5 Design Techniques to Keep Visitors on Your Website

5 Design Techniques to Keep Visitors on Your Website

Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein sit down to evaluate a website to determine why visitors aren’t staying longer. Who comes up with the solution, the artist or the scientist? This isn’t the start to a riddle you can tell at your next office party, although I’m sure there is a clever answer in there somewhere. Marketing Managers tend to focus on the science behind keeping visitors on their site by combing through Google Analytics and analyzing anything from bounce rate to visitor paths. The role art, or design, plays in not only attracting visitors to your site, but keeping them there, is also imperative. A well-thought-out design can help visitors navigate your site with ease, find the content they need, and encourage them to explore other valuable information on your site.  

In this article we’ll dive into the key role design plays in keeping visitors on your site and steps you can take to start retaining visitors today.

1. More content, more images

The role that design plays in content has evolved from the early days of the web to today’s more modern, simplistic design. With the current trend of simple, clean, and minimal design, logic dictates that content should follow the same simplistic path. While this principle holds true for most of your website, when it comes to your blog, throw conventional wisdom out the window.  

Visitors to the majority of your website are looking for a snapshot of the services you offer, the value you provide, and what problems you can solve for them. For these visitors, it’s best to provide concise content that puts the most valuable information front and center. Users reading your blog, however, are seeking valuable knowledge from experts and are likely to stay on your website longer if the content is easy to read. To many users, length equals value when reading a blog, and extremely short articles may leave your users wondering, “If the author didn’t spend much time on this, how valuable can it really be?”

To help visitors read your blog, the content’s design plays a pivotal role. Consider implementing these best practices to your blog to help visitors read, consume, and understand your content.

  • Design your blog page to be simple, with intuitive ways to help visitors find articles that are important to them. Provide users with a way to find articles by category, author, and tag for a friendly way to keep users on your website reading more valuable information.
  • On individual articles, use sub-headlines to augment your headline and give additional detailed information about what the reader can expect to learn from your blog.
  • Help your reader make the transition between different thoughts or subjects in your article by breaking content into smaller sections.
  • Use bulleted lists that break up your content and make it easy for users to scan. 
  • Incorporate pertinent images and other graphics into your blog to help break up long blocks of text.
  • If the topic of your article is complex, consider an infographic to break down the information into digestible chunks.

While the actual content will always be the most valuable component of your blog, how your blog is designed can play an important role in how visitors read, process, and absorb the information. 

2. To serif or not to serif

One of the most important yet subtle decisions you can make about your brand is the font that your site (and other content) will use. While the discussion surrounding what font or typeface to use can be very in-depth, for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on how your choice can impact how long visitors stay on your site.

Most fonts and typefaces fall into a few major categories you’ve probably heard before: serif and sans serif. But have you ever learned the difference?

  • Serif: Serif is the slight projection finishing off a stroke of a letter in certain typefaces. Serif fonts are often said to have little “feet” coming off the end of each letter, which help accentuate each character.
  • Sans Serif: From the Latin meaning of “sans,” or “without,” sans serif is a font without the slight projections finishing off a stroke of a letter.
This graphic from user experience consultant Alex Poole shows the difference in sans serif and serif fonts. 

This graphic from user experience consultant Alex Poole shows the difference in sans serif and serif fonts. 

When determining which font to use for your website, there is no one definitive answer. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks for each one, however, can help you make an informed design decision to keep visitors on your site.

  • Serif fonts are traditionally easier to read because the “feet” help guide the reader’s eye horizontally across the page.
  • Serif fonts can also increase the contrast and spacing between different letters to prevent the reader’s eye from blending letters together.
  • Serif font is more legible for larger texts, making it less likely to cause fatigue.
  • Serif fonts make the individual letters more distinct and easy to identify.
  • Sans serif fonts tend to be more modern, clean, and simple. If your brand image is modern and simple, a Sans serif font is likely to accomplish this.
  • A Sans serif font can be better for younger audiences, since the clean shape of the letters make them more recognizable.
  • Sans serif is better in smaller sizes and tends to survive resizing and reproduction due to the simple shape of letters. 

3. Let your content breathe

If you imagine your website as a container, it’s tempting to try to fill this container with as much valuable information as possible. This urge has led “white space” on websites to be nicknamed all sorts of things with negative connotation: strange gaps, unused pixels, or available real estate.

