Websites have changed quite a bit over the past several years and, as an avid SEO, I’ve seen my fair share of design trends come and go. As much as it’s fun to play around with the delivery of your content through unique design, there are certain elements of a website that should always be included. Modern website composition caters to expert content delivery and should always include the following elements:
The brains of your operation and the top of your website, which may or may not include your navigation, is the piece of your home page with the most at stake. Whether it’s a call to action, your company’s tagline or links to your social media profiles, your site’s header should be clean, concise and informative. Because it’s consistently above the fold, your header must also be the driving force behind all site traffic.
Is your menu set up to promote your most popular content? Is it easy for readers to find your contact information? Are there too many links? Should it be fixed to the top? These are all questions you should ask yourself and your web designer before any design is finalized. What works for one site may not work for another and that’s ok! Most sites include main navigation in their header, but as long as it’s clear to readers, it can be anywhere above the fold.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is a menu with unrecognizable titles or mislabeled links. If your about page is labeled as “me” or “let’s get personal” it can be confusing and off-putting to your visitors who want clear direction. Conversely, a page that’s labeled “Hi, I’m Sarah Jane Smith” in the menu may feel a little out of place. Call me a traditionalist, but I find that plain nav titles like “About” and “Contact” work wonders.
Lastly, we should also talk about secondary navigation and sub menus. Many sites choose to have multiple menus or page-specific menus; if you have enough content to do so, go ahead! As long as your menus drive site traffic and don’t tip the copy:code ratio too much, it can be a good idea. The same goes for sub menus, most of which display archive links for categories and tags; if you have 3 or 4 different recipe types, a sub menu can easily direct your readers to specific content.
Welcoming Home Page
First impressions truly are everything and it only takes 3 seconds for readers to decide whether or not they want to stay on your site or move on to your competitor’s. Your home page should be eye appealing, informative and give visitors a clear content path. Do you want your customers to visit a certain page? Tell them! A beautiful design accomplishes nothing if people aren’t engaging with your content.
Having a well-written about page is one of the best things you can do for your website. Readers and potential customers come to your about page to learn about you, so tell them! Caution: never use a sole image or infographic as your “trendy” about page; it’s horrible by SEO standards and usually doesn’t contain enough information.
SEO, organic search and even digital marketing as a whole all rely on content paths now more than ever. The surge in mobile search and the implementation of HTML5 have made waves in the way people search for answers. All search engines crawl websites for page-specific results so it’s in your best interest to have a clear-cut content path for customers to follow regardless of where they start browsing your site.
The cardinal sin of e-commerce and digital marketing is excluding contact information. People don’t want to follow a maze of pages and links to figure out how to get in touch with you, so please just make it easy.
Don’t underestimate the power of your site’s footer. Nowadays, footer widgets are all the rage and chances are, your designer will dream up a few fun things for you to include.
The part of the footer that will save your booty in court (heaven forbid you end up there) is the colophon–a small, full-width section that includes your copyright information. Many sites also choose to include their FAQs and Policies in a separate colophon menu, but as long as they appear somewhere accessible on your site you should be good to go.