It should go without saying that a core principle of web design is speed of navigation. The entire marketing strategy for an online business should be built, in part, around the idea of directing the right users toward the right content, with the fewest stops along the way.
Toward that end, search engine optimization should strive to target specific segments of the consumer population with specific keywords that will take them directly from a search engine results page to the webpage that is most likely to push them toward a purchase or further engagement. Social media management should make the same sorts of connections between specific followers and the webpages or posts they are most likely to want to see.
These marketing tactics reflect the principle of web design that says potential customers should never have to go searching for the content that will lead them to conversion. Everything – both on the website itself and in the links that it builds across the web – should be streamlined in a way that lets people take the shortest available path from where they are to where they want to be.
But as you work toward fully utilizing this principle of web design, it is important to keep in mind that the shortest possible path is not necessarily the quickest possible trip. While your primary goal should certainly be to lead people straight to where they want to go, you should consciously avoid rushing them to leave, as well.
The longer a visitor is willing to hang around on your website, the more likely they are to acquire additional information about your company and the products or services that they might be interested in even though they didn’t visit your site specifically to find them. That willingness to stick around is also a good sign that you’re effectively applying not just the principle of streamlining but also each other core principle of web design.
Effective website navigation gets a visitor from point A to point B, but an attractive web design aesthetic makes them want to also go from point B to point C and beyond. Well-written web content makes sure that their visits to each destination are as informative and engaging as they can be. Interactive elements increase the likelihood of interested parties return to make further explorations of the site over and over again.
To effectively apply each of these features, you must avoid situations in which one of them overpowers the others. If you overdo one principle of web design and make your website too streamlined, your visitors are liable to view it as a place to quickly collect information or make a transaction and then bail out, perhaps without noticing crucial updates or announcements that would stimulate interest in someone who is taking a slower approach to the visit.
Part of a web design company’s task, therefore, is to slow down visitor engagement in strategic ways. At a glance, this may sound like a simple task. But as a principle of web design, it is easy to misuse or to use in the wrong places or times. The real challenge for a professional web designer is to slow down engagement in a way that doesn’t announce to site visitors that they are being slowed down. While it’s relatively easy to put up a stop sign and compel law abiding motorists to stop, it’s much more challenging to erect a piece of art that makes certain passersby pull over and admire the sight for a moment before moving on to their destination.
Arresting Images and Text
So what do these strategic stopping points look like? There isn’t any single answer, but there are some fairly obvious examples of site elements that a web design company can put into place to achieve this nuanced principle of web design.
Eye-catching images are one such example, although simple aesthetic appeal or vibrancy is not sufficient to elicit the sort of reaction you’re really going for when you try to strategically slow down visitor experience. Images must convey information that actually prompts site visitors to think about what they’re seeing, and consider whether they want to seek out additional information related to it.
For ecommerce websites, this principle of web design is a fairly simple one to apply. It may involve little more than strategically placing images of related products on web pages or within social media posts that deal with something else that visitors were seeking out directly. Alternatively, images can serve to demonstrate the usage of a specified product, thereby inspiring visitors to imagine how they might emulate or alter the scene after purchasing it themselves.
For websites that are selling something less tangible or less visual, there are other design elements that can have a similar effect of arresting the visitor on his way from a search engine results page to his ultimate destination on the site. For instance, by highlighting specific pieces of text with different typefaces or creative framing, web designers can draw attention to key concepts and pieces of information, potentially sparking enough interest to make people read more closely and stay on the website longer.
As much as streamlined user experience is a vital principle of web design, it has to take a back seat to a valuable principle of life in general: moderation in all things. A website that simply pushes visitors down a slide from the search engine results to a checkout page is surely efficient, but it may be brutally so. That is a desirable feature for the individual transaction, but not for the website’s broader reputation and performance.
To improve performance without sacrificing efficiency, a site should balance each core principle of web design against the others. If it can accomplish this, it can most likely leave visitors with the feeling that they are capable of navigating the site in mere moments, but also that they just don’t want to.