When making design decisions about your website, embrace white space as a way to reduce distractions for visitors, make your valuable content stand out, and highlight important calls-to-action to drive users deeper into your site for more valuable content. White space is beneficial, and here’s why.

  • Surrounding content with white space cuts out distractions for your users, meaning they’re less likely to scan your page (and then find a quick exit) and more likely to focus on reading your content.
  • When whitespace frames a button or another call-to-action, it’s more likely to catch the reader’s eye quicker and help guide them deeper into your website.
  • Adding whitespace between website elements can guide your users from one element to the next in a vertical manner down the page.
  • A cluttered website with multiple elements fighting for space creates a perception of an untrustworthy company. A clean, modern web design often suggests reliability in the minds of many visitors.

As you evaluate your website (or if you’re early on in the design process for a new site), be sure to understand the benefits of whitespace and how it can help keep visitors on your site longer.  It may seem counterintuitive that more empty space will keep visitors on your site longer, but with today’s web users being as sophisticated as ever, a clean, modern design with the right amount of whitespace will make their time on your site easier, and potentially longer.

4. Vary your visual media

The types of visual media you use on your website should extend beyond pictures and infographics. While these types of visual media can serve such strong purposes as educating and informing your visitors, they also have their limitations. Pictures and infographics are static forms of media that don’t allow you to showcase your brand’s personality. Implementing videos on your site can increase the time visitors spend on your site while still providing valuable, informative content. Videos on your site can be used to:

  • Personalize your “About” section to bring you and your company to life.
  • Create a vlog, or video blog, to showcase more of your personality better than you can through written word alone.
  • Demonstrate your products with hands-on video tutorials or support videos.
  • Create tutorial videos to provide users with valuable information, positioning you as an expert resource.

Businesses that include video on their site generally see higher “dwell time,” or how long visitors stay on your website. With Google’s search algorithm placing such emphasis on user experience, the longer a visitor stays on your site, the more valuable Google perceives the content to be. Businesses that use video also see higher engagement rates, higher click-through rates, and higher conversion rates.

Varying your visual media and including engaging videos will help you stand out from your competition and hold your visitor’s attention.

5. The nuances of navigation

Website navigation is evolving from the standard navigation placed horizontally across the top of the screen to things like animated navigation menus, replication of mobile navigation on desktops, and even the elimination of navigation with one-page websites. As you work to design your site map, it’s important to understand how the design of your website navigation can impact the ease with which visitors find information. Making information easy to find will result in visitors spending more time on your site. Here are some tips.

  • Link your logo to the homepage. Homepages act as a hub, and if a user feels lost on a website they will often go back to the homepage to try to regroup before navigating your site again if, that is, they don’t exit your site altogether.
  • Use breadcrumbs. Navigation breadcrumbs are a row of links that show your visitor how they ended up where they are and give them an easy path backward if needed.
  • Make your navigation stand out, while still keeping it simple. Whether you use subtle, contrasting colors or bold design choices, getting your navigation to stand out should never take away from a simple user experience.
  • Search functionality brings a common task virtually everyone performs (searching the web) to your site. The user experience is familiar for most of your visitors, so utilizing a search function on your website to find what they need provides a simple solution.
Luxury car maker Lexus meshes traditional drop-down navigation with a modern twist. By incorporating a "tile" design with other valuable, graphically appealing content appearing side-by-side with their car models.

Luxury car maker Lexus meshes traditional drop-down navigation with a modern twist. By incorporating a "tile" design with other valuable, graphically appealing content appearing side-by-side with their car models.

While you should feel free to play with your navigation and make it stand out, the simplicity will allow users to locate and navigate to information much easier.

Attract them. Keep them. 

Making smart design decisions with your website can help simplify the visitor experience. A simpler experience will allow visitors to absorb more of the valuable content you provide as well as make them more likely to stay on your site longer.

To learn how Farmore Marketing can help you keep visitors on your site longer, contact us today.


About the author

paul young

As our Internet Marketing Specialist, Paul enjoys working closely with clients to help drive revenue through effective internet marketing techniques. Paul received his bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Central Florida and enjoys sports (Go Patriots and Red Sox), movies, and reading. You can connect with him here:

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