One of the most important responsibilities of a website is to communicate with visitors. Regardless of whether the site is a blog, a portfolio site, a corporate site, or an e-commerce site, it exists to communicate with visitors.
Website communication, in some cases, is two ways (blog comments are an example). But in many ways, the website is communicating to visitors before they even offer their feedback. For the site to communicate effectively, the designer and site owner must have a clear purpose of what messages should be evident to visitors.
In my opinion, improving communication is an ongoing process. As I evaluate my own sites or those of clients, these are some of the factors I consider.
Website Communication Methods
The headline is an obvious starting point for communicating with visitors and readers. Headlines should tell readers what they’ll find on the page or the article if they continue, and they should be drawn into the content due to the headline.
Regardless of whether the website is a blog, a portfolio site, an e-commerce site, or any other type of website, the heading is a key component of online communication with visitors. The quality of a headline can have an incredible impact on how many people continue on to read the content, but many of us don’t give headlines the attention they deserve.
2. Sub Headers
One of the keys to effective communication online is breaking up the text to make it more readable. One of the ways to improve readability and make content more user-friendly is to include subheaders. Readers will have an easier time quickly grasping the nature of the content, as well as seeing how it is structured.
Most bloggers have become accustomed to using sub-headers, but they can be used in other situations as well. Any time there is a sizable chunk of content that’s broken up into paragraphs or lists, there are probably opportunities to improve the readability by using sub-headers. When using sub-headers, use them in a way that will essentially outline the content and create interest in particular sections.
3. Text on Page (Body Content)
The text on a page is obviously one of the major forms of communicating with visitors. Copywriters pay great attention to the details of wording, but many websites don’t do an effective job with text.
The amount of text and the general approach will vary greatly from one type of website to another. For example, a blog like this one will include a great deal of text, which will be the main form of communication with readers.
On the other hand, an e-commerce site will have a small amount of text with the primary purpose of communicating details about the product to visitors. The content needs to be descriptive enough that it will help to make sales, but too much content could discourage or hinder sales.
Not all websites use taglines, but some do so very effectively. A good tagline will be short, descriptive, and memorable. It must quickly communicate something about the company, the product, or the services. Taglines are great for branding purposes and for helping to control the impression that is given to visitors.
Some websites will include a well-known and recognized company logo, but many will not. Regardless of whether a website is using a professionally designed logo or simply some text for the title of the site, there is a message being communicated in terms of branding.
Why are companies willing to pay much money for a quality logo? Because a well-designed logo will help the company to communicate something basic with customers, something that helps to determine how people view the brand.
Color schemes are a critical aspect of web design, not just because they impact how a website looks but also because the colors can communicate subtle messages to visitors. In certain cultures, colors have very clear meanings and representations, but in others, there are often more subtle impacts on readers and visitors (see The Ultimate Guide to Color Theory). The best website communication examples all use colors effectively.
We all know the saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” and it certainly can be applied to web design. With the impatience of the average website visitor, interesting images can help to retain some attention, not to mention that images can simply improve the overall appearance of the website.
When working with images in web design, sometimes, you’ll be faced with the choice of using photos provided by the client or using more professional photos. It’s important to think about the purpose of the image and what it needs to communicate with visitors because there is a time for using each.
If you’re looking for affordable stock photos, our favorite resource is Envato Elements. You can download an unlimited number of photos, and many other creative resources, for one low monthly fee.
For example, if you’re designing a church website, you may want to use a professional photo for major areas of the homepage, but you’ll probably want to use actual photos from the church for the majority of the images on the site (such as photos of specific events within the church) because these photos help to communicate who the church truly is.
8. Page Title
Page titles are important not only for SEO purposes but also for communication with your visitors. While visitors are on your site, they’re likely to pay more attention to the headers within the pages instead of checking the top of their browser to see the page total. However, many visitors will come from search engines, and page titles are critical in communicating the page’s content with searchers.
In addition to search engine visitors, those who come to your site through links from other sites are likely to be impacted by page titles. In many cases, the other sites linking to you will use the page title in the anchor text, communicating what the page is about to those who may consider clicking on the link.
A website’s layout is important for several reasons, and communication is just one of them. The layout can communicate by showing visitors what parts of the site or the content are the most important. Typically the site will be laid out so that the most important content will be given the most attention. This shows visitors what you want them to see the most.
10. Style of Design
Of course, there are many different design styles, and the chosen style can communicate certain messages to visitors. Some styles create certain impressions with many visitors, which can help or hurt the overall communication of your site, depending on the impression being given.
Many websites and blogs make use of icons. These icons aren’t being used strictly to improve the site’s look. They’re also intended to communicate something quickly to readers. For example, the standard email icon used by blogs immediately tells visitors that they can subscribe to get updates. A home icon is also common for navigational purposes.
The links provided and where they’re placed can also communicate to visitors which pages are important and where you want them to go. Typically, the most important pages are going to be included in the main navigation menu of the website, and other pages may be linked within the content of the page or in a sidebar or footer.
Web designers have a great deal of influence on which content is emphasized because of the impacts of the navigational scheme. Be sure that the most important parts of the site are easy to find and can be accessed quickly from just about anywhere on the site.
Online videos have become far more common in recent years, and this trend will continue. Video provides an excellent opportunity to communicate with visitors. Videos can be used for entertainment, blogging, product demonstrations, and more.
With video, communications can sometimes be a bit easier. You can have a greater level of certainty that the message is going to be communicated and received as it’s intended. Sometimes with text, the communication can be limited, or it could be interpreted in different ways.
