When a user first visits your website, the first thing that they’re going to notice is what the website looks like – navigation, services, great links, and quality content will all come later. Because first impressions count, it’s important that your website looks professional. The next step is to make sure your website IS professional, by helping users find exactly what they’re looking for.
1. Pay Attention to Fonts
Fonts are a quick and easy way to change the look and feel of your webpage, making it look more fun, more goofy, more serious, or more down-to-business. Picking a font that matches your company’s style and culture is essential to a look that is professional, modern and distinctive. It sets the tone for the entire page. Larger fonts should be used for headings and subheadings, titles, and important need-to-know information. Choose fonts that are easy to see (not super tiny), easy on the eyes (no ridiculously bright colors), and are easy to read (lots of curls can be hard to make out).
2. Background is Important
Backgrounds can be simple or sophisticated, ranging from just a single color tone that’s easy on the eyes, to a photo that’s enticing and mesmerizing. It shouldn’t be too overwhelming, and it should reflect your business’s unique brand style. Here AirBnB does a great job of making a stranger’s apartment look welcoming.
3. Use Big Images
One of the easiest ways to make your website really standout, look more professional, and increase user engagement is to use big, high-quality, beautiful imagery. The technique is one that’s used by some of the biggest brands. Take Apple for example with the launch of their iPhone 6. If you want to immediately build credibility and draw the user in, a big beautiful photo is a great way to go.
4. Keep it Simple
No one likes a cluttered site – it’s hard to look at, and even harder to navigate. Your website should be kept clean and clutter free, well organized, and great at directing users exactly where they need to go. One publishing platform known for the effectiveness of its simplicity is Medium.
5. Make it Easy for People to Learn More About You
One of the easiest ways to make your website look much more professional is to have a section where people can find links for discovering all that they need to know about your business. Typically, this is at the bottom of a website, and will include links for contact information, your about page, career section, and more. If you don’t include all of the information that people are used to seeing in a site’s footer, you can lose some credibility.
6. Use Basic Logos
Logos that are complex – with too many colors and too many different fonts – can be distracting to a first-time visitor to the site. Instead of going for something too bright or too bold, aim for something that’s simple, straightforward, and visually appealing. After the memorable Twitter logo, Biz Stone did not disappoint with the logo for his new company, Jelly; memorable, recognizable, simple, and explains the brand name in logo form.
7. Consider Implementing Icons
Much like a logo, an icon can be a simple way to represent an idea or a command in picture form, and can greatly improve the professional look and feel of your site. Icons don’t have to be complex, and they don’t have to be used for everything. For example, an example of an icon that’s nearly universal and directs a user to where they need to go is the shopping cart icon, which represents, of course, an online shopping cart. Square does an excellent job of communicating concepts efficiently and beautifully through icons.
8. Choose a Color Scheme
A color scheme is an important part of a professional website, and much like text and background, can highly influence the immediate like-ability and appeal of your site. A color scheme should be consistent throughout your website, so that users don’t constantly have to readjust each time they visit a different page. A color scheme should also be chosen to fit your business goals and website theme – pink might not be appropriate for a company focusing on local produce and recycling, just like green might not be appropriate for a company that focuses on princess costumes for children. Here’s Evernote.com use of a consistent color scheme.
9. Do Design Research
There is no one answer to a great website design. Some use images alone for navigation, others use drop down lists, yet others use blocks of information that a user must scroll through to find what they’re looking for. Some websites are long, some are short, some have lots of connected pages, some don’t. It’s important that you are familiar with what’s possible. Researching what other people are doing is the best way to contribute great ideas to your design process. While you may prefer a website, like the Apple example above, that features one central image with links to surrounding information, you may also prefer a website that offers many images all on one page. You won’t know if you don’t do the research. 99 designs.com is great place to start to get a sense of what is out there and who can help you create it.
This may all seem a little overwhelming for us non-designers, but as long as you’re aware of the elements that make for a well designed website, it will be much easier for you to communicate to a designer why you don’t think something looks professional. While your visceral reaction is usually something you want to trust, how you communicate that reaction will help your designer tremendously, and make your visitors feel welcome when they land on your page.