Website design by Homer Simpson

There’s an episode of the Simpsons where Homer decides he needs to get in on the “.com boom” which leads him to start his own website (which someone has recreated here). In the style of many early webmasters, Homer fills his webpage with a selection of unrelated flashy gifs, including a dancing Jesus and a toaster with wings, which flash and animate in jerky synchronicity without ever achieving much more than that.

Even Homer is unable to elaborate on what the site is actually meant to do – it doesn’t have a clear purpose in terms of its content, and it doesn’t encourage visitors to do anything once they’ve arrived at the site.

Businesses are not like Homer – they don’t just jump on the bandwagon in the fear of becoming obsolete. In fact, most website owners know that they should have an online presence, and most know exactly what they would like their site to do; they want their website to convert visitors into paying customers.

It may be that your website helps with lead generation (with customers eventually coming through via other means after visiting your site), or is a direct e-commerce site that relies on customer trust and smart design to drive sales. However, despite having a clear focus and purpose, many business owners keep their thinking squarely inside the box when it comes to website design.

As the popularity of internet shopping has grown, many of the biggest online brands have continually tweaked their sites to help maximise conversions. Things which people thought might work back in 2004 are radically different today in 2014 – thanks in part to trial and error over time but also as a result of there being greater flexibility for web developers (who can easily use A/B testing or customer research to help inform their design decisions which wasn’t as readily available a decade ago).

As such, this growth has been closely watched by developers who have analysed what works and what doesn’t when it comes to winning conversions. No matter how savvy you are design-wise, it’s not particularly difficult to get a strong idea of what works well on websites by looking at the designs of the biggest online brands.

Amazon, for instance, is often held up as a glowing example of efficient and practical design with bright, clear calls-to-action (which tell the user to ‘buy’ at every opportunity), basket-building “Recommended Items” suggestions (often available for a bundled price), and thorough user-generated reviews (a key trust factor and reassurance for shoppers).

Going back to Homer’s pointless website, most web designers would see it and have a fit. What’s the purpose? Why is there a toaster have wings? Why can’t I click on anything? Why is there so much going on?

Indeed, the principles of great website design often come down to a handful of ubiquitous pointers: make your website user-friendly; make it easy for visitors to buy; make it easy for visitors to get information and for you to get information about your visitors (with form fills or similar); build trust with testimonials or reviews; don’t distract potential customers from a sale; and, whatever you do, don’t use random flashy gifs!

If you think that your website is a little too much like Homer’s and not focused enough on what you want visitors to do once they have arrived at your site, contact us and we’d be happy to talk to you about how our website designers can work with you to make it more effective.

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