Five great ways to make your site better

5 easy tips to improve your Web design

There are a few main reasons why every Webmaster should be constantly on the lookout for ways to improve or upgrade their websites.

For a start, Google takes Web page layout and design seriously because they know it impacts the quality of the user experience. They'll even take steps to penalize sites they think are poorly designed.

The design of your website also determines how well it converts. A conversion might be a sale on an eCommerce site, or a newsletter signup on a blog.

Without great design, your website might not be getting as many visitors or as many conversions as it should.

Let's look at a few of the quickest and easiest design tips to improve your site...

1. Reduce ads & improve page layout

Did you notice a drop in Web traffic around the 6th of February 2014? If so, it is likely that your site has been penalized by Google's updated "Top heavy" algorithm.

The top heavy algorithm reduces the page rank of websites that appear to have too many ads "above the fold".

If you look at the top section of a representative page on your site and find that a relatively small percentage of the screen is devoted to actual content, then it is time to remove some ads, or move them lower down the page.

Many webmasters are reluctant to reduce advertising because it means less revenue, but protecting your organic search traffic is almost certainly more important in the long run.

2. Add a mailing list sign-up form

It doesn't matter what type of website you own - it could be a school or church site, a non-profit, a blog or eCommerce store - it needs a sign-up form to help grow your mailing list.

Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay in touch with people who have visited your site. It is extremely important for growing a community or online business.

Fortunately, it is also super easy to create an opt-in form for subscribers that abides by all applicable email marketing rules and laws, using one of the leading email marketing services.

It only takes about 5 minutes to run through our step-by-step guide to setting up an email list sign-up form.

3. Upgrade to CSS3

Many older sites use image based backgrounds or images that have been optimized for the Web (i.e. low quality) in order to keep page load times relatively fast.

The thing is, CSS3 has a whole lot of really neat features that can achieve the same look and feel as images. This allows you to swop clunky images with super-fast, lightweight CSS code.

Check out this beginner level tutorial on how to create an inset text effect using CSS3 to see it in action.

Using CSS3 isn't difficult and there are actually online tools that give you a graphical interface to design the features you want and then copy and paste the CSS3 into your stylesheets.

4. Use non-blocking asynchronous JavaScript

Ok, so this header is a bit of a mouthful, but it might save your site from falling in Google rankings and becoming unpopular over issues of download speed.

Most modern websites rely heavily on JavaScript. If you are using Google analytics or social sharing buttons, for example, then there is plenty of JavaScript on your own website.

From the user's perspective, whether or not your Google analytics loads is irrelevant. They want to see content as quickly as possible.

But many webmasters have old versions of their widgets and JavaScript that block the loading of their webpages - and this slows down the load time and means people get bored or frustrated and go somewhere else.

It's easy to check if you have blocking scripts slowing down your own site by using Google's online PageSpeed Insights tool.

In many cases it is possible to achieve huge performance gains by simply replacing old code with new, or deferring blocking scripts 'til after the page load event has fired.

5. Improve site navigation

How easy is it for visitors to find the information they want on your website? Does your site analytics indicate a fairly high bounce rate?

Many webmasters make the mistake of not displaying links to closely related and relevant information in, on, and around their pages.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Make sure you add links to important resources in the body of your content
  • Ensure that only highly relevant articles or "further reading" are recommended
  • Ensure a logical categorization and hierarchy of content that makes the site intuitive to navigate
  • Include easily accessible search functionality

So those are the Web design tips I think provide (potentially) the most benefit for relatively little effort. Are there any particular design improvements you made that had a huge impact?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Free Website designs from top website builders. Pic by Yann Coeuru

Website builders have forever changed the world of Web design by allowing us to use free, responsive themes and templates to manage the look and feel of our sites without having to learn anything about Web development.

But which ones offer the best free templates that will simultaneously be quick and easy to use, make your site look beautiful, respond to any device (mobile support), and offer excellent built in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) features to help drive organic traffic from Google?