A professional website is key to a successful business. An unprofessional website can seem outdated, create a disconnect with your audience and keep you from achieving your business goals. Your website is like the poster child of you brand and making it sure it aligns with your brand positioning, reflects your expertise and connects with the right people is crucial.
Modern design, simplified content and a great user experience are just some of the ways you can refresh your online presence and look more like the professional you are.
How to Make Your Website Look More Professional
01. Implement modern design
An outdated web design can certainly give off the impression of “not professional”. If your website looks like it’s 10 years old, viewers may get the sense that you don’t take your business seriously and therefore, why should they? So what are elements of modern web design?
White space (or negative space) refers to the space around each element on your page. Older websites tend to look cluttered, fitting as much on a page as possible. Clutter can come off chaotic, messy and overwhelming. By giving everything plenty of room to breath you’ll have a much cleaner look, organize content in a way that’s easy to digest and draw the user’s attention to the most important parts of the page.
In the early days of web design it was pretty difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate unique fonts into a website. But today, you have access to Google fonts, Adobe fonts and the ability to add completely custom fonts to your design. Utilizing unique typography is a great way to modernize your website and distinguish your visual identity online.
Modern websites aren’t boring. Create an interesting, engaging experience by mixing up the layouts you use within a page. If you have a grid layout in one section try something with a large image or a left-aligned layout in the next. Website pages tend to be much longer these days, so it’s important to keep the viewer’s eye moving and break up the monotony.
Custom icons and graphics
Utilizing custom icons, graphics or illustrations is another great way to escape the boredom of repetitive design. They add more interest to a section, can help visually represent your content and offer an opportunity to extend your unique branding.
Adding movement to the page is a great way to make your website more current. Be careful not to over do it, though. Animations can add interest to your site but can quickly become excessive if you use too many or they are too jarring. You can add simple, meaningful animations with:
- Scrolling announcement banners – promote a sale or display important content with a scrolling banner
- Hover effects – you can add a subtle animation to your buttons where they change color or bounce when hovered. Change link fonts to be underlined or italic. Or have images get slightly darker.
- Fading/reveals – Have content slowly reveal with subtle fading effects as the user scrolls the page.
Follow trends (lightly)
Keeping up with web design trends is a surefire way to stay modern. For example, background videos (as opposed to still images) have become quite trendy in web design. See where you can maybe add video content to your site where it makes sense. But tread lightly with trends. They should only be used intentionally, when they actually make sense for your brand. Trends tend to cycle in and out, too, so by going all-in on a specific fad you could run the risk of looking outdated quickly when it’s no longer “all the rage”.
02. Use professional, on-brand photography
The images you choose to use can make or break your website. A professional website uses a cohesive collection of high-resolution photos that support and compliment your brand and your offers.
Determine a photography style
The best way to make sure the images throughout your site are cohesive is to establish a photography style. I offer stock photography sourcing to all my website clients because the images used throughout your site are just so important! If you’re working with a brand designer, this is something probably included in the creative direction they develop for you (and if not, make sure you ask about it!). If you’re DIYing your brand here are some things to keep in mind when sourcing or taking photos.
- Lighting – find/take photos that use similar lighting like bright and fresh, soft and ambient or dark and moody. Make sure the lighting works well with your overall brand style. If you’re a nutrition coach helping women feel more energetic… dark and moody probably isn’t the right direction.
- Colors – find/take photos with a similar color palette that supports your brand. If you’re using a neutral color palette in your logo, type, backgrounds and other collateral, filling your website with a rainbow of colors won’t really align. If you’re using imagery to infuse pops of color, try to stick to 2-3 colors that work well together.
- Subject matter – choose images that represent what you’re selling and reflect the feelings you want your brand to provoke. If you’re a yoga studio promoting the sense of peace and calm a daily practice can provide, images of activity and adventure won’t exactly align. On the other hand, a fitness studio promoting strength training and feeling strong could benefit from images of people rock climbing, running, etc.
A great way to get a sense if your images are cohesive is to view them all together. Create a slide deck or a mood board and see if everything feels curated or if any images feel “off”.
