The typical website has some fairly standard features, such as forms and CTA buttons, but you may have overlooked many other features that add value to your site. Every year, new trends and standards filter their way into the design world. While it’s good to add new things and keep up with the trends, there are also some traditional features you’ll want to make sure you have, no matter what is and isn’t trending.
There are nearly 2 billion websites online, but not all are active sites. Still, you’re competing against a high number of other sites to grab people’s attention. If you want your site to stand out and to keep the visitors once they do land on your page, you should add as many of the following 17 features as possible.
Social media is here to stay. Experts predict 2.95 billion people will be on social media by 2020. However, those people have to find your business easily, and one way to ensure your current customers and leads find you is to include social media links on your website. It’s relatively straightforward to add links or icons that encourage people to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more. How you implement your social media links is up to you, but the key is to get them out there and start gaining followers now.
What value does your brand bring to the table that no other brand does? Make this clear to your readers from the moment they land on your page. If you have the best customer service out of any companies in your field, share some testimonials about this from satisfied customers. If you have a stellar safety record, show consumers how you stack up to your competitors. Highlight what makes you unique and better than the competition.
Mini animations are on the rise, and users respond well to features that bring a website to life. Things such as hover features allow the user to stay engaged with your website. A hover feature might be as simple as a button changing colors when you place your mouse over it, or as advanced as elements dropping in from the side or top of the page or a video playing.
Houck does a good job using the hover feature. When you hover over any of the image boxes in their grid-style layout, the page animates and becomes text rather than an image. The hover makes it clear exactly what you’re looking at, such as flooring or industrial repair systems. It’s also fun for the user to run the cursor over different boxes and learn more about the site and the different offerings of the company.
You’ve probably noticed more and more sites using hero images to draw site visitors in. Hero images are typically part of the background design, with text layered over the top. Keep in mind the image needs to be highly relevant to your brand and topic at hand. You also need to pay attention to the color palette of the text you’ll use. You want high contrast, so if your text is white, you’ll need an image with dark colors to serve as the background.
About one-third of all online activity is video viewing. People respond to videos, which is why incorporating them into your web design is a smart move. People process images better than text, so you can say a lot in less time with a video. Consider using a looping video as the background of your landing page. However, you can also add instructional videos that allow the user to see your product in action.
Mobile responsiveness is no longer an option — it is a necessity. Google even ranks your site based on how well it adapts to mobile devices now, so if you want to rank well and reach the many users who access the Internet via their smartphones, you’ll need to ensure your site is mobile-friendly. Seventy-two percent of people state they want a mobile-friendly website, but many small businesses haven’t achieved that goal.
Content is still king when it comes to drawing people to your website, and quantity isn’t nearly as important as quality. Try to answer the common questions your site visitors have, and make sure your content covers material your competitor’s content does not. Keep in mind, content is more than just articles, but includes images, videos and possibly things such as guides and infographics.
Urban Decay has a blog area called All Access where they share tips on how to use their products. Note the big, vivid and highly relevant images highlighting their products. They gear their topics toward a younger audience, which is their main demographic, so you’ll see topics such as how to make your makeup last all night or ways to command attention.
If you want to build a level of trust with your readers, your contact info needs to be easy to find and clearly laid out. Include a toll-free phone number. Add live chat so users can reach you during business hours and get instant hours. Add an address and email information. Basically, you want to show users that if they order from you and have a problem, they have a way to get in touch with you. Consumers who have had negative experiences in the past want to know they have a way to contact you if things don’t go as planned.
In one study, researchers found people expect the logo to link to the homepage. Not only that, but the logo placement should be predictable as well. People use the logo as a marker for the entire website and a sort of shortcut back to home.
Obviously, your site needs navigation so site visitors can go where they want. However, is your navigation structure straightforward and intuitive? Go through your navigation as though you are a first-time site visitor. Ask others to test your navigation and adjust as needed.
Note how simple and intuitive the navigation is on Adriatic Luxury Hotels. The horizontal navigation bar across the top features the main categories for the site. They also have linked their logo to the home page, serving as an anchor for the rest of the navigation.
If you run an e-commerce site, take time to add breadcrumb navigation, or a trail of links to show where users have been on their journey through the site. So, if a visitor to a clothing site navigates to women’s, coats and finally ski vests, they can go back to any of the main categories by clicking on a link that shows where they’ve been.
Eighty-four percent of consumers state they trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a personal friend. Reviews are a powerful tool that helps build trust with your target audience. Add a link to your Google reviews page or allow users to add reviews. You can also offer testimonials from happy customers, but these aren’t quite as convincing as a review is.
Choose a font that’s easy to read, no matter what size screen consumers use. Choose a font that adapts to mobile devices and is easy to read on all types of devices. The font should have good contrast and a heavy enough stroke weight to appear vivid. At the same time, you don’t want such a heavy font that it looks ridiculous and blocky on a larger screen.
One trend in recent years has been custom typography, which includes larger fonts that look better with a specific style. Think about some influential newspapers, such as the New York Times, and how unique their typography is. You’ll see larger type for the headlines, which pulls the reader in and instantly makes the site recognizable. Don’t be afraid of custom fonts and making the size larger for headlines.
The New York Times has been around for more than a century and a half and has an established font for their print newspaper. They’ve translated this online with a digital version of the font that works well and adapts to different screens. Note the unique swirls and angles of the letters for the title of the site. At the same time, they’ve chosen a type for their headlines that is a bit simpler than the script font of the title, but meshes well because the serifs are similar.
Pull up research on search bars, and you’ll find sharply divided opinions. Some people insist they are a must-have item, while others say you can do without them. The truth is somewhere in the middle and depends a lot on your particular audience. A search bar is an excellent function because it allows visitors to search for a specific item and save time, thus improving the user experience. However, if the search function returns too many results or results that are off-base, it is an aggravation, and you’re better off removing it until you can perfect the process.
Your call to action (CTA) invites site visitors to do something specific, such as subscribing to an email list or taking advantage of a coupon offer. If you want to convert visitors into customers, you need a strong CTA. Many factors play into how well your CTA performs, including first-person wording, the color of the button and even the placement on the page. Your best bet is to try different styles and wording and conduct split testing until you perfect your CTA.
One important feature you need on your website that isn’t anything at all is white space. If you clutter up your page with too much stuff, visitors may feel overwhelmed and bounce away from your site. An aesthetically pleasing site has a nice balance of positive and negative that allows the eyes a break from time to time and helps set off important content.
These are just 17 things every website owner should take a look at and implement where needed. However, many intricate components make up your site, and how those pieces work with your particular target audience varies. Your best course of action is to rework your site, conduct A/B testing and continuously make tweaks until your site visitors respond to your website design and features.
Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She loves researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
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