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Clear And Effective Communication In Web Design

Communication is one of the foundational elements of a good website. It is essential for a positive user experience and for a successful website that truly benefits its owners. All types of websites are affected by the need for good communication in one way or another. Regardless of whether the website in question is an e-commerce website, a blog, a portfolio website, an information website for a service company, a government website or any other type of website, there is a significant need to communicate effectively with visitors. [Content Care Nov/29/2016]

Because of the significance of communication with visitors, it is an essential consideration for every designer and website owner and the responsibility of both. Unfortunately, communication is sometimes overlooked and takes a backseat to the visual attractiveness of a website1. Ideally, the design and other elements that do the communicating work together to create a clear, unified message to visitors.

In this article, we’ll take a broad look at the subject of clear communication in Web design. We’ll start with a discussion of the primary methods of communication for websites and typical challenges that designers face. From there, we’ll move on to look at what specifically should be communicated to visitors and tips for implementing this in your own work. At the end, we’ll look at some of the goals that should be established in terms of communication when developing websites, as well as some of the results of having a website that communicates effectively.

You might be interested in the following related posts:

1. Methods of Communication Link

Websites communicate with visitors in a number of different ways. Not all websites take the same approach, but almost every website will use at least a few common methods of communication. To get started, let’s first look at some of the basic ways that websites communicate with visitors before going into more depth on the subject.

1.1. Text Link

Text is, of course, the most obvious form of communication that takes place online. Whether the text is in the main body content of the page or a headline, most website visitors rely on text to understand the basic messages of a website. Depending on the type of the website, text may be extremely critical to communication, as in the case of blogs.

The approach taken with text will depend on the purpose of the website. For example, sales copy on an e-commerce or membership website will differ from article content on an informational website.

1.2. Images Link

We’ve all heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos and images are excellent resources not only for creating an attractive and interesting design, but also for communication purposes. Images can often communicate a message faster, more clearly and more emphatically than text. The designer needs to be aware of the messages being communicated via images and ensure they work in harmony with the rest of the website’s communication.

1.3. Titles and Headers Link

Whether you’re examining Web design, magazine layout, newspaper design, etc., titles and headers are critical to effective communication. Human nature is to want to know something quickly, and especially when on the Web. Titles and headers help to communicate major points and ideas to visitors, and they tell visitors what to expect from the rest of the content.

1.4. Icons Link

One of the reasons icons are so useful in Web design is that they communicate messages without any text being used. A visitor may see a familiar icon, such as a house that represents a link to the home page, and immediately know what the item represents and what to do.

1.5. Design Styles Link

The style of a website’s design may also communicate a message to visitors. Certain design styles are common in particular industries, and other styles may not be an appropriate fit for a specific type of website. The style can, in these cases, indicate to visitors something about your website and how it fits their needs. For example, a website that sells skateboards would likely feature a grunge style design. This is a style that most visitors in the target market would appreciate, and by seeing this type of style, visitors in that target market will likely feel comfortable with the website and feel an association with it. In this case, the design style helps communicate to visitors that this is where they belong and that the website was created for them.

1.6. Colors Link

Obviously, there is an infinite variety of colors and color schemes in Web design. Sometimes colors are chosen just based on what looks good, but other times the psychology of color comes into play. Colors not only play a large role in determining how a website looks, but also communicate messages to visitors in certain ways.

1.7. Audio and Video Link

While most of the Web is made up of text, audio and video have become increasingly common over the past few years as more and more Internet users are on high-speed connections. As audio and video have become increasingly common, many new opportunities have arisen for effective communication online. Designers and website owners have plenty of options in how they communicate with their visitors, and audio and video have some definite strengths that make them a tremendous method of communication.

2. Challenges of Creating a Website with Clear Communication Link

In order to build a website that effectively and clearly communicates with visitors, a number of challenges need to be overcome. Not all websites are the same, so challenges may differ from one website to the next, but the challenges discussed below are some of the most common.

