There is but one objective when designing a website.
To get the user to take a desired action.
If you sell products, it’s to purchase your product. If you sell services, it could be to fill out a contact form or call your business. It could also be email collection or lead generation. It could be multiple of these.
For all of them, the basic objectives of website design is the same. Convince your users to take some action. The rest of the objectives and goals will make it easier to achieve the main objective.
If you’re looking to start your first website, the process is simple. Getting it right however, takes a keen eye and a lot of work.
Table of contents
Basic Objectives of Design & UX For Website Design
Landing Page Visual / Design Leads to CTA’s
In short, every page of your website (with very few exceptions) should have some action that you want your audience to take.
You may want them to sign up to your email list, read the next article, add product to cart, etc. Even if the page is 100% monetized by display ads, you still want them to view another page to load another set of ads.
I’d also be remise if I didn’t mention a professional looking website design. While it’s probably my weakest attribute, you cannot have your website look perfectly stock.
Email Capture and Consumer Journey
You don’t necessarily have to have an enormous popup begging users for their email address. However, your design, at minimum, should be allowing users to sign up for a newsletter. If your main objective isn’t email capture, you should still do it. It’s a channel that you own that allows for free marketing in the future.
Navigation and Site Architecture
There’s a lot to look at here and no perfectly correct answer on what it should look like. It depends on your categories, amount of content, etc. You’ll likely want to flatten your architecture and make sure every page is reachable by 3 clicks for a moderate size site.
Since the goal is to drive your users to take an action, you should design your site architecture to be as simple as possible to point people to that action.
Fonts and Typography
Just because something’s pretty or cool to you, doesn’t mean the user can easily read it. Ensure your typography is an easy to read font, with a contrasting background, and sized appropriately.
The internet has been around for over 30 years. There’s no reason to have a black background and white text. The colors of your background, links, text, and headers matter.
Anything too far from the norm causes a poor user experience and makes it difficult for the user to take the desired action of your website.
You have two options here unless you’re an enormous website. Trust me. You’re not that big. 😉
If you’re on Shopify, you don’t have much of a choice in URL structure unfortunately.
Your website design should consider the fact that users will show up on mobile and desktop.
Google Search Console will tell you if your pages are mobile friendly if you use the URL Inspection tool or look under Experience → Mobile Usability.
You should also visit every page/template on your site on mobile to see how users view your site on mobile. Check every part of your website. Navigation, links, etc.
Your website should be designed similar to other websites, but it *should not* look stock.
The quickest way to tell that a website is new or built by a beginner is to spot a default favicon and/or no custom branding of the site.
Basic Objectives of Content For Website Design
Thin Content & Useless Pages
There’s a lot of reasons to have and keep thin pages. “I didn’t check it or think about it.” is not one of them.
Get rid of pages that aren’t providing value to your users. You can do this visually, but I’ve found an audit tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs better for this.
Having users land on useless pages is a surefire way to have them bounce and take no action.
Alt Text on Images
Let’s me be honest here. This one I rarely do. It takes a lot of time and I usually forget. If you want to compete in Google Image Search or give more context to Google for your page, you should do this.
Aside from SEO, alt text is design for your blind users. This text gives their screen readers context to what’s on the page.
Proper Headings Breaking Up Content
Almost every page or email I send out, I write a brief outline first. I structure the big points in H2’s and if need be add H3’s and H4’s as sub categories. This is called a content semantic tree.
I won’t make this it’s own bullet, but you should also have images/graphs/etc. breaking up content.
This design tweak helps your users read your material more easily.
Author Profiles if Multiple Authors
If you have multiple authors on your site, each author should have it’s own fully built out author page that details expertise and linking out to relevant profiles. This is not only to build trust for your audience but to act as domain authority signals to Google.
If it’s just you, have a fully fleshed out about page similar to the above.
Linking Between Pages
I use SEMRush site audit to check this along with visualizing how difficult it is to reach each page.
You should link your pages together to allow users to learn more, stay on your site longer, and pass PageRank and relevancy between pages.
Check for Broken Links
SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog are great for this. Not only are you missing opportunities to pass PageRank to your own pages, you’re also providing a poor user experience.
If a user lands on a broken page, they’re sure to bounce and not come back.
Custom 404 Page
This is two fold. First you should have a custom 404 page to lead visitors to another page on your site. If it’s just “not found” visitors will 99% leave because they were looking for a specific page. This is your opportunity to try to keep them engaged on your site.
Secondly, you should periodically do a backlink analysis on your 404 page and build redirects to similar pages that the users were trying to find.
Privacy, Terms, Shipping, Returns, Etc Pages in Footer
This is partially to signal that you’re a real business. The other part is that Google and other platforms will not allow you to advertise your products without these pages.
The design choice to have them visible or not is an easy objective to fulfill to build trust with your audience.
Basic Objectives of Technical Build For Website Design
I have an entire article on this. Site Speed is not only a ranking factor but slow site speed provides a poor user experience and increases bounce rate.
In 2022, this is a basic website design objective that can’t be overlooked.
While I don’t check this regularly, if you find issues/bugs on your site that you can’t explain, it’s worth it to take a look.
You can find JS errors by opening up your console on your site. ctrl+shift+j for windows users.
While this isn’t a design choice, having these installed allows you to track users to ensure your objectives are being met efficiently.
See the full article on implementing Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Google Search Console.
Google Search Console Checks
Check out my post on Google Search Console. There’s a wealth of information in there that will help you improve your site. Much of it overlaps with the rest of the lister here.
URLs Canonical Correctly
This is one of the fastest ways to confuse users and tank your rankings quickly. Confusing Google on which page to rank will lead to neither page ranking very high.
I use Link Redirect Trace or SEO Analysis by WooRank browser extensions to check for this quickly.
I generally don’t check the SSL unless Chrome doesn’t give me the lock icon when I visit a site.
If I do have to check it, I will utilize SSL Shopper.
Having your site secure tells the users that they can trust your website. Modern browsers even warn users when this isn’t the case.
While you should be checking this while you’re checking your site speed, it’s important enough to break it out. Some websites have so many, so many incorrectly sized, and so many uncompressed images, that it can really mess with site performance and user experience.
While you can download an image and check the size manually or use Chrome dev tools, from a compression point of view, I’ve found no easier tool than tinypng’s site analyzer.
In addition to compressing the images, you should also look at resizing them to make them smaller.
Wrapping Up The Basic Objectives of Website Design
The above is a high level list of things you should look out for. When looking through the above, other things will catch your eye that you need to dive into that aren’t mentioned above.
As a final reminder, the basics of website design is to get the user to take a desired action.
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If you're looking at how to start your own website, I've created an easy guide for that too.