shutterstock_127814441Have you ever visited a website only to close it right away after being startled by music that plays automatically? It wasn’t long ago that fancy music players and distracting animations were popular in web design. Improving browsers and faster Internet speeds lured designers into pushing their websites to the limit. But in our web design shop, bells and whistles aren’t the goal, engagement is. So what are some of the ways you can use web design to help drive engagement?

Exploring an unfamiliar website is like driving in a new city. Drivers need directions and so do website visitors.Make sure to give your visitors a visual cue or message to take an action or they may get lost in an array of images and content. Never assume that a visitor will know exactly what to do when they land on a page. Direct them to a contact form or a subscription button. Promote engagement with social buttons and comment forms. Direction ensures your visitor can efficiently move from one section to the next.

If your website doesn’t have the best directional cues, check to see if there are distracting elements that lure your users away from the goal. Is music causing a high bounce rate? Are load times affecting page speed and causing frustration? Is there a distracting image on the homepage that doesn’t fit with the company’s brand guidelines? All of these things can cause headaches for your visitors and should be tested thoroughly to make sure your website is optimized for engagement.

Believe the numbers, make sharing easy

Don’t leave analytics to the inbound marketing agencies. Using analytics and tracking codes can tell you what pages of your website are getting the most hits. Users are most likely finding what they need on these pages, and through tracking you can use the information to improve other pages. You might find that pages with more imagery are getting more traffic than content-heavy pages. If this is the case, try breaking up your content with images or videos.

We live in a sharing world. It can be very frustrating when you find an interesting article on a website but there is no easy way to share it. You want visitors to share your content, so make sure you integrate social sharing buttons with your images and articles.

Keep it simple

Sometimes a minimalist approach can be the most effective. Think about Google and Craigslist. These are two very different websites but they continue to use a very simple formula for their user experiences. Google’s homepage remains a single search field with two buttons, and Craigslist is essentially an interactive classifieds list.

Ensuring that your visitor has a positive experience is a key component to maintaining a website that drives awareness, engagement and ultimately conversions. With some targeted direction and simple design, you’ll start seeing more engagement — and sooner than you might think.