Are you brave enough to wade through unknown waters?
In a conversion-oriented digital world, almost all WordPress websites are dressed in similar looking themes built on familiar concepts for the sake of uniformity and familiarity: Which is great for creating a feeling of comfort, but doesn’t set a website apart in audience’s minds.
Uniqueness needs a certain bravery, but will eventually be rewarded. In this post, we take a look into some of the more underrated design elements and tips that can help your WordPress website make a great first impression on visitors.
1. The psychology of color and texture
Colour has a language of its own. It speaks in a subliminal, subconscious level. We associate plum velvet with luxury, navy blues with serious calm, minty green tones with freshness, yellow with joy… the semaphore for color is endlessly fascinating. And no one understands this better than a designer.
So employ those almost-psychic abilities to blend colors and texture to do two things: Solidify your brand image and message tone; and make a memorable first impression.
Keep consistency. Don’t deviate from your color palette unless absolutely necessary. The magnitude and extent to which you use color depend on your brand’s identity, but the texture should be brought out on ‘special occasions’, and its use should be kept minimal.
Why would you go to certain lengths to set up a custom font on your website?
Fonts are significant in design: your content’s readability depends on it, but so does your tone. Consider that even now, no one takes Comic Sans seriously, Arial is the textbook definition of ‘clean’ and Times New Roman brings news to mind.
Brilliant website designs (see: iA.net, Molamil, et al) pay special attention to website typography to create an ambiance within the text-based content. This lends your content a personality of its own that readers can identify as yours. It helps establish your brand’s tone and identity.
Tools like Adobe’s TypeKit aside, you can also serve custom fonts on your WordPress website with the free Google fonts (API). Note: More than a handful of premium best-selling themes on Envato use this method to give more styling options to the theme buyers.
3. Photos and artwork
Stock photos are so … yesterday.
Today the only legitimate use for stock photography is within the content to make a rhetorical point or using the ones without cheesy Stepford smiles and dead eyes of models posing as ‘real’ people. Everything else feels fake, which is why their use is frowned upon by UX and conversion experts.
Trending nowadays is also the use of hand-drawn ‘artwork’: illustrations and sketches that create an aura of whimsy. While that seems like a long shot (“people won’t relate to that”), it can actually help you soften rough edges of some of the more clinically straightforward/harsh products. Case in Point: FleaHex.
As far as images go, stick to relevance and quality. WordPress already made the responsive image part easier with RICG Responsive Images plugin (integrated to the core in Version 4.4), but with performance issues in mind, make sure to compress their sizes with plugins like EWWW Image Optimizer.
Note: Images are great attention catchers, and they will certainly hold it on any page (compared to text) for most people. The trick is to balance text and images so that one doesn’t overwhelm the other and lead to either monotony/boredom or distraction.
4. Simplicity and openness
Empty spaces are just as important as filled ones.
I have seen many amateur designers clutter their pages with content and CSS to such extreme that there’s no breathing room. End result: chaos. And not the good, controlled kind which leaves the audience wanting more.
Eventually, the design should serve not as a paint job, but as a structure to guide visitors through the website and the content. Good formatting, whitespaces, and simple navigation make that happen.
These basic principles of WordPress design are often underappreciated and forgotten, but every successful, usable website is built on these. Make your design count.