Making it look good – Part 2

In my previous post, I started a discussion about ways to “make your site look good”. Granted “good” is a relative term, there are many ways that you can ensure that you are doing the most to make your group or department’s website stand out, as well as a number of things to avoid when developing new content.

1. What content is most important?

A tendency for most new to the world of web design is the desire to have everything up front. Experience has taught us that tangible, concrete evidence is more substantial than hearsay, and so we want all our work seen at once, leaving no room for doubt.

The problem with this tendency is that it doesn’t take into consideration some basic usability aspects, like designing with the fold. 10 years ago, it was believed that most users did not scroll, and instead would leave a site if they didn’t see what they were looking for in only the immediately viewable area. But even though that particular myth has been debunked, it still bears worth mentioning that you should take care when considering what content you want displayed first.

  • The logo tends to be one of the first things a user sees, and thus is the first thing most clients want included. There’s a lot to be said about wanting to “make my logo bigger“, but thankfully, NCSU Branding Guidelines have made this conversation a very brief one. Still though, the argument occurs (hence the video). But some key things to consider here are:
    • Simple is often better than complex
    • More color is not necessarily better
    • Being memorable doesn’t necessarily mean being abstract
    • Some other tips can be found here
  • Your organization’s prized projects can be the next most important thing you want your visitors to get a glimpse of. But having a massive list of links to various articles where you or your research facility received accolades or were featured on or published in isn’t always the best route. Instead:
    • Take pictures of what you do. In some case, a department’s capacity may not be able to be captured. But in those cases, it doesn’t hurt to then try to highlight the people doing the work. However, make no mistake, professionally-shot photos will always be a good investment; avoid relying on personal photos to adorn your organization’s website.
    • Pick 2 or 3 of your most prominent achievements and use those as a means of drawing traffic to additional pages where more elaboration can be done. Moderation is important.
    • Avoid stock photography when possible. Clearly, there are instances where this might be okay, for groups so specific to the University that pictures of the University will do nicely. But in many cases, having arbitrary or irrelevant pictures simply to fill negative space can distract your users from taking advantage of what your group really has to offer.
  • Content deserves precision, so be concise with the way you write. Long-winded articles tend to lose audiences, especially when it’s about a topic that only a very specific audience will likely be able to relate with. The NCSU Editorial Guidelines offers some tips to help keep your writing professional, and also helps to steer your content in a direction that is consistent with other departments and entities.
  • Don’t have a lot of content? Think of ways to stretch out the information you publish, so that you always have something to post on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Sites that get regular updates are more likely to get return traffic than those that stagnate and never get any attention from the content creator.


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