In addition to video, audio is another form of adding media to a website for communication purposes. Sometimes audio can help, and sometimes it can hurt. Generally, audio that starts playing without being prompted by the visitor will be seen as annoying and obtrusive.
Advertisements are typically an accepted part of websites today. However, the products and services being advertised will send messages to visitors in terms of the content of your website, how you view your visitors, and what is important to you.
Frequently Asked Questions pages (or sections at the end of articles) are used by many websites because they can improve communication with visitors who often have the same questions.
Rather than letting those questions go unasked and unanswered and rather than requiring a personal response to common questions, the FAQ page can be a helpful and convenient way to get visitors’ questions answered.
FAQ pages are usually an afterthought when designing a website. They’re sometimes thrown together just to provide some basic information for visitors so they won’t have to email or call for answers. If this is the case, there’s a huge amount of potential that’s being wasted. FAQ pages can be one of the most valuable pages on your site if they are properly thought out.
Benefits of a strong FAQ page
- Useful for visitors as it will help them to answer their questions – Obviously, this is the point of a FAQ, help visitors find answers to their questions as easily as possible.
- Good for search engine optimization – An underappreciated feature of a well-prepared FAQ is the impact it can have on search engine rankings. It’s not uncommon for information seekers to type a question into a search engine. When they use a question that’s the same or similar to the one you have listed on your FAQ, you could potentially appear at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages).
- Provides an opportunity for internal linking – Linking internally to other pages on your site is key to having a site that brings in a lot of search engine traffic. Many of the questions on the FAQ will be answered in detail on other pages of your site. Rather than regurgitating the same information on the FAQ, you can easily provide links to the answers. This will help to boost the importance of your pages in the eyes of search engines.
- Should reduce the number of questions you receive by email – Getting questions from visitors isn’t a bad thing, but you only have so much time to respond to readers, and it helps save time by posting common questions and, of course, answers on your site.
Tips for creating your FAQ
- Start with the questions that you get all the time – This is pretty obvious, but make sure that you accomplish something with your FAQ by posting answers to questions that readers are likely to have.
- Look for opportunities to integrate keywords and phrases into the questions and answers – This is where the search engine benefits come from. Research which keywords your potential visitors will likely include in a search.
- Link to some of your most important pages in the answers to the questions – This will drive traffic to the pages that are most valuable on your site (sales pages, newsletter sign-ups, etc.). In addition to driving click-through traffic, it will improve the internal linking to your important pages.
- Consider working backward – Start with your most important pages and think of common questions that can be answered on those pages. This way, you’ll be sure to link to those important pages.
- Use keywords in the anchor text of the links whenever possible – When linking to your pages from your FAQ, try not to use generic anchor text like “click here.” Using keyword-rich anchor text will help with search engine rankings.
- If the list of questions on your FAQ is long, try breaking it down into categories of questions – Help visitors find what they’re looking for by making the page as organized as possible.
17. Ease of Contact
Some website visitors will want to contact the owner for one reason or another. How easy or how hard is it for the visitor to find a way to contact them? If you have a contact form easily accessible from any page, you’ll tell visitors that you encourage their input and that you are interested in their thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, a website that has no contact information, or contact info that’s buried somewhere and difficult to find, will indicate to visitors that the owner does not care what they have to say and does not want to be bothered.
Testimonials are used extensively in sales letter websites as well as on sites of service providers. A statement from a happy customer can be a powerful way of communicating to visitors. Rather than just presenting the message yourself, you’re letting someone else build you up, which can be more credible than your own statements.
19. Outbound Links
The websites and pages you’re linking to throughout a website can tell visitors what your website is about and what is important to you. You’re not going to provide outbound links unless they add some type of value to your site and visitors, so the items that you’re linking to can tell visitors a lot about your website.
Because of the message that’s being sent to visitors, be sure that you’re careful with the sites that you’re linking to. Linking to “bad neighborhoods” can be bad for SEO purposes, but it can also damage your image in visitors’ eyes.
20. Meta Descriptions
The meta description tag doesn’t communicate anything to visitors on your site, but it can communicate an important message to searchers trying to find something specific. Many search engines use the description on the SERPs, so it is an opportunity to tell people what the page is about before they even visit, and it can help to improve your CTR from the SERPs.
If a website is inaccessible to someone, it gives them the impression that they are not considered important by the company or the website’s creators. If they were important they would be able to access the site. Be sure to consider the potential impacts of inaccessibility if you’re considering a design or a site that will not be accessible to a certain audience.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a number of ways to communicate with website visitors. Content, internal linking, outbound links, images, and accessibility play a role in how websites communicate with their visitors. Additionally, you can add testimonials from customers, contact forms for easy communication, and FAQs to provide quick answers to common questions.
Your website design can communicate your brand’s value through images, colors, fonts, and other design elements. These design elements help to create an overall visual identity for your brand and will give visitors an impression of what your company stands for. Additionally, well-crafted copywriting and content can be used to further emphasize the company’s values and mission.
Your website design can communicate your personal style using colors, fonts, images, and other design elements. Additionally, you can add content that reflects your personality, as well as photographs and videos. You can also create a blog to share your ideas and opinions with visitors. This will give them a better idea of who you are and what you stand for.
Website communication encompasses a variety of techniques that are used to communicate with visitors. This includes content, images, videos, internal linking, outbound links, and accessibility. These elements play an important role in how website owners communicate with their visitors and help them understand what the website is about.