to move. Place important information, buttons, and links on the page then use design elements that will guide users to them.
Don't Be To Different
Many people want their website to be 'different'. While attractive web design is important, realize that standards exist for a reason. Most users have certain expectations when they visit a website based on other websites that they use. If your website differs too significantly from the majority of websites in terms of language or workflow then that learning curve will cause a click of the 'back' button all that much faster. Users expect to see certain things in predicable places. If you make them search for your navigation menu or if you choose some new clever language for your "Sign Up" button then your opt-in button may never get clicked. Unless your idea is really an innovation you might want to stick with what works.
I can't tell you how many times I've visited an aesthetically-pleasing web site only to find it riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Few things can kill your online reputation faster than a website full these types of errors. The whole point of a website is to put your company's best foot forward. Would you place a newspaper ad without proofreading it? Then why would you dream of putting a website online without doing the same? Remember, even if you correct these mistakes later they will always be out there somewhere. Google gives people the option to view historical copies of your website, copies that will contain embarrassing errors. Proof read your copy over and over again!
Optimize Images and Eliminate Complex Backgrounds
Images used strategically can greatly enhance your website. Images used carelessly will make users leave your site before it even finishes loading. Never upload full-size images straight from your digital camera. When you resize images using your HTML editor you're only telling the web browser to scale it down, but the entire image is downloaded at its full size which can dramatically slow down your page's load time. Not only does a slow-loading page frustrate users, it will also cause Google and other search engines to penalize you in terms of search engine ranking.
Simple backgrounds and colors are effective ways of enhancing your website's appearance. Large or busy backgrounds or whimsically-selected colors could make a site hard on the eyes. If your text clashes against the background--no matter how beautiful a background it may be--you have just lost a customer. Simplicity is always the key. Classy elegance sells!
Design and Profit
How you choose to design your website will directly impact how much business the site will generate. The added effort that it takes to create a website that adheres to the best practices in design will pay for itself many times over when compared to a site that is simply thrown up using a wizard or website template. Your website is an investment that could turn into one of the powerful and effective marketing tools in your arsenal and deserves to be treated as such.
If you choose to hire a professional website design company, be sure that their approach incorporates the best practices discussed in this article. If you heed this advice you will be well ahead of the curve when it comes time to launch your new website.