2.1. Too Much Content Link

One of the biggest challenges that designers have to overcome is simply deciding on the amount of content and information to use. Of course, having a lot of quality information is a good thing, but it can also get in the way and make it difficult to communicate clearly with visitors. In many cases, websites with less content have an easier time effectively communicating a particular message to visitors because there is no excess to get in the way.

By trying to fit a lot of content onto a page, the website owner can very easily create a cluttered page that confuses visitors. Primary messages are often overpowered by the busyness of a page, and sometimes the content may even send mixed or unclear messages.

2.2. Every Visitor is Different Link

When developing websites, one needs to keep in mind that each visitor is unique and that it is impossible to classify all of them in the same group. Websites are designed with their target audience in mind, but even within that group of users, some diversity will still exist. These differences can have an impact on the communication of the website, because not every visitor will respond in the same way or understand the same messages.

How are visitors different? First, demographics play a role. A website is likely to attract visitors from all over the globe, and a visitor in one part of the world will differ from a visitor in another part of the world. Age and sex will also be important factors.

Beyond demographics, not every visitor will have the same purpose in visiting the website. They may be looking for different things or have different agendas on the website. Visitors will also come from a variety of sources, and visitors from one source will not always have the same characteristics as visitors from another source.

Additionally, not all of your visitors will have the same level of knowledge of the subject of your website. All of these things make each visitor unique, and they all have an impact on the communication between the website and the user.

2.3. Clarity Link

Communicating through a website is easy. Every website communicates in a number of different ways, even unintentionally. Communicating with clarity, on the other hand, is much more of a challenge. Because of the short amount of time that a new visitor is likely to spend on a website before leaving, there is a strong need for the website to quickly and clearly communicate.

In order for a message to be clear, there must be a clear purpose and priority of the website that is understandable to the visitor; there must not be too much noise or clutter; and the message must be communicated in a way that it can be understood by the visitor.

Blogs can sometimes be difficult for new visitors to quickly understand the purpose of. Macalicious uses a small box at the top of the page to quickly communicate the website’s purpose and background so that new visitors can immediately know something about it.


2.4. Keeping Communication Brief, But Complete Link

Because of the need for clarity and the benefits of communicating quickly, there are advantages to keeping messages as short and concise as possible. A brief, clear message will generally be most effective for communicating quickly online. Of course, there are exceptions to this, such as situations where in-depth articles are used to provide detailed information to visitors who are interested in such information.

Keeping a message brief and complete is a major challenge. One of the reasons taglines are so effective is that they can communicate something significant about the company or the website in a brief statement that, ideally, leaves a memorable impression on the visitor.

Shuteye uses three simple short questions at the top of its home page to help identify visitors who could benefit from its offerings. If a visitor answers “Yes” to these questions, he or she immediately has a reason to look into the report offered by Shuteye. The communication at the top of the page is brief but highly effective for filtering potential customers.


2.5. Having Personality Link

Online communication is unlike forms of communication that allow face-to-face interaction between two people. In online communication, the human visitor receives a message from a website, not directly from a person. However, the most effective communication generally occurs on websites that show some kind of personality in that communication. The website is a representation of the company or the person behind it, and showing that in the communication is important.

Digital Mash5, the portfolio website of designer Rob Morris, shows some personality with the tagline “Hero for Hire.” While there are tons of designer portfolio websites out there, Rob’s stands out in part because this statement shows some personality.

Digital Mash6

2.6. Not Overpowering the Communication with the Design Link

The design and appearance of a website should be used strategically to enhance the message of the website, but it can also become an overpowering element that hinders communication. The content of the website is of primary importance, while the appearance of the website should be used to make the visit more pleasant, memorable and easier. The design of a website should not become a priority over the content, or else the website will suffer in usability.

2.7. Gaining the Trust of Visitors Link

Depending on your type of website or the purpose of your communication, one of the biggest challenges may be simply gaining the trust of visitors. One example would be a sales page. When a page communicates something to visitors in an attempt to convince them to buy something, there is a natural resistance to trust. Overcoming this is a major challenge.

SEO Group7 uses testimonials from satisfied clients at the top of its page to help build trust.

