In today’s world, establishing a compelling online presence is an essential factor in growing any business. When designing a Web site, focus on the impact your design can have on the people who would actually visit and use it. Balance aesthetics and functionality to deliver the best possible user experience. Information design plays a crucial role in the design of any Web site.
What is information design? It is the presentation of information in a way that enables readers to easily understand and use it. Information design can ensure the clarity of any message you want to deliver to your audience. Information design can help people to understand whatever type of information they are consuming—including complex data, tables, figures, and instructions—by making it clear and engaging. Good information design transmits information in ways that enable your audience to more easily absorb it. Information design involves much more than just visual design.
How to Optimize Your Information Design
People consume a lot of information daily. They encounter information design everywhere in attempting to accomplish their objectives—whether in the real world or on the Web. A successful information design can distinguish a business’s Web site from those of its competitors.
Many things can influence people’s ability to consume the content on a Web site, including other design elements on its pages, but it is a site’s information design that has the greatest impact.
Good information design is essential to ensuring that your site’s visitors can successfully navigate the site and complete their tasks on the site—thus, avoiding frustration. Information design also enables an organization to convey information to its desired audience.
To ensure that you can communicate clearly to your Web site’s visitors and deliver content more effectively, I’ll offer six ways in which you can optimize your Web site’s information design.
1. Start with a Plan
Designing an effective Web site requires planning. Information design should be a key component of your plan. You should answer some simple questions when creating an information-design plan for your site: Where would your audience usually go on the site? What content would people most often read? What could you do to ensure that visitors would be able to easily understand your content when reading it? To ensure that they would be able to retain key information? Could your design improve sales or other conversions?
To ensure consistency across the entire site, plan to create information-design standards and guidelines for all the different types of information you want to present on your Web site. Depending on the types of information you provide, these might include guidelines for textual content, lists, tables, charts, graphs, and images. Include guidelines for the use of typography and color for all these types of content.
Create a customer-journey map for your customers’ interactions with your site to determine the points at which optimizing the information design could be crucial to their success and ensure they would have a positive experience.
2. Understand the Existing Site
When a Web site has already been up and running for some time, you need to make sure that you understand the site well before making any changes to optimize its information design. Be sure that you understand the ultimate goal of the Web site. Read any design documentation for earlier iterations of the site. Learn how the existing information design came to be.
Immerse yourself in the Web site. Go through the current site’s content and functionality. Conduct an expert review to determine what parts of the Web site and its information design might present problems to visitors, what information relating to visitors’ tasks is difficult to understand, and where the site fails to provide valuable information or essential knowledge to visitors. If possible, conduct user research to understand site visitors better, and do usability testing to identify current issues with the site’s information design. Identify potential opportunities to improve the user experience through more effective information design.
Again, it essential that you know what key paths your visitors traverse within your site, so you can optimize the information design for those paths and make your Web site significantly better. Your Web site should always provide a positive user experience for visitors. Otherwise, they’ll leave your site and go to your competitor’s site instead.
3. Create a Balanced Structure
Sometimes, businesses overload their Web sites with dense blocks of useless, boring text. Other Web sites are so heavily laden with visuals that their pages seem overcrowded. Do your best to balance textual and visual information on pages.
When you are working with a considerable amount of information, think carefully about where it should appear on your Web site. If you provide too many details on the home page of your Web site or on another landing page, your visitors might become confused or feel overwhelmed and leave your site. On the other hand, if visitors must click too many links to get complete information that’s spread across too many pages, they still might become annoyed and leave your site. Instead, provide just enough information on landing pages to provide information scent and place the rest of the information on a details page.
4. Make Text Compelling to Read
The primary aim of many Web sites is to function as a business’s information hub on the Internet. When prospective clients are looking for clues about what your business offers or want to know what solutions you could provide to solve their problems, they would most probably go to your site to learn more.
If your Web site uses too small a font size for good legibility or the color of your text and its background color have inadequate value contrast—for example, light gray text on a white background or dark gray text on a black background—visitors would likely leave the site after a quick glance.
Be sure to design text in a way that is compelling to your audience. For example, use run-in headings to make bulleted lists easy to scan.
5. Never Complicate Things Unnecessarily
The axiom that there is beauty in simplicity certainly applies to Web-site information design. Always remember that putting a lot of extraneous information on your Web site can confuse your visitors and risk your losing them.
For example, buttons and other calls to actions are key elements of your site whose purpose is to make sure you encourage your visitors to take the necessary steps to drive conversions. However, if you adorn your Web site with extra buttons, you’ll complicate things unnecessarily.
6. Provide Infographics
When textual data is overly complex and a bit hard to understand, it is often better provide an excellent visual that conveys the same information. infographics can be an excellent choice to make complex, massive data easier to understand. They are powerful tools for visualizing hard-to-digest data and make that data easier and faster to analyze and interpret.
A compelling infographic that communicates exciting, perhaps unique content can deliver a concise message and highlight key information using bigger, bolder fonts.
When you are building your organization’s brand, you need to keep in mind that the design of your Web site is about more than just first impressions. Although your Web site’s user-interface design is probably the first thing your visitors notice, the functionality of your site and its content matter more. Effective information design ensures that your Web site conveys your message successfully—without making your users squint their eyes or scratch their heads in confusion.
Even though good information design is hard to achieve and maintain and getting it right would likely require several iterations, information design delivers a lot of value. It can even help you understand your site’s visitors better if you study their behavior and learn how they consume your information. This knowledge can help you improve your information design to make it even more appealing to them.
Ramon currently writes about software and user experiences for Softvire Australia, the leading software ecommerce company in Australia, as well as for Softvire New Zealand. He also writes about technology trends, entertainment, and gaming. In his spare time, Ramon writes science fiction.