When it comes to designing websites, there’s no shortage of philosophies to get you going. If you come from the graphic design world, you’re interested in making a website pretty. You’ll be thinking of the aesthetics of the website, the use of color and space. If you’re a web developer, you’re thinking about how the website works what coding is needed. And if you’re a copywriter, you’re thinking about the user experience (UX), the reader's psychological journey, and where you want them to go ultimately.
Don’t Make Me Think, revisited by Steve Krug, book, is one of the best investments you can make to design your website. Even if you’re not skilled, you’ll learn the fundamentals of website implementation.
Steve Krug understands that a website is more than a brochure – which is part of its evolution to a powerful tool to generate income. He applies simple logic to adding and subtracting elements, words, images, and pages to your website.
Designing Your Website - Defined
Naturally, I’m voting for the copywriter to be the architect of your website. They understand the user experience and how a high-converting website should be laid out.
The user experience is a priority in all things, from in-person events to the unboxing of an Apple product with its style, function, and sensual experience. Yes, I’ve got a couple of these. If you’ve opened an Apple product box, you know what I’m talking about. The way it opens and the sounds it makes are carefully engineered to excite the user.
Your website needs to excite the reader. They need to figure out who you are and what you do, a.s.a.p. In a perfect world, the information needs to flow and delight the reader. The user experienced is judged by the intuitive nature of your sight; does the reader naturally move through the site to learn more?
It needs to be so simple that anyone can use it. It’s really simple. No extra bells, whistles, or stunning images are required.
For most people’s needs, special coding isn’t needed anymore on websites. You need to know how to make changes, updates, and additions without taking a college course in website development. Drag and drop elements are plentiful, making tweaking your website a snap. Run if you hear you need special coding for your website because once you start, you can’t walk that back. It has become a tattoo.
I have changed my website so many times I’ve lost count. But if my business needs to pivot, my website will pivot too.
What to Do If You’re Not Sure About Your Website
Steve Krug lives by his headline, Don’t Make Me Think – it’s the perfect rule of thumb. When you’re considering different elements, ask yourself, does it make sense. Everything needs to be self-evident.
I can’t tell you how aggravated and frustrated I’ve been filling forms on government websites that don’t make sense. They will use a double negative in a question, so you don’t know if you’ve answered it right or not. It’s like the old question – are you still beating your wife? No matter how you answer, it’s terrible.
Consider the other person who doesn’t know what you know. They’ve had a hard day, frustrated with the kids, just finished throwing dinner together, dishes are cleaned up, and know they’re searching the web for a replacement water filter for the refrigerator. Because the darn light keeps flashing, telling me that I’m now compromising my family’s health with an outdated water filter.
When they come to your site, they can’t figure out if the filters you’re selling work with my refrigerator's make and model. I have to scroll and read and compare – I even have to find the part number from the online manual to make sure I’m ordering the right part.
Life just doesn’t get easy… unless your website is designed to help me breeze through all this mess.
Readers scan websites. They scan – not read from left to right on the page.
What’s the Payoff for the Reader?
The simple lessons we learned early in life are foundational for you today. Remember when you learned how to group like items together? That was a critical life lesson because you learned:
- Nest things together
- Put things that are similar together – socks, blocks, by color
- Size is also important when putting things together
You’ll quickly look over something that has been grouped together to find what you’re looking for. We’re organizing and processing information quickly.
But when things are just scattered around, our minds are confused. We’re not sure where to look, and you’re starting to make me think… not good.
That’s why we like lots of white space. It’s easy on the eyes. Speaking of white space, 99% of the time, you want your site to have a light or white background. The edgy look of a dark background with light or white writing is hard to read. A section or two is acceptable, but that is it.
Keep your fonts simple. Consider what your competition is using or even Google. Pick one that is easy to read.
How to write…
This one is tricky to implement. Krug references William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style rule number seventeen.
17. Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph so unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. Strunk and White
Significant point. Write out what you think should be in each section, let it rest overnight or more. Go back to it and ruthlessly edit out unnecessary words.
A website page should be only as long as it needs to be unless you’re designing a sales page. If you feel that more information is required, it can be placed on a secondary page with a link bridging the pages together.
When you’re starting out, a website needs a Home, About, and Contact pages.
Each page has a mission. The Home page needs to tell me quickly what the site is about and what it’s for, and why I should be there instead of elsewhere. Depending on your business model, different styles will make more sense than others. Krug goes into great detail on the Home page design that you’ll walk away with tangible ideas for yours.
A quick tip about the About page: it is one of the most misunderstood pages on websites. It is not your resume. It is about how you help or serve your customer. Your background story is only as important as it applies to your customer. Your reader is looking for validation that you understand them. Don’t waste their time with all your degrees, where you lived, traveled, or your favorite colors.
You do want to sound human, but only as it relates to your reader. An example:
I became a chef because I loved feeding people from the first time my grandmother taught me to make meat sauce with her.
The Next Steps
Get Steve Krug’s book; you’ll be so glad you did. Even if you hire someone to design, write, and put all the parts together, you’ll understand what’s happening. Your team will love working with you to create the best website possible, and you’ll appreciate their ideas. The truth is putting a website together is hard work, and it takes time. There’s a reason why people charge big bucks for websites. Lots of thinking goes into not making people think when they get to your site.
In summary: As a copywriter, it’s all about the user experience along with the words and human psychology rolled into one big package. I strive to make it a wonderful experience that takes the reader on a journey of knowledge and fulfillment.
If you'd like to chat about your next project, reach out at Linda@shinyobjectmarketing.com
Linda James Bennett; day 26 of 365 writing an article every day, making you a shiny object in the world.