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Website Design Principles for Small/Medium Business Websites

At Webstix, we've been doing website design since 2001. We've seen a lot of changes during that time (and before, of course - we've been in the game since 1994). We have also worked with a lot of clients during that time - easily 1000 clients or more if you include all of our website maintenance clients. I'd say we have a pretty good idea how to do website design for small to medium (and large) sized businesses. We're not saying we know it all but we're qualified to talk about the subject.

Let's discuss what goes into good business website design.

The User Experience!

If you're designing a website for a business, you really want to think about the website visitor... the "user" our programmers would say. Your website isn't really not about you looking fancy and showing off but about providing the best user experience possible. The person visiting your website must be comfortable with your website. This means your website must be intuitive.

End of Web Design (www.nngroup.com)

Jakob's Law of the Internet User Experience

Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know.

This Law is not even a future trend since it has been ruling the Web for several years. It has long been true that websites do more business the more standardized their design is. Think Yahoo and Amazon. Think "shopping cart" and the silly little icon. Think blue text links.

Blue links? Ok, this was written back in 2000, but they have a point. People spend most of their time on other websites - so not your website. This means your website shouldn't be radically different from the norm or people won't know what to do when they get to your website. They'll be frustrated and look for another result.

The problem with website design is that there's no official standard formula that everyone has to follow. That's both a positive and a negative:

  • It's a positive because creativity can reign. That's how change and innovation happens.
  • It's a negative because creativity can reign. Designers can go overboard and get out of control.

There's no standard formula but some trends have definitely emerged. Trends like:

  • The logo at the top left
  • Phone number at the top
  • Navigation across the top
  • Scrolling vertically, not horizontally

Stuff like that.

There are things that people are used to. If every website was different and some had the navigation at the top, some on the side, some having it on the bottom and some in the middle, then using websites would be tough for people.

Because people use other websites most of the time, your website needs to follow the same conventions that most other websites use. Yes, that's boring but would you rather be one of the "cool kids" or have your website work well for your business?

The Webstix Difference: Planning and Experience

When we design a website, we're designing it for the website visitor. We do careful planning and put things in certain places for a reason. The reason is we know what works from our years of experience. We show wire frames (layout without design) and then go into design once we know everything is in the right place. The result is a better design with a better user experience.

Design With Consulting

Ok, sometimes we get prospects in that want something really fancy. They want to do things completely different because they feel their company is different (or some other reason). Because we consult with clients as we work with them, we then have to explain why what they're proposing might not work very well and why they might be wasting their money doing it how they want. Usually, we win our case but sometimes they still want to do things their way. If we end up doing a website design project that greatly varies from the standard, then we make sure they absolutely understand why we think it might give them their best return on investment.

Or we might talk to a client that wants their company name flying in and dancing around or something like that. Although we admire their creativity, we have to explain other ways to better spend their money on their website.

Awesome website design is what is best for the website visitor.

It needs to answer questions like:

  • What is this website about?
  • Who is this company?
  • Would I trust this company?
  • Where are they located?
  • How do I contact them?

You must take care of the basic needs of the person using your website. This is true if they enter via your home page or an inside page (any page other than your home page). If you cannot answer basic questions, you lose trust and they will leave. You only have a few seconds to do this, too!

Fast Loading Time

Since you only have a few seconds, your website must load quickly. This is a requirement. If it doesn't load in a few seconds, people will leave and go to your competition. Even loading 1 second faster makes a huge difference!

Speed Is A Killer – Why Decreasing Page Load Time Can Drastically Increase Conversions (blog.kissmetrics.com)

...nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.


How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line (blog.kissmetrics.com)

A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.

Did you read that? A 1 second delay can mean a 7% reduction in conversions - you know, people who take action on your website... be it a purchase, calling you, emailing you, liking your page, etc. So yeah, speed matters - a lot!

Webstix has cracked the PageSpeed code! We know how to make websites that load VERY fast. We have the proof. We know we're the best in the area, too. It's something you can test yourself - so it's not us saying we're the best at this, it's Google!

Many Devices

The same website design needs to work well on every device. This is what responsive website design means. It responds to the screen size it's being viewed on and dynamically adjusts to work best on that device. That's no small feat but there are great tools ("frameworks" we call them) to help us accomplish this easily... as long as you know what you're doing, of course.

Guess what? Mobile search is converting! People using mobile devices are turning into customers:

Mobile Search is Converting. Do You Know Why? (websitemagazine.com)

The proof is in. Mobile searchers are ready to buy. They are taking action from the local search engine result pages by making in-store visits and calling businesses near them to find out more.

If your website isn't optimized for mobile devices, you're not even showing up. Google adjusted this in April of 2015.

Web Browsers

Not only does that fact that there are many devices matter but there are also many web browsers. Check out this Wikipedia page that shows all notable web browsers. There are hundreds of them. Think about devices like the XBox or Playstation that have their own web browsers built in plus tablets, phablets, Linux computers and more.

Here's a sample list:

  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Chrome
  • Opera
  • SeaMonkey
  • Flock
  • Prism
  • Internet Explorer
  • Deepnet Explorer
  • Avant
  • Maxthon
  • Camino
  • Shiira
  • OmniWeb
  • iCab
  • Stainless
  • Fluid
  • Konqueror
  • Galeon
  • Epiphany
  • Swiftfox
  • Swiftweasel
  • Midori
  • uzbl
  • KidZui
  • Voyager
  • Dillo
  • Slim Browser
  • KidRocket
  • Epic
  • Iron Browser
  • Comodo Dragon

We cannot support them all because there are some pretty obscure ones out there but your website will work well on all major web browsers. Supporting every possible browser would cost our clients too much and it's not worth doing.

Website Conversion

Next to the user experience is conversion. You need to convert website visitors into leads, prospect, followers or customers.

If your website gets 200 visitors a day and you convert 10 of them, then that's only 5%. What if you could get double, triple or more conversions with the same traffic?

We get clients that call us and want to rank higher. That's great but the first thing to look at is conversions. If a website only converts 5% and you send double the traffic to it, it's still only going to convert 5%. First rework the website to convert better and THEN send more traffic to it. That only makes sense.

So when clients say they want to rank higher, what they really want is more leads and conversions. This is an important point.

Better converting websites:

  • Have more call to action statements
  • Better present what you do
  • Clearly explain what problems you solve
  • Look better on all devices
  • Collect leads and build your email list

Both business owners and website designers can become blind to a design when looking at it too much. There's also emotional attachment to design. These things are sometimes difficult for business owners to overcome. What you need is a fresh set of eyes looking at your business and your website to help make it better at converting traffic into leads and sales.


Website design isn't about looking cool. It's not about being the "cool kids." Yes, your website should look good (that's our tagline, after all) but that's not the main thing. The main thing is the user experience - looking good to the website visitor. Next on the list is converting website visitors into leads/prospects and customers.

From what our clients tell us, we're not a typical website design company. We're better at communicating. We do business consulting. We aim to make your website a tool that provides return on investment. We're your partner.

We're also not the cheapest website design firm. We're not the most expensive either. You get what you pay for. If you just want a website to get that item off your to-do list, then call the other guys. If you realize that your website is a hugely important part of your business marketing, then contact Webstix. We'd love to help you.


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