You've just spent hours on your website. designing and coding every single pixel to make it perfect. You're ready to go. you're ready to go -except for that nagging voice in the back of your head. "How does it look?"
Of course. you have no idea! You don't have a professional eye at hand; you may not even be an experienced designer yourself. But there's still a lot you can do to figure out what your website looks like before people see it. In fact. These days, you have no excuse not to.
1. Grab a friend
When introducing your website to the world's public. you should first see it through other eyes - so invite a friend to look at it with you.
A professional designer won't give you an opinion on your design skills. but instead. look for immediate fixes that can improve usability and user experience. Arid if you go the DIY route. as many startups do - just make sure your friend has a critical eye and understands good design principles!
2. Keep a checklist
As you're designing your website, keep a checklist of things to review. You can write them in your sketchbook or planner, or use a checklist app. whatever helps you remember - but as you check off each item on the list. cross it off. This gives your brain a sense of completion as you go along. and makes you more likely to come back to fix any remaining design issues.
A good place to start is with the Nielsen Norman Group's 10 Heuristics for Usability. There are 10 heuristic principles for evaluating websites, and they are all very simple. Pick one of these principles and see if your website passes the test. then move on to another. and so on. Just reviewing a few of these principles should prepare your brain to see if your website works the way you designed it.
3. Look at the menu
Each major section of your website (e.g. Home. Products. Shipping. and Returns) should have its own menu button. so visitors can quickly get to what they want to do when they land on that page. This also helps with usability and search engine optimization (SEO). If you have names of people or product types associated with your product. make sure they are visible on each page; otherwise. users won't know who you're talking about if you use their name in the product title or description.
4. Look at the navigation
It's important that the navigation on your website is easy to use. If visitors can't find what they are looking for. they will leave the site and not come back. If you have multiple pages with similar names. consider organizing them based on what people are most likely to search for. so you have an obvious way to find the relevant page.
5. Look at the colors
Your website needs to be presented consistently that reflects your brand and persona - so look at how your logo or color palette interacts with that. Do the colors you've chosen work with each other? Try changing the color scheme and see if it makes a dramatic difference in how people interact with your website.
6. Use tools like eye-tracking heatmaps
Tools like eye-tracking heatmaps, which show you which areas of a page are being viewed and for how long. can help you figure out what people find important on your website. Take a look at the replay after you've navigated your site or have someone else do it if you're too busy doing your own design work!
7. Look at what's not working
You may be too close to your site right now to identify what has made it difficult to navigate, so keep a close eye on analytics reports and watch for spikes in traffic. You can also identify exact difficulties by using tools like Widen. EyeQuant, or Gazefinder.
8. Make sure your images represent your brand.
People don't just buy from you. they see what you look like and will be more inclined to trust you and buy from you. Make sure your product images are positive. show people actually buying from you, and don't change the context (e.g. characters in a book not a real person). Also, make sure you don't use stock images of other companies' products. as this is seen as ripping off your customers.
9. Make sure you have a working website
There are a lot of websites that claim to do all of the above for you and they don't always work properly. Check what you get when you type in any URL. If the page doesn't load or looks broken then something has gone wrong. and it's time to take a look at your code.