SEO Group8

2.8. Getting and Keeping Attention Link

If you have an audience with a very short attention span and that is quick to close the browser or visit another website, getting and keeping its attention is a necessary prerequisite to effective communication. This also goes back to the issue of having a clear and concise message that communicates to visitors before they get confused or bored with the website. If visitors arrive at a website and cannot easily understand its purpose or what it offers them, they’re likely to move elsewhere.

3. What Should Be Communicated Link

When creating a website, what things should you focus on in terms of communication? Knowing what should be communicated is a key step that cannot be overlooked. While the answer to this question will vary from one website to the next, the basics are discussed below.

3.1. Purpose of the Company or Website Link

The most important message that must be communicated by every website is its purpose. Some visitors will likely already be familiar with the website or the company behind it, but many may not. As visitors arrive at the website, they should be able to quickly and accurately understand why the website exists and what is offered, and from this they should be able to determine if it is something that interests them.

When visitors arrive at a website that does not clearly communicate its purpose or what it does, it almost always results in a frustrating visit, which leads to a website not achieving maximum effectiveness for its owner.

AnswerJam communicates its purpose by answering the question “What is answerJam?” on the home page.


3.2. What is Offered? Link

In addition to simply understanding the purpose of the website, visitors should also be able to quickly learn what the company or website offers them. Of course, this will vary from one website to another. E-commerce websites need to clearly communicate to visitors the types of products that can be purchased. Service companies should clearly communicate the services that are available to visitors. Websites that are content-rich, such as blogs, should communicate to new visitors what type of content is available to visitors and subscribers.

Elegant Themes9 offers premium WordPress themes for an annual membership fee. The website uses a light blue box to quickly and clearly communicate the details of what is offered to visitors.

Elegant Themes10

3.3. How Can Visitors Benefit? Link

Simply listing services or products that are available may not be enough. In most cases, the website should communicate to visitors how these products and services can specifically benefit them and why they would be better off with them.

3.4. What Action Can Visitors Take? Link

If a website does an effective job of clearly communicating its purpose, including what is offered and how it can benefit visitors, some of those visitors will want to take action. But is it clear what type of action they should take and how they can do so? Of course, e-commerce websites should make it easy for visitors to take action by buying items. Service companies should make it clear how visitors can take the next step towards using their services. Can visitors place an order online? Should they fill out a contact form to have someone get in touch with them? Should they call the company by phone?

4. Tips for Effective Communication: Link

Now that we’ve looked at how websites communicate with visitors, some typical challenges and what should be communicated, here are some tips that can be put into practice to help with the process of developing websites that communicate effectively.

4.1. Prioritize Link

The most important step to developing a website that features clear communication is prioritizing your messages and knowing exactly what should be communicated to visitors. If you’re not able to easily state the main point, purpose or message of your website, it’s unlikely that visitors will be able to understand that message accurately.

Most websites, especially larger ones, have multiple messages that are communicated throughout their pages. In these cases, it’s important to determine a priority so that the most important messages are given more prominence.

LightCMS11 has prioritized the simplicity and ease of use of its product. The home page, “Features” page and “Why LightCMS” page all prominently display a message that emphasizes this point.


4.2. Determine What Visitors Should Know About the Company or Website Link

Every company and website has something that it specifically wants visitors to learn about it. It’s critical that this is identified, otherwise it will be impossible to communicate it effectively to visitors. Ideally, the website would be used as a tool to brand the company, so the messages that are being communicated should fit the overall branding efforts and strengthen those efforts.

Checkout13 offers point-of-sale software for Macs. It has determined what is most important for visitors to know about the software and makes it clear with the simple statement, “Get a Mac. Start a Store.”


4.3. Keep it Simple Link

Communicating effectively is much easier when the messages are simple and when excess can be eliminated. Any way that online communication can be simplified (without losing anything important) will make it easier for you and your visitors. In some cases, this may mean cutting down on communicating too many different things and just focusing on the most important aspects. By reducing the amount of information that is communicated, each message or piece of information will have more of an impact.

Umbrella Today? is an outstanding example of keeping it simple. While there are plenty of options for checking the weather online, Umbrella Today is aimed at those who simply want to know if they’ll need an umbrella. Enter your zip code and you’ll get an answer.

