Your website has a big job to do for you. It should show off your brand and your services. It should make a connection with your perfect clients and compel them to reach out to you. It should play a part in collecting leads and directing them to the right place. It should inform and entertain, all while providing an awesome user experience for your visitors.
That’s a lot!
To make sure your website can get it all done for you, our website design team recommends that you start by getting the most basic elements in place. These are the things that are absolutely essential for the user experience and have the biggest impact on how well your website works for you. You’ll see these basic elements on almost every successful attorney or doctor website you visit—even if those websites seem totally different and unique at first glance!
Some of these elements may be “common sense,” and some of them may surprise you. But, before you build a new website (or redesign your old one), you’ll want to make sure that you’re in the know.
Essential Elements of a Website: The Infographic
It’s always easier to show than tell! So, before we get into anything else, take a look at this “mock website” infographic that shows some of the most basic elements on a typical website and explains what they do for you:
Of course, not every website should have the same layout, but each website’s design should incorporate these kinds of elements seamlessly. If one or more of these elements are missing, your users might not have the tools they need to use your site, and search engines may be unable to find your content or put it in front of the right people.
Need a few more visual examples before we move on? Check out our success stories to see some real-life examples of how these basic elements work together on the websites of lots of different firms and practices.
More Tips About Essential Website Elements (Plus, the Elements You Can’t See!)
Of course, we can’t tell you everything in an infographic. If you’re ready to dig a little deeper, here are more details, direction, and powerful tips from our team:
Header Image and Text
Take a look at the top third of the infographic again. Some of the biggest mistakes we see on websites have to do with that top third of the main page of the site. Too many lawyers and doctors waste this valuable space by slapping up some “generic” text and images, without thinking through the fact that the header image and text are their first chance to make an impression.
When people search for an attorney or doctor, they usually click through lots of websites, and they may not scroll down very far before they choose to move on. Your header image and text are your split-second chance to make a connection and invite them to dig deeper.
Use a compelling photo in your header or incorporate a short video. Write powerful headlines that grab attention and orient new visitors to what makes your business unique. If you need some ideas for developing a more compelling header, see some inspiring examples from our clients’ sites.
Your logo is one of the most basic elements of your branding, so it definitely belongs in the top third of your homepage. However, as big a part as your logo plays in your brand recognition, it isn’t the only thing you should focus on.
We see so many attorneys and doctors get so hung up on creating the perfect logo that they neglect the rest of the header—or even the rest of the homepage!
This is a huge mistake because your perfect clients probably don’t value the business with the most stylish logo. Instead, what they value is a consistent brand that offers a consistently excellent customer experience. The design of your website, every piece of content you write, every video you make, and all your social media efforts are a part of building that trust and experience.
So, yes. We want you to create a logo that looks great, works well on the Web, and shows off your brand. However, we also want you to do everything that builds up the brand experience that your logo represents—because that’s what really makes a difference to your potential clients.
You know social media is a great way to get people talking about your business, so use your website to encourage readers to share! If you look at the top third of the infographic, you’ll see built-in social media share buttons in the top right. Adding share buttons to your website design plan gives your readers a way to tell their friends and followers what they’ve been reading with a single click.
And don’t limit share buttons to just your homepage! With our designs, your share buttons can appear at the top or bottom of your content pages, float on the margin, appear in the sidebar, or even follow readers as they scroll down the page.
Blogging has become so simple to do, and Google loves blogs because they are constantly being updated with new and interesting content. Maintaining a blog is great for users, great for page rankings, and great for driving more traffic—so we recommend that you build your blog into your website to put all those benefits right where they’ll have the biggest impact on your success.
Photos and Videos
High-quality photos and videos play a huge role in bringing your website alive for visitors. While you can try to skimp on quality or just purchase stock images to use on your website, you’re almost always going to get a better result if you go the professional route.
While stock photos work well as supporting images, you want your main images and videos—the ones that will be a major part of your website’s look and feel—to be original. And, because you care about your brand and the impression you make on potential clients, you want those photos and videos to be at a quality level that makes you look great.
If you’re building or redesigning your website, hiring a professional video team or scheduling a photo shoot is an investment that can have a huge impact on the overall quality and power of your website.
Navigation and On-Site Search
When your web design team talks about “navigation,” they’re talking about how your website visitors get from one section of your site to another. You’ll need menus, sidebars, and buttons that immediately direct users to your most important information and also make it easy for them to find supporting content.
Great navigation is intuitive, easy to use, and consistent across all your pages—which means it seems almost invisible when it’s done right.
As a side note, if you have tons and tons of great content on your site, you might want to go the extra mile for your visitors and incorporate an on-site search box. That way, your users can quickly search for content on your website by keyword without hunting through menus to find what they need.
Contact Forms and Thank-You Pages
When interested potential clients fill out the contact forms on your website, don’t let your newly budding relationship end there. Instead, direct them to a thank-you page after they submit their information.
A great thank-you page should:
- Thank visitors for their interest
- Deliver the requested offer or tell visitors when to expect a response
- Include a “bonus” gift or link that relates to the offer, like a link to your most popular blog posts, relevant FAQs, a related offer, or a video.
- Include navigation back to your blog and other site pages so that the user isn’t “abandoned” on the thank-you page.
- Let users know if they will continue to receive emails or newsletters after they’ve filled out your form
Creating great thank-you pages to go with your contact forms keeps visitors on your site and leaves them with a great final impression.
People sometimes ask us, "can't I have a more interesting font on my website?" The problem is that a lot of those exciting, fancy fonts just won’t work for some of your visitors, so you’re somewhat limited to the “web-safe” fonts out there.
Your design team can walk you through some great options, but here are some examples of common, easy-to-use fonts that tend to work for everyone:
- Trebuchet MS
- Arial Black
- Courier New
- Lucida Sans Unicode (Lucida Grande for Macs)
- Palatino Linotype (Book Antiqua for Macs)
- Tahoma (Geneva for Macs)
- Times New Roman
Your design team might have you pick a main font and a handful of alternative fonts so your website can dynamically respond with the right font for each user that visits your site—no matter what device or browser they may be using.
How much control do you have over your website? Can you add content on your own? Can you create new pages or track your performance? Can you log in and add something within minutes, or do you have to exchange e-mails with your web design company just to get something added or changed? Your content management system isn’t something your website visitors ever see, but it is something that impacts the experience they have—and how easy it is for you to maintain your website after launch.
Looking for powerful marketing software that will revolutionize the way you expand and maintain your website? Check out DSS (Dynamic Self-Syndication).
A Quick Note About Clutter
There are a lot of basic elements that need to be in place on your website before you can even think about adding optional elements. That means that clutter, overcrowding, and “over-design” can be real risks!
A cluttered website drags you down because:
- It lacks a focal point or a place that naturally draws the eye.
- It isn’t obvious how to get to the most important information.
- It overwhelms new users.
- It frustrates users looking for quick answers.
In other words, the design gets in the way of the user experience! When you work with our professional design team, we make sure that your website incorporates everything it needs to be successful while maintaining a fresh, clean look and maximum usability.
Build a Website With an Award-Winning Website Design Team
Websites should reflect your brand personality, but there are some basic elements that every website should have. When you have all the basic elements in place on your website, you create a great user experience, increase conversions, improve your ranking power in search, and lay down a foundation you can keep building on in the future.
Ready to redesign your website or start building something totally new? Request a design consultation with the FWM team, or give us a call at 888.886.0939.