07 Nov 12 10:13 pm
First thing: For your benefit, I have edited your post to allow those links to your sites :) Don't worry about getting pinged for that!
Unfortunately, design is hard. Many of us can tell when something has good design
and when it doesn't
. Some people have a knack at making well designed sites, and others wouldn't know where to begin.
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as whether you should use a 2-column or 3-column design, or change your font size. Many people get confused here - they think changing a color may improve their sales/clickthroughs/etc, but design runs much deeper than that. It's about usability - the best looking site in the world is no good if a user can't find the sales page. At the same time, it doesn't matter if the sales page is glaringly obvious if the user is turned off by the design.
I'd love to be able to impart 5 years of design and usability instantly, so that you'd know exactly what you could improve, but here's some questions about your sites, for thought:
- A customer visits your site. What is the first thing they see? Does it compel them to stay?
---- I note that "Women on the road" does this well, but with "My Italian Travels" I don't know where to start.
- What is the next step (or next steps) they should take? Have you given them too many 'next steps' of equal importance
---- For example, the article on the ItalianTravels homepage suddenly provides a tonne of links to a lot of places. I get confused, and don't know where to go next
- I reach the end of an article. What do I do next? (Again, Woman on the road is better - the homepage, at least, gets you to sign up to a list). What compels me to stay connected to this site?
- What are you trying to get me to do? Is it likely I'm going to do it? (This relates to the too-many-next-steps issue).
- What problem are you solving? How does the customer know you can solve it? What are the *benefits* of using your site?
Here are also some tips:
- Don't try and change your site all at once. Change a bit at a time. Much more manageable, also far less likely to have a negative impact if you design wrong.
- Analyze! User analytics (e.g. Google Analytics) are one of your best friends
- Look at the best sites
, and see if there's anything you can learn (and adapt) from them. They're not considered the best for no reason - but, at the same time, don't try and copy them exactly until you understand *why* people like them.
- A good usability designer is worth his weight in gold. Unfortunately he also costs about that much, but if you can afford one, get one.
- Customer feedback is useful but, at the same time, customers don't know what they really want
. Don't worry if 80% of customers complain about a color, but do pay attention - inevitably it'll turn out it's there's not a usability problem with the color (unless you've put red text on a red background, or purple text on a green button) but with something far more fundamental related to it.
- Watch your user flow. Use your analytics to see what they're doing. I bet its not what you want it to be.
- Think like a customer. You come to a page... Logically, where are you going to go next?
- Your first opinion about what you should change in your design is always wrong. Instead, take that opinion, and ask all the same questions (e.g. user flow, etc) about it as you did for your existing designs. Inevitably you will come up with something better.
- Don't rush. Good design takes time.
Most importantly, in my opinion:
- Your content and your message is also a part of your design
I know I haven't given you specifics, because I'd prefer you learned a bit more about usability theory, rather than just trying to fix specific problems without understanding why. Hopefully you get something useful :) If you'd like more specific pointers, I can try give one or two of those too.