Your brand's website communicates to potential customers whether your business knows what it's doing or not. That's why web design is important as a marketing tool. It highlights the need to invest time and resources into a well-built homepage so it doesn't appear you've settled for a default theme or overly simple layout.
Why design matters
According to researchers from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, a person's eyes take 2.6 seconds to focus on a specific element of a webpage when it loads. The viewer quickly forms an opinion based on what they've seen, so it pays to influence that opinion with a smart design, said Adriana Marin, a freelance art director.
"People have [feelings] about your company based on the experiences that they have had with a brand," Marin said. "A well-designed logo and website inspires confidence because it looks professional. If a company is willing to focus on creating a clean and functional design that is easy to use, then that could be an indicator of what using their product might be like."
"Good design helps to communicate your message, pulls weight to cut through the marketing chatter, and arranges information most effectively for the precise market you're trying to reach," added Lilian Crooks, graphic designer and communications specialist at Harcum College. "Effective design and messaging work in tandem to convey the value of your business legibly and, most importantly, memorably."
Editor's note: If you're looking for information to help you choose the website design service that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site BuyerZone provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.
Keeping it simple
Your landing page should set the tone for your company and provide important information, making it easy for your audience to understand what products or services your business provides.
"Figure out what the most important information is that you need users/customers to take away from that page, and make it extremely easy to find and understand," said Christina Coviello, head of user experience (UX) research at Noom Inc. and a freelance consultant. "Then identify the most important action you'd need users to take on that page and make it prominent and easily accessible."
Particularly, Coviello suggests adding a purchase button on the homepage as a call to action. Whatever call to action you choose, it should engage your audience with your services or products. Likewise, your design should prioritize simplicity over complicated strategy, Coviello added, noting that you should be "explicit and concise with your information, and establish a tone, look and feel that is true to the brand you've created for your business."
You might have a great story to tell, but no one will want to read your About Us page or explore your social media posts if you don't engage your audience right away. But how can you accomplish this?
Cole Sletten, creative director at digital branding agency Ready Set Rocket, said strong visuals do the trick quickly.
"An image can communicate even complex messages quickly, concisely and memorably," Sletten said. "It's this same drive for fast consumption that has evolved the internet from its text-centric roots into an image- and increasingly video-centric [medium]."
Marin also said that eye-catching visuals will set your brand apart. The imagery you use should be relevant to your brand and engage your target audience. When in doubt, keep things direct and simple, she said.
Crooks added that "stock photography and illustration looks like stock photography and illustration." To avoid using the same visuals as another company, consider supporting local artists and designers to create unique, innovative designs.
Additionally, for original design, it's important to keep up with recent software. For instance, Adobe recently announced the Pantone Color of the Year 2019, which Crooks is especially excited about.
"Living Coral is a great, energetic alternative to a more 'precious' pink, and it plays beautifully with a wide array of other colors," she said. "Pantone's annual pick often seems to reflect burgeoning color trends rather than set them."
When you're deciding what your online brand presence should look like, Sletten said it's important to be consistent but not repetitive.
"The best brands ... feel more like real, multifaceted personalities than collections of graphical elements," he said. "Think about the qualities that are unique to your business and that could attractively represent your brand. Then let those qualities drive your logo and website to your Instagram feed and even your storefront, packaging and customer service."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.