Every web designer or web developer eventually has a project or build that is full of exciting design elements & nuances that make the design unique. Certain ideas make a website stand out for the simple reason that they are outside the norm – think a left sidebar as the main navigation, or a menu fixed to the bottom of the screen. While these items may not be earth-shattering, they at least let a developer flex a little development muscle.
However, for every individualized design element, each special interaction that’s unique to a website, a user has the opportunity to get lost or confused. In a very real way, the web for businesses has been standardized to a few main ideas that makes sure that user can successfully navigate a website. As a business or any organization that wants a user to DO something on your website, you need to find balance between an innovative and exciting website vs. a website that is simple to navigate.
So, what do you do?
Most of these elements are built to make sure that any given user can go from homepage to desired page easily. For instance, almost every website has a logo in either the top left or centered in the menu bar. Almost every website has a horizontal menu that goes across the header from left to right. Clicking on a logo typically takes the user back to the homepage. Contact information is either in the very top bar or in the footer.
You get the idea. Every web developer is at least relatively familiar with the basics of a typical user experience, as over time, users have been trained to expects certain elements to work the same way across all websites, not just ones they’ve been too before. This pseudo-standardization of web design & development has the chance to take many of the fun and interactive design elements away from the developer, as the developer needs to make sure that any given user doesn’t get frustrated, confused, or lost on a website.
Any time a user has an unexpected result from a click or interaction on a website, it drastically increases the chances that said user will leave the website, from our data across hundreds of websites, by over 30 percent. This pushes organizations to make sure their websites are as vanilla and easy to understand as possible, ensuring the user won’t get lost.
What about an engaging or exciting user experience? If your website is more or less the same as everyone else’s, then what will a user remember about your site that separates from your competitors? Every good marketer knows that if a customer or client can’t remember your brand, you have no real shot at organically acquiring that sale later. You want to have a website that makes an impression, but still adheres to the basic web standards that have been put in place over time.
1) Create Good Content
Whether it’s high-quality images or well-written copy, the area of design that organizations usually are unprepared for is usually the most important: content. The content provided to the designer or developer has a significant impact on what kind of design is implemented. Want to showcase gorgeous pictures of your product? You better actually have gorgeous pictures of your product.
2) Think Outside the Box, Within the Lines
Much like structured/organized writing within journalistic schools of thought, you need to have the ability to be creative within the confines of the existing standards, while still promoting your point – what you want the user to actually do on your website. You may need to have the logo in the top left, but maybe you can have the menu bar behind the logo change colors as the user scrolls down the page. You can try drop shadows for boxed content to get the website a 3D effect, or even video backgrounds behind text.
3) Know the Point of Your Website
Any business needs to make sure their website performs their desired function, whatever it is. That function could be to sell a product or service online, have a user sign up for a newsletter, or just give you a call. The creative web design and development ideas you implement on your website should never detract from your website’s point.
Designed and Functional Website Examples
Take a look at some of these different design screenshots and see a small example of what we’re talking about. Stone Martin Builders had great pictures of beautiful homes, Opelika Power Services has fiber internet services in Opelika they’re promoting, and Alligare is an international herbicide manufacturer.
Each site has a different function and a different opportunity for innovative design. Feel free to check out their individual websites as well.