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Tips for building an award-winning website

Among the major tenets of web design, five include: appearance, usability, content, feature functionality and standards compliance.

An award-winning website must be visually-stunning, easy to navigate, seamless to use, without bugs and filled with information worth consuming.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve designed and developed dozens of award-winning websites. Here are five of our most popular tips:

1. Utilize white space.

To audiences, a website should come across as sleek, sophisticated and user-friendly. Thus, you should intentionally and strategically utilize white space throughout your site to highlight key elements of each page and make the content pop.

White space, which refers to the blank spaces in and around various elements on the webpage, not only elicits a feeling of elegance and enhances your brand positioning but also, according to a study by Wichita State University, improves reading comprehension. A few other great websites that effectively use white space are Squarespace, Medium and everyone’s favorite search engine.

As a result of this approach, you can cultivate a minimalist design aesthetic and showcase beautiful graphics, which your customers will love. Having a cluttered homepage may cause users to feel overwhelmed and confused, so having a simply designed website with plenty of white space will encourage your audience to stay and explore it.

2. Streamline navigation.

To enhance the usability of your website, make navigation as easy as possible. Make sure your products are easily accessible on the homepage, and the navigation bar is conspicuous and intuitive to use on both desktop and mobile platforms.

One way to test whether your site’s usability is top-notch is to see if it passes the three-second rule of the web. Concocted by web designers in the 1990s and now widely-accepted throughout the design community, the three-second rule dictates that your website should capture your visitor’s attention in about three seconds. If it takes longer than that for a visitor to become invested, then you will effectively lose them.

To ensure your website passes the test, make all text as clear and easily understood as possible, only showcase a few quality graphics on each page, and try to guide your readers’ eyes towards the most searched-for information. Also, try test driving your website with friends and family to see how long it takes them to interact with different elements of the site and accomplish simple tasks.

3. Engage visitors with customer reviews or exclusive offers.

No one likes running into a wall of text or a barrage of never ending pictures when first landing on a site. So, make sure to apply the 3 second rule to your content as well to enhance clarity, organization, and conversion.

If you are running an e-commerce website, for example, it may be wise to showcase a few quality quotes from positive customer reviews as well as one or two special deals, coupon codes or promotions. That way, your readers will immediately have extra incentives to take the next step and purchase your product.

4. Prioritize speed and simplicity.

One often overlooked aspect when assessing feature functionality is speed. For ecommerce websites especially, having slow page load times or issues with the website on mobile devices can lead to having a low conversion rate and even experiencing an overall reduction in overall corporate revenues.

A study by Akamai found that 40 percent of online shoppers will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load, and 52 percent of respondents say quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site. The easiest way to prioritize speed would be to get your engineers working on it, but if you want to try it for yourself, here are a few tips that may be helpful.

Additionally, having a straightforward, short checkout process is key to increasing conversion. The simpler your checkout process is, the easier your customers will be able to purchase your product without headaches or complications. Amazon, for example, offers one-click purchasing to complement their already streamlined checkout process.

5. Incorporate responsive design.

To exceed expectations in the area of standards compliance, employ responsive design. Responsive design allows content and design to be viewed from any screen, including mobile devices, e-readers, and computers.

An investment in responsive design not only optimizes how users interact with your web pages on different devices but it may increase your search engine traffic. To learn more about responsive design, check out this PowerPoint presentation by MagNet, or look at other great examples of websites utilizing this technology, like De Beers and The Boston Globe.