When designing websites for commercial purposes your key focus should be who you’re designing for. It doesn’t matter how much you like your site; if your audience doesn’t enjoy using it, you’re not going to have much success.

There are very simple ways of improving web design and tried and tested methods of ensuring customers have a streamlined, pain-free experience in surfing it. Your website should appeal to the type of people who are going to buy your product or consume your content online.

There are some really basic ways of finding out exactly who it is that uses your site and what they like and dislike about it. Google Analytics and pop-up polls can give you a clear sense of your demographic and who they are. Focus on key groupings; age-brackets, region of origin, gender. Consider who they might be, why your site might be appealing to them and how you can make it better. Look at how long people are spending on your site, what they’re looking at and where they enter and exit from. Who are your greatest referral sites? Is it your personal Twitter or a recommendation on another site? What does this tell you about the person who’s visiting you? Maybe they’re very active on social media, or maybe they also like a website about cats. Some things might seem silly, but if you pay attention, keep up with the trends and implement what you’ve learned, you’ll often find that traffic and conversation rates boom.

There’s some very basic demographic design rules that you can find anywhere on the web. Websites made for adults are nearly always black on white, with clear, familiar fonts. Even if their background or font is a different colour, it’ll have been carefully chosen – nothing too bright, nothing too dominating. You want your text to be clear and inviting to read, not overwhelming or difficult to look at for long periods. Reading from a backlit screen tires the eyes, so using bright or conflicting colours can often disorientate or exhaust a consumer. If they have to make a forced effort to read your description, they’re probably not going to want to buy the product.

However, children respond well to bright colours and slightly more flamboyant fonts. To compensate, however, your text should be short, simple and incredibly snappy. While you can be a little bit more creative, children need clear section divisions and guidelines on how to negotiate the site, since they’re unlikely to have a clear focus on navigating to where they want to be. They’re impulsive, so creating vibrant links to your best content is an easy why of guiding younger audiences to web games, educational material or products they can sneakily convince their parents to buy.

Similarly, your website doesn’t need to be riddled with ‘flash’. There doesn’t need to be fancy sliders or flying graphics on every page. Businesses that do this and are successful have usually done so for a reason: they’re concentrating on promoting a certain aspect or product on their site, or they’re trying to impress the customer when it comes to their design and art style – which directly relates to what they’re selling.

Nike trainers, for example, will often implement a lot of flashy graphics, but they’re promoting fashionable footwear – the streamlined, bold design of the graphics directly links in with the streamlined, bold designs on the trainers.

Big sites that do this have got experienced and expensive teams of top-end designers and coders. They use various tricks that let the website carry a lot of information without slowing it down, which is important. Stats show that about 30% of customers will start to abandon a site after five seconds of load time, so websites that look impressive but run very slowly because of it are probably losing out.

So not only is it better for usability, but the latest trend in web design is simplicity. Modern customers like spacious, clean design with simple features. If the feature your customers use the most is a search bar, tailor your design so it highlights that area of the site and set secondary features back, blending them more with the background theme.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the land of cutting-edge, bespoke web design and spend lots of time sharpening up the latest CSS tricks. But, unfortunately, most of it is irrelevant to ease-of-use design and audience satisfaction. The ultimate rule of web design is to remember who you’re designing for and make every aspect of your site about them, not for your inner design demon.

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