Umbrella Today?

While most websites will not be able to practically achieve this level of simplicity, it is a good example of what can be achieved when excess communication is cut out.

4.4. Keep it Relevant to Your Target Audience Link

Because your visitors are likely to be diverse, it’s important to consider your target market and audience when developing the website. Who is the most critical audience for your company and website? The website should be designed and developed so that it can communicate specifically with these visitors. Additional efforts can be taken to communicate with other audiences as well, but the target audience should be prioritized; and if sacrifices are made, they should be made in other areas.

FreeAgent15 provides online accounting for freelancers and small businesses. Its target audience is not large companies that are looking for a more complex accounting system. The customers it is targeting are not likely to be experts in accounting, and they’ll probably be interested in simplicity in an accounting system. FreeAgent effectively keeps its message relevant to this target audience by stating that it is “Accounting for the rest of us.” If a visitor has been frustrated by other more complex accounting systems, they’re likely to immediately feel that FreeAgent was made with them in mind.


4.5. Make the Message Impossible to Miss Link

The most effective way to ensure that visitors receive the most important messages of a website is by making them nearly impossible to miss. This can be done in a few different ways, but using large text, colored text or some other design technique to make the message stand out are common. Other techniques include automatically loading audio, video and pop-ups, each of which brings its own usability issues and concerns.

Treemo Labs used a large bold font to immediately communicate what services it offers.

Treemo Labs

4.6. Style Text Link

Messages can easily be made to stand out by using bold text, colored text or larger font sizes. These things are all visual clues to visitors that something is important and prioritized. Of course, the more that is added to a website, the less impact that piece of text will have.

For example, if a page is styled in a very basic manner, with only one line that stands out in large bold text, this line will be extremely noticeable and likely have a significant impact. On the other hand, if a page using bold or colored text in several different places and various font sizes all over the place, the result is that nothing will really stand out because there is not enough uniformity.

Another option for styling text was demonstrated by Auditude. It uses a simple change in background color to create a box that separates a particular section of text. As a result, that section of text stands out.


4.7. Use Headers and Sub-Headers Link

On pages that consist of a significant amount of text, breaking it up and identifying the main points with headers and sub-headers can be very effective. Headers not only help to make the text more readable by creating white space and using bold font to add variety to the page, but they also communicate a structure of the content to visitors and can summarize the primary messages of the content.

4.8. Make Everything Count, or Get Rid of It Link

When it comes to communication online, it’s very easy to complicate a message by adding more than is necessary. The best solution is to use only what has an impact. Make everything count, or just get rid of it. If text or an image doesn’t really serve a purpose, it’s only complicating things by cluttering the most important messages. In this situation, you’re better off without it, and the result will be a simpler, clearer message.

The website for Silverback17 contains no unnecessary text. Above the fold, visitors see a list of what Silverback does, and further down the page are some more details on the service, but only essential information is included.


5. Goals for Communication When Developing a Website Link

As you’re designing and developing websites, here are some goals to keep in mind that should help you stay focused on creating ones that communicate effectively.

5.1. Clarity Link

One of the major goals of communication for website designers, developers and owners should be to present a clear message through the website. Regardless of what methods are used to achieve this clarity, the message must not be difficult for visitors to recognize or understand. By the time visitors leave the website, they should have received and understood the primary message.

5.2. Communication that Truly Helps the Business and Visitors Link

While clarity is critical, clarity alone does little good for the business if the right message is not conveyed. Of course, the website will be most effective for the business and most useful to visitors if the messages being communicated are the most appropriate and significant ones.

LongTermClients offers business greeting cards, but that is not quite clear simply from the name LongTermClients. Below the title of the website, it says “business greeting cards,” which makes it much easier for visitors to know what the website is all about, and which should also improve the results of the website for the company.


5.3. Consistency of Message Link

Particularly with websites, consistency must be addressed. While the website’s home page may do an effective job of clearly communicating with visitors, many visitors will be entering the website through other pages. Are those secondary pages equally effective in communicating the same message? Secondary pages likely include additional information and messages for visitors, but the website should work as a whole to create a unified, consistent message.

