The main job of any website is to convey information. Whether you do this through images, through text or through videos, you will ultimately be trying to communicate with your audience and that makes information very much central to your strategy.

What you might not have realised however, is that it’s not only your content that does this. Just as important is the way that you communicate through your web design itself and there are a lot of things that you can say with a well-designed website. How you go about this, and what you try to say, will prove to be instrumental to your eventual success.

What Does a Web Design Say?

So what kind of information can a web design convey? Well for one, it will tell visitors about the nature of your site, about your personality (or that of your business) and about your professionalism and trustworthiness. At the same time, a good web design should also communicate how to use it. As soon as someone lands on your site you want them to know where to click to access the various different elements of the site – and to do this you want your site to essentially tell the user where everything is.

How Does Your Site Communicate?

What this doesn’t mean though, is telling your visitors where to click in a direct manner. While the occasionally ‘Click Here For…’ is fine, generally you want your site to be intuitive and free from exposition.

Instead it should be the very layout, the colours and the shape of your site that communicate with the visitors. And it should be every aspect of your site that does this too. In design there is an oft quoted mantra that says ‘communicate don’t decorate’. What that essentially means is that everything you include on your site should be there for a purpose and should serve some role in telling the visitors something useful.

So how do you communicate that someone should ‘click here for…’ without saying as much? Well one option might be to use a button and to place an icon on that button that uses skeuomorphism (reference to real-world objects and things) in order to show what it does. A picture of an envelope on a button on a website for instance is likely to link to a ‘contacts’ page, but it’s only through symbolism and context that you know that. Magnifying glasses are ‘search’ pages, links are chains… you get the idea.

Likewise you can communicate what things do through their placement. We tend to know for instance that navigation goes along the top or along the left, and that the ‘home’ page tends to be the furthest left or nearest the top. As such you can put almost any kind of icon there and people will still be able to workout what it means.

Your site will communicate its tone and topic meanwhile through colour choices and through images. If you see a picture of someone in a suit and the site is coloured in navy, white and black, then it’s normally safe to assume that it’s a relatively serious ‘business’ or ‘finance’ site. Using more greens and it’s probably a ‘go green’ site or an eco-friendly business.

Meanwhile the mistakes you make will also suggest things about your site and your business – like people speaking rumours about you. Dead images suggest you haven’t checked your site for a while and maybe don’t care, poor colour choices suggest a lack of style, while lack of scaling for different designs shows lack of forethought.

Some Experiments to Try

To demonstrate the amount of communication that goes on non-verbally when you visit a website then, try visiting a site now that you’ve not been to before, but then making an effort not to read any of the writing. How much can you tell about the nature of the site and the creators behind it without reading anything? And how do you know?

Likewise, next time you go to design your own website, try to see just how much ‘information’ you can pack in before you’ve even written a word. You’ll be surprised at how much more efficient and effective it is as a result.