Shoddy [website] design is a curse of modern life.
Yes, we know—your website is your baby. And we all believe our baby is the most beautiful, perfect baby on earth. Your baby eats rainbows and poops diamonds. It can do no wrong.
Creative Website Design from www.digitalhollywood.com
But in the real world of creative website design, flaws and oversights both great and small can change the way people perceive your business. “Shoddy [website] design is a curse of modern life,” Alice Rawsthorn wrote for the New York Times in January 2013. “The more dependent we have become on the Internet for information, the likelier we are to suffer from its design deficiencies.”
There are many levels of badness, of course. And at the very least, you’ll want to avoid a shout-out from Web Pages That Suck. Though good for a laugh, Websites Pages That Suck also brings into sharp focus the way well-intentioned designers and marketers go overboard with creative elements – color, contrast, animation, text and more – that fail in an almost epic way.
So if your website doesn’t suck – congratulations! Now, what can you do to make your site one of the best out there? For a start, you can design your creative around five basic rules of web marketing:
1) Your Content and Goals Drive the Creative (Not Vice Versa)
You don’t need to be associated with a cutting-edge industry to have a great website. Take Quo Vadis, a London restaurant, pub, club and bakery. With clear navigation and the charming look of an old English newspaper or woodcut, the site is clear, fun and just plain works. For “click me now” appeal, it’s hard to beat Quo Vadis, whose homepage creatively highlights elements – from menu to bakery to social media sign-up – in a way that makes you want to click through, if only to enjoy some more of the great design on the sub-pages.
Conversely, if your approach is so gosh-darn creative that it subjugates the message – and your visitors don’t even know what business you’re in – that’s a major fail.
2) Make Things Easy to Find
No website visitor should wander around wondering what to click next. If your site is overloaded with pictures, color, blinky lights, auto-play videos and other distractions, a confused visitor is the inevitable outcome. This post on sites with clear calls to action has some great examples of website clarity.
Clean and minimal are the watchwords of website navigation. One of the best creative websites of 2012 uses navigation to its best advantage. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam uses scrolling “hero” images – taken from the museum’s masterpieces, naturally – to guide visitors from one page to the next. And the site is responsive – it adapts well when you resize your browser or open it on your smartphone. The strategy of starting with a responsive design and working backwards to accommodate desktop resolutions works well.
3) Use Technology Intelligently
Think of creative website design options as one of those giant buffet restaurants. Sure, you can gorge yourself on every one of the 150 choices, but the outcome is likely that you’ll make yourself sick.
So who uses technology intelligently? Stride Gum, beautifully integrates a scrolling site with video and social media to not just promote its product but to build a community of fans. Stride’s ad are the pinnacle of non-sequitor, and they do a good job of poking fun at themselves and popular culture. Check out their tongue-in-cheek apple-esque ad:
4) Give Your Website Your “Voice”
Why even embark on a creative website design if it’s going to look like everyone else’s?
1stWebDesigner shows us some great picks for 2012’s “super creative and crazily unique” sites submitted by designers as part of their own portfolios. Each one displays cool typography, easy navigation and tactful use of elements – and then goes a step beyond. These sites give a glimpse into the designers’ personalities and approaches. Give your site your voice.
5) Help Drive Your Visitors to Action
It’s great to have a creative website that grabs eyes, but a truly effective website prompts action. Is your website effective? Does it help vistors accomplish something? Does your website have landing pages that convert, are your CTAs spot on, or does it inform well? Has your website helped somebody lately? If not – time to get to work!
Asa Shatkin is founder and creative director of Shebang Internet Marketing Group, responsible for the development of inbound marketing focused websites and campaigns.
Previously Asa was designer and creative director for Bluegreen Resorts, Ashford.com and Diamond.com, managing online development, content and marketing.
Asa is a regular blogger for "The Marketing Blog" and contributes articles that focus on effective internet marketing.
Connect on LinkedIn