5.4. Design that Enhances the Message Link

The appearance and style of the website should fit and complement the communication that is taking place, not interfere with it. A great-looking website is a wonderful thing, but it should never exist at the expense of its content or communication.

5.5. Communication that Relates to the Target Audience Link

In order for the website to maximize effectiveness, the communication must be relevant to the target audience of the website. If the website targets a specific audience, but the communication isn’t catered to them, the content will be ineffective. Make it a priority to meet your visitors at their level, whatever that level may be.

Last.fm19 uses a subtle but effective twist to the standard search box. Rather than simply saying “Search,” it asks the visitor “What music do you like?” Because its target audience consists of music lovers of all kinds, this simple question above the search box encourages visitors to enter a response of their own. Once they search for something that they like, they may find something that keeps them on the website for a while.


5.6. Use of Website Structure to Build on Communication Link

Part of building a website that communicates effectively is developing a clear website structure and navigation. A highly usable website with an effective structure can help further improve communication by making it clear to visitors what is available on the website and where they can go to find what they are looking for. Help make it easier for visitors to find what they want, and you’ll improve the overall communication that takes place.

Gallery website Pattern Tap21 uses effective categorization to create structure and to make it super easy for visitors to find what interests them.

Pattern Tap22

6. Results of Good Communication Link

Websites that are able to achieve effective communication with visitors benefit in several different ways. Likewise, websites that do not communicate effectively usually struggle in these areas.

6.1. Visitors who Understand the Purpose of a Website Link

A website that communicates effectively will benefit immensely if visitors are able to understand what the website is all about; and the experience will also be more pleasant for and useful to them. It’s hard to build a successful website that doesn’t start with a solid foundation of effective communication.

6.2. Improved Branding Link

Another significant result of effective communication is improved branding. If the message or purpose of the website is communicated effectively to visitors, it will leave an impression on them that will help form their image of the company. Branding is important online and off, and the messages being sent are a major factor.

6.3. Reduced Bounce Rates Link

Websites that communicate effectively will be more user-friendly and more helpful to visitors. Fewer visitors typically leave such websites quickly as a result of not being able to find what they are looking for. Instead, they’re likely to remain on the website for a longer period of time and view a higher number of pages. Because of effective communication, visitors find the right content easily.

6.4. Less Frustration for Visitors Link

We’ve all had the unpleasant experience of being on a website that simply doesn’t communicate well with visitors. Maybe the purpose of the website was unclear, or maybe you weren’t sure how to find what you were looking for. Websites that fail to communicate effectively frustrate many visitors, which is obviously not a good way to build a successful website.

6.5. More Sales, Leads, Subscribers, etc. Link

Websites have all kinds of different goals; but regardless of what the specific goals of your website are, the website is more likely to achieve them with effective communication. Whether you’re selling products, promoting a service, building a blog readership, developing a social network or simply providing information, communication is essential to success.

The website of Mia & Maggie uses color to make the text “Free shipping” stand out. By drawing more attention to that statement, the company will likely receive more orders from people who want to take advantage of the offer. Keeping that text white would likely not produce the same results.

Mia & Maggie

6.6. Less Unnecessary Inquiries Link

If visitors can’t find what they’re looking for on your website or if they’re not sure what is offered, you’re likely to receive emails or contact form submissions that could be avoided with better communication. Receiving inquiries is certainly not a bad thing, but when you’re answering questions that are either already answered on the website or are asked repeatedly but not answered on the website, a breakdown in communication has occurred somewhere. Websites that do a good job of communicating with visitors may receive some of these kinds of inquiries from visitors who don’t make any effort to find the information, but generally they will receive less unnecessary inquiries because visitors will be able to find what they are looking for without needing to ask for help.


Footnotes Link

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Steven Snell is a Web designer and blogger. In addition to maintaining his own blog and writing for a number of other top design blogs, he also manages an online shop that offers premium graphic design resources.

  1. 1

    Clear And Effective Communication really leads you to wherever you like. Mostly it shows your identity in it….you can always see immediate results of Good Communication by applying it in your work. Nice Writing Snell….

