The key to getting better websites is a simple one; you need to have better navigation. The reason for this is because a bad website is a cluttered mess with no unifying theme to it, while a good website is able to convey what it’s all about at a glance, and great navigation allows you to explore every inch of it without once messing with its overall “message”.
Every website is created for some sort of purpose, whether for personal use or for promoting a business or ideal. Ergo, before you can manage your navigation, you should first have a good handle on what’s the entire purpose of your website. Whether you’re off to sell products or advertise a political position, you should know and your website (and its navigation) should reflect the main objective you’re gunning for. Don’t put up anything unnecessary or irrelevant to your purpose; that will only ruin your site’s navigational experience.
Keep things simple so that you’ll end up with a site that has a message that’s not muddled by anything particularly irrelevant. In fact, you should remove any irrelevant things from your site as much as possible. In terms of navigation, that means removing the bells and whistles so that your audience can immediately access the different pages on your website. Categorization should be streamlined, but not overly complicated.
With that said, excellent navigation is all about knowing what your visitors think and applying it on the way your website is mapped out, so to speak. Know how your visitor will react, think, and do when seeing your site. More to the point, navigation is all about the user experience. You should put up a website that has 2-3 links to the target page, every element is well-placed, and the design has a purpose to it beyond ornamentation. Bad navigation, on the other hand, involves a cluttered mess of a site, difficulty reaching any particular page, hard-to-read and overly complex menus, and poorly placed navigation bars or buttons.
What you want to happen is to let the user know where to go at all times without confusing him. Your purpose should be clear and your navigation should be simple. Failing that, you’ll end up with a site that, while aesthetically pleasing, has no real purpose except for decoration. Don’t make it hard to find, say, product information as though it’s some sort of hidden file or something. Have it accessible within a few clicks instead of making it look like you’re bringing your visitors into a labyrinthine quest of sorts. To recap, the hallmarks of good navigation are simple design, a straightforward map, easy to access navigation buttons or bars, and a unifying theme that ties all the pages together.
In order to make better websites, it’s par for the course to develop practical design. Ornamentation is nice, but a good website is made with a purpose in mind, so your web design should reflect that fact. To be true, web design is like the design of a t-shirt, in a sense. A t-shirt is made for the purpose of wearing, but people who purchase it can be swayed by the kind of design it sports. Some prefer a cool looking shirt, while others settle for a plain one. Still others love a t-shirt with a message to convey.
An ugly design would be discarded, but if beauty is subjective, what constitutes for an ugly design? Your t-shirt is something that people wear for different reasons; in turn, your website is something everyone visits for different reasons. You need to design your website in such a way that you’ll be able to appeal to a certain segment of society that you want to specifically target. What’s more, your design should be a reflection of the likes and dislikes of that demographic. At any rate, the design or overall look of your website can make or break your site depending on how you go about using your design to promote whatever objective it is you want to reach and the audience you want to speak to. You need to practice practical design.
As usual, you should put yourself in the shoes of your visitor in order to know whether or not the design of your website is an effective one. It’s hard to describe breathtaking graphics and optimum-resolution pictures in words, but the key aspect of a good, clean design is uniformity and consistency without being overly obnoxious with it. The elements should be placed in such a way that you won’t be confused with what you’re seeing. Fonts should be readable. Pictures shouldn’t move excessively, as if they’re doing a little repetitive dance on your page.
You must not, under any circumstances; end up with a design that looks like it belongs in a Geocities page. Nothing says amateur quite like a website with moving GIFs, excessive Flash animations, and tacky colors that maximize its pretentiousness. Minimalism is also preferred in website design nowadays. Horrible design, on the other hand, involves bad contrast between the font and the color of the background page, hideously picked pictures, a background image that isn’t just one flat color (and looks like one of those optical illusions), and a severe lack in creativity. Design without function is reserved for art (which is made for art’s sake); unless your website is art-themed, everything about its design and look should have some sort of purpose it needs fulfilling.