Something’s missing from your website – you just know it – but what is it? What is it?
Do you remember that poem Something Missing by Shel Silverstein? If not, I’ll fill you in: a person is wondering what’s missing today – he remembers that he put on his socks, his shoes, his tie, his coat, etc. Try as he might, he just can’t remember what he missed. Meanwhile, the accompanying illustration (which never failed to make me giggle wildly when I turned to this page as a little girl) is of a man from the side wearing everything except for that one crucial thing – his pants.
Sometimes websites can feel like this. An unscratchable itch. You know it’s missing something, and it’s not quite right, but you just can’t seem to put your finger on what it is. If you happen to be feeling this way, chances are that what you’re missing is (no, not your pants) one of the five things below.
1) A consistent voice.
Are you speaking in first person (My name is Janelle) or third person (Janelle is a web designer)? There’s no right or wrong answer, and each one of us needs to consider and make this decision for ourselves. What is important that is that this voice largely stays consistent from page to page. Switching back and forth is sure to disorient your visitors. The one exception to this would be if you want to largely stay in the third person but write your “About Me” page in the first person (it can add authenticity and warmth when the voice is coming straight from you).
2) Text that is too big or too small.
One of my favorite rules of thumb in design is that elements need to be either exactly the same or really different (Never almost the same). Make sure you have good contrast between your heading and paragraph font sizes and keep each consistent throughout your website. Your paragraph text should be large enough to read easily (especially if you know your audience is in an older demographic). Your heading text should be large enough to make it clear it’s “in charge” on the page, but not so big that it’s overwhelming or alarming.
3) Graphics/photos that fit one overall style.
In an age when it’s all too easy to find tons of free stock photos online, we can sometimes end up with a potpourri of photos that don’t really fit together. Look at all the photos you use throughout the site. Do you blend together stylistically? Whether they’re all cartoony and colorful, dark and mysterious, modern and minimalist, or anything else – make sure they all fit together in one general style.
4) Not enough whitespace.
Whitespace is the open space between elements on a page that allows a website to breeeeeeeathe. Don’t be afraid of adding space on your website – everywhere! Above and below headings, paragraphs, photos, and more. If you’re aiming for elegance, simplicity, and ease, whitespace is the key more often than not.
5) Jumbled/crowded navigation.
Nothing crowds a website like a jumbled navigation menu. Try and keep your navigation labels to one word (or two if you must), and spend some time figuring out the best and most streamlined way of organizing your pages within the menu and dropdown menus. We call this website architecture, and it’s the thing that guarantees your visitors can find what they’re looking for with ease and confidence.
And now, a gift from Mr. Shel Silverstein…