Sourcing stock photography
Stock photography has come a long way! Gone are the cheesy, corporate photos of people smiling too big or looking way too deep in thought while staring at the laptop screens. Images like this scream outdated! and also don’t resonate with your audience. You used to be able to tell a “stock” photo a mile away, but now using stock imagery can actually be a wonderful, inexpensive way to curate your photography with a cohesive, professional style that’s on brand and resonates with users.
Some of my favorite stock photography sites are:
With free stock sites you’ll find thousands of images from hundreds of different photographers. This can be great to source a good variety but also a little daunting when searching for images to use on your website. Paid stock sites tend to offer an easier way to sort through images, usually organizing their content by collection, orientation, color, subject matter and more.
Whatever source you choose to use, here are some tips to follow when sourcing stock photography;
- Search by photographer – once you find an image you like (that aligns with your brand and photography style) continue to search through that photographer’s collection. You’ll most likely find a similar lighting and mood style amongst their work and can ensure your images all work well together.
- Use keywords in your search – in addition to the subject of the photo (“woman using laptop”) add in descriptor words that describe feelings, lighting and style. For example, “woman using laptop pensive editorial” or “woman using laptop smiling bright”. This will help you narrow down your search. If you’re using Pexels you can click and image and find keywords the image has been tagged with. Use these tags in searches to find similar photos.
- Browse the related images – With both Pexels and Unsplash you can click an image and view “More Like This”. These images are typically from the same collection, same photographer and have the same tags. This help minimize your time browsing through the thousands of available images and again help you stay on-brand.
03. Simplify Your Content
Consumers like content to be clear and simple. No one is going to spend 15 minutes reading a paragraph of text on your website. Make your copy easy to digest and straight to the point.
Catchy but clear headlines
Website viewers will skim the page to find information that’s important to them. Catchy headlines are effective to stop the scroll, but making sure they clearly define what the section is about is even more important. And bonus points if your headlines resonate with your audience on a deeper level. For example, “Free Trial” is an OK headline for a section explaining you offer a one-week free trial to your yoga studio. “Try Our Studio Risk Free” is better. But “Uncover Your Inner Zen With A Weekly Yoga Practice – See For Yourself With Our 7-Day Free Trial” hits the nail on the head.
Since website users are skimmers, make sure you’re bringing attention to the information they’re actually looking for.
- Larger/bolder/colored headlines – grab their attention with what’s most important.
- Supporting sub headings – distinguish sub headings so their not the first thing a viewer reads but further support or clarify your main headline
- Short paragraphs – keep bodies of text short and sweet (2-5 sentences).
- Utilize lists and bullet points – You can squeeze a lot of helpful content in a list so it’s quick to read and easy to digest
04. Create an enjoyable user experience
If users have a hard time finding what they’re looking for chances are they wont stick around. A good website is easy to navigate, anticipates what the audiences needs or wants and leads them on an effective journey – and hopefully to a sale!
Don’t overwhelm users with too much choice. Your main navigation should have no more than 6 links to your most important pages. If you have lots of supporting pages, try using dropdown menus to better organize and simplify your navigation. You can also use larger more complex navigations in your website footer so these links are easy to find but not the first choice a user is faced with.
A Way to Get in Touch
Your user’s should be able to get in touch with you in just one click. Make sure your contact page is linked in your main navigation and again in your footer. Add a short contact form that asks for pertinent information so they can quickly and conveniently send a message without having to write their own email.
Create a flow
Anticipate what a user may want to know next and create a user journey that makes sense for them. If they enjoyed reading a blog post, they’ll probably want to read another. Add Related Posts to the bottom of each article to encourage them to stay on your site and learn more about your business. After viewing your portfolio, they’re probably curious about the services and packages you offer. Have a call-to-action at the bottom of your portfolio that leads to your Services page. Similarly, adding some of your work on your Services page would make sense because a user intrigued by your offer may want to see examples in action.
If you want your audience to take your business seriously, having a professional website is a must. Modern design and high-quality images can help update your online presence and give a sense of professionalism. Simplifying your content and creating an enjoyable user experience further extends your expertise and informs visitors why they should work with you. Your website is an extension of your brand and a professional online with help you leave your audience with a memorable first impression.