Website layout isn’t just a nice afterthought—it’s an integral part of your whole site design. Bad layout will keep your site from growing organically as people leave quickly and refuse to link back to you or join you on social media.
But what exactly is a bad website layout, and how can you avoid it? Try following these five tips:
#1. Keep Website Layout Simple
The more complicated your website layout, the greater the chance you’ll create an unappealing layout. Worse, most people generally don’t like a complicated website layout to start with, so you’ll have to put extra effort into making a complicated layout appealing.
A complicated layout has more than two columns of text, images, advertisements, and navigation menus. It tries to do more than one thing on each page, and in doing so it distracts the reader from the one thing you most want them to do. Sometimes these distraction can hamper website readability and that is not what we want.
A complicated website layout can also cause Google and other search engines to incorrectly index your page, costing you valuable organic search traffic. That’s because what’s obvious to you, the webmaster, may not be obvious to the search engine spider which indexes your page.
To see what the search engine spider sees, go into your Web browser settings and turn off the default CSS stylesheet. Suddenly your page will lose most or all of its styling elements. If you can’t figure out where your content ends and your navigation begins without styling elements, don’t expect the search engine to figure it out either.
Please see how SEO works under the hood of your website. SEO can help determine a good website layout.
#2. The Opposite Of Complicated Website Layout
The opposite of a complicated website layout is obviously a clean website layout. But what exactly does that look like, and how can you add essential elements—such as advertisements—to a clean layout?
A clean layout doesn’t unnecessarily distract the reader. Take for example the Apple website or an Amazon.com product page. Both of these websites use a linear flow—navigation elements are at the top and then every element below has its own section, including advertisement elements. You can read each page from top to bottom without ever being distracted by sidebar items.
If your website relies on advertisements, look for clean examples among large advertisement-driven sites such as major newspapers and online magazines. Most of these sites display a block of text, a large “square” advertisement, another block of text, and then links to more articles at the bottom. It’s clean, undistracting, and it invites readers to click either the advertisement or the additional stories, so you increase either your advertisement revenue or your number of pageviews.
#3. Internal Traffic Is King
Ask almost any website entrepreneur and they’ll tell you getting traffic to their site is the most difficult challenge. But all the work you do to get someone to your site is wasted if you can’t keep them there until they do whatever it is that makes your site profitable, such as buying a product or clicking on an advertisement.
Good website layout will help you better manage your internal traffic. If people aren’t distracted by your layout, they’ll stick around longer, giving you more opportunities to sell to them.
#4. How Website Layout Affects Referrals
If people stick around on your website longer, not only will this reduce your bounce rate, they’ll also come to know you or your brand better. And the better they know you, the more likely they’ll recommend you to other people through their blog or social media connections.
So even though it seems indirect, good website layout can significantly boost your incoming links and incoming traffic without costing you anything extra.
#5. How To Create A Good Website Layout
To create a website layout which will attract and retain traffic, follow these six steps:
1. Remove Distractions
Do you need all those navigation links? Do you need all of those advertisements? Do you need all of those links to other information on your site? If not, get rid of them or blend them into your page layout better so they don’t distract your visitors from the number one thing you want them to do.
2. Use Less Style
Don’t strip your page down to bare bones, but avoid any unnecessary color, images, and blocks. Not only do these make your site harder to read but they can also prevent search engine spiders from parsing your website correctly.
3. Make it Linear
Make every element of your site follow another element so readers can simply scroll down your page. This is an extension of step one, above, but it helps you use a proven website layout method.
4. Stand Back
Google calls this the ten-foot test—you stand ten feet back from your computer monitor and try to figure out what step each page on your website wants you to take next. If it’s not obvious what you want your readers to do when you look at your own page from ten feet away, it probably won’t be obvious to your readers even up close, so take a moment and stand back from your screen.
5. Use Google Website Optimizer
Use Google Website Optimizer (now known as Google Analytics Content Experiments) to find the best layout for your site. It will be simple, uncluttered, linear, and clear for most sites, but you can’t be absolutely sure your site works until you’ve scientifically tested your website layout.
6. Use the Right WordPress Theme