What should your WordPress website look like?
22 December 2017
I occasionally get confronted with ‘it just looks like every other website‘ when presenting wireframes to a client.
In this blog, I explain why ‘looking like every other website‘ isn’t always a bad thing and what your WordPress website should look like.
I’ve recently seen a few posts on social media about WordPress sites always having ‘that WordPress look about them’. One user commented “Other than brand colour, images and content. they all have the same structural look about them”.
Firstly let’s just clarify what WordPress is and what it does. There is no WordPress look or style as such because the technology is agnostic in terms of design/aesthetics. Here are some very different examples of WordPress based websites.
The USP of WordPress is its versatility and scalability combined with its infinitely extendable functionality. You can essentially make it do whatever you want from a simple blog to a larger e-commerce site.
Although often put into the same category as website builders, WordPress is far more than that and the above features set it well above builders like Weebly and Wix. WordPress is also streaks ahead in terms of quality of build and SEO.
Website builders often contain bad code and when put together by people who are not familiar with the syntax language errors can easily creep in. Whilst it might look ok from the outside, search engines like Google are always looking at the inside of your site (the nuts and bolts) and they will see these errors and mark you down in the search accordingly. A site built and optimised on one of the popular website builder platforms, for example, will never outrank the equivalent WordPress based site.
I will concede that a lot of websites (not just WordPress, other platforms too) often have a very similar structure and hierarchy of information. There are two very good reasons for this though which I explain below.
Just like with cars, gadgets, fashion and almost everything else, there are certain aspects and characteristics that follow a general direction in which they then either develop or change. This is known as trends and what’s trending in the world of website design at any one time will be directly reflected in sites created in or around that set time period. People like to keep up with trends and be trendy, because of the dynamic nature of web design things change constantly. A website is an ongoing project, it is never finished and because platforms like WordPress make it so easy to change the look and feel of a website, it’s not surprising that everything starts to look quite similar.
This is the second factor that plays a big role in determining what key elements your website should contain and where they should appear. User experience is often overlooked in favour of aesthetic which is a mistake. Your users are the most important consideration for any website owner, these are the people you wish to attract and ultimately sell to. Your site should be designed for them and this is what’s referred to in the industry as user-focused design.
If your site is nothing more than a vanity project then don’t be surprised if it doesn’t convert for you.
Going back to the structure of the site, there are going to be things that remain similar or even constant across different designs. These are key elements that are crucial to the user experience or user journey once on the site.
A good example is the brand logo. 99% of the time you will find the company’s logo at the very top of the website’s homepage. It can change position (left, centred, right) and size (small, big, huge) but it’s most commonly found there.
Why? Brands want users to be reassured straight away when they land on their website that they are in the right place. Brand recognition through the visual clue of a familiar logo is the quickest and simplest way to achieve this. In the west, we read left to right top to bottom so it is logical to place the logo here.
Another example is navigation (menu links). These also appear at the top of the page and give users the immediate choice to find and navigate to the service or product they are looking for. Social media links also tend to appear high up the page.
There are lots of clever ways to focus a visitors attention and lead them on a specific journey on your website. Colour plays a very important role for example, have you ever wondered why sale signs are often bright red?
A study published by a Professor Andrew Elliot found that people react faster and more forcefully when they see the colour red, with the primary reason behind the phenomena being that the colour red enhances physical reactions as it is programmed into our psyche as a cue for danger.
Cars always make a good analogy for website design and build. There are many different types of car out there but all of them have certain features in common for example lights at the front and rear, windows, round wheels and so on. The primary function of these features trumps aesthetic appearance, they must work and perform well otherwise the car becomes useless. Imagine square wheels being used on a car because they look really cool, ridiculous! All cars look slightly different so no two models are the same but they all retain the same essential functions.
I hope this blog has helped you to understand why your website often needs to look like every other website. You should embrace what is proven to work and favour function over the aesthetic at all times.
If you need help planning a website design contact me today!