    DKumar M.

  2. 2

    Thanks… great resource for a newbie blogger like me… check out and see if my site is effective… :-)

    Come hungry :-P

  3. 3

    Very informative. It must have taken you a long time to put all of that together. Thanks.

  4. 4

    Bla bla bla, same old…

  5. 5

    Almost everything covered – How to not to lose an audience

  6. 6

    Good informative article

  7. 7

    nice post Snell …. it will be very helpful

  8. 8

    This is a very effective post, I really like the way the article is presented with clear and effective headings.
    The examples are excellent, I would love to see more posts like this. Good Work Steven.

  9. 9

    Not much in the way of tips on accessibility, which is the key to effective communication for a lot of people. I’m surprised that there isn’t more of an emphasis on accessibility for an article named “Clear and Effective Communication In Web Design”.

  10. 10

    Have a surge of one-column sites please! That’ll help lots to clear up the mess a little. :3

  11. 11

    Thanks a lot! Really useful and helpful post :)

  12. 12

    Great post, thank you!

  13. 13

    Nice article for those who want to re-brush their fundamentals

  14. 14

    That’s for the “back to basic” advises! Sometimes a web designer is too overwhelmed with the latest trends and forgets the basic principles of design. I find simplicity and clarity to be the most difficult to archive, since there is so much content…

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  16. 16

    A well-written and useful article – thanks, Steven!

  17. 17

    Bit long, but lots of really great info there.

  18. 18

    Execellent, well written article. Yes, it is back to basics, but getting the foundations right is vital, then you can build all the flashy architecture on top. This article should be required reading, on a regular basis, for every web designer.
    Oh, and that doesn’t mean I agree with everything in it, but everything in it needs thinking about. Top marks.

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    Andrew Gransden

    February 4, 2009 3:45 am

    I thank you for pointing out the clear message I hope to put across with my images. The design is down to Freebird who interpreted my passion for photography perfectly.
    By the way, the hit rate on my website has sky rocketed today – but unfortunately they are not wedding clients!

  20. 20

    Louisa Nardini

    February 4, 2009 3:56 am

    I very much enjoyed reading this article and found it very helpful, especially as I am just moving from delivering training to actually developing media sites for businesses.

    Lots of useful tips here to bear in mind.

  21. 21

    As a long time follower of this site and a longer time web designer (11 years) I have to say that was an excellent article in every way. I have worked for companies who have spent tens of thousands of pounds to have 80% of the research answered here in this post.

    This is a must-read post for any wannabe designer who wants to enter the corporate market. You design for the visitor and not the H.I.P.P.O (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). Something that 99% of designers overlook.

    Never done it before: 10/10!

  22. 22

    зачётная статейка!

  23. 23

    Very interesting post – we’ll try to convey most of you recommand in our soon to come website.

  24. 24


    nice post, can i translate to portuguese and post in my blog ?

  25. 25

    you should make this post as pdf, so i can read anytime and anywhere though. brilliant post once again.

  26. 26

    This should be required reading for anyone interested in having a custom website created for their business. Totally Rad!

  27. 27

    Matthew Smith

    February 4, 2009 6:11 am

    Well written article. I much prefer these to the list of resources that SM is often known for, and which can be great!

    Glad to see you feel that Pattern Tap has great categorization. I’ve done everything I can to make the site easy to use, and hopefully its going to improve even further.

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    John Stirzaker

    February 4, 2009 6:14 am

    Many thanks for your positive comments on The Andrew Gransden website, we enjoyed working on that one, he’s a lovely guy and deserves as much exposure as possible.


  29. 29

    1st reding – awsome article
    2ns reading – hey, that article has a lot of duplicated information

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    “This is a must-read post for any wannabe designer who wants to enter the corporate market. You design for the visitor and not the H.I.P.P.O (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). Something that 99% of designers overlook.”

    It’s pretty easy to remind designers that they should be focusing on the site and the visitor, but it can be very difficult – if not impossible – to convince ignorant H.I.P.P.’s of even the most basic components of good Web design. While this article makes many good points, the corporate types who desperately need to be educated are not the ones reading it. :)

  31. 31

    Great post. Its a nice reminder and a good resource to point client to as well.

    Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long letter instead.” Very relevant…

  32. 32

    Somehow I get the impression SmashingMagazin is posting the same stuff over and over and over…

    I can already see the next “300+ jQuery tutorials you’ve already seen everywhere else that all do the same thing” article coming…

  33. 33

    awesome article :)

  34. 34

    Did anyone else notice that Pixelhaven’s website says “Usuable” instead of “Usable?” That’s embarrassing.

    Though it appears to be fixed on their site now.

  35. 35

    I see lots of responses saying that the article is “the basics.” I agree. And the majority of the corporate websites out there still don’t get the basics. Great article!

  36. 36

    Great study article thank you for this i really appreciate the time and effort you have committed to this article! Thanks and keep up the good work!!

    Greets, Ray
    IDvision Creative media

  37. 37

    Excellent article, am having an important meeting tomorrow with marketeers and vp of the company, and this article features some good arguments that I can using in my presentation of the new -in development- company website.

    Great work !


  38. 38

    Awesome as always Smashing .

  39. 39

    Kent Robinson

    February 4, 2009 6:05 pm

    I’ve been a devout reader of Smashing Mag for over a year and have to say, this is one of the best articles I’ve read so far. Nice post Steven…

  40. 40

    I got recommended this article by a friend. Absolutely superb – clear and concise ideas!

  41. 41

    Very rich and informative article. Excellent work, Steve! You’ve communicated your message as clearly as necessary using only plain English! You know, I really fancy none technical and none jargon infested posts. Thanks!

  42. 42

    excellent article, pretty useful even for those die hard web-dsigners
    thank you

  43. 43

    Thanks for featuring us in your great article (answerJam)

    Clear and concise communication is the cornerstone of all UI/Web Design. It’s difficult to do well, and you have some great examples here of how it can be done effectively. Our site is all about communication and making connections, albeit anonymously.

    We spent a great deal of time trying to design a site that help facilitate this for our users.

  44. 44

    Hi there,

    Nice post, this is very useful. Always and always communication will be the key to anyone’s success in any form of business they take up. The type of communication might vary, but it remains the key.

    Eddie Gear

  45. 45

    great tips, useful for me.

  46. 46

    The article has lots of useful stuff but it really needs to prioritize it better. Looking at this, you’d think that each of these issues is equally important; they are not. The one that is more important than all the others in terms of “fundamentals of communication” is the concept of branding. If you are not clear what your organization’s, product’s or service’s promise is to your clients, no amount of pretty web design, good titles, colors, etc. will make much difference to connecting with that audience. I have worked with many people who similarly get lost in the weeds because they do not get this basic point. In fact, if you don’t have a clear sense of what your brand is, some of the above advice could be flat-out wrong. Consider the web site for a company that created highly challenging brain-teaser-like games: Should they really follow advice to “keep it simple”? Here’s what is simple: If you don’t know what your brand is, you are in serious communications trouble. You shouldn’t even pick a color – for the company letterhead! – if this is not clear.

    The second priority is target audience. Too many web sites are not sure who their target audience is. I would go a step further than you and say, “NO secondary audiences. People in those audiences will follow.” But some people find this too radical; I think they are just hopeful that someone outside the target audience will somehow join the target audience. This is just wishful thinking. Web sites without a clear target audience end up being too diffuse. This gets back to branding – if you do a proper branding exercise, you will know your target audience clearly.

    Why no mention of “checking out the competition”? Surely no one is going to design a communications piece to compete against others without looking at what the others are doing, right? Again, this would be part of a proper branding exercise. You have to know what your competition is doing or you risk committing their mistakes or just being imitative. (This is not the same as showing web sites that are well designed, IMHO)….

    Finally – and as a communicator I almost shudder to write this – if a web site today is not offering its users an experience of some sort rather than just communicating something(s), I wonder about its value proposition. People want to get something done when they use the web now. The research paper writers among us will be fine if they can get information; the rest of us want to interact somehow – we want to get involved, comment, contribute, manipulate information not just see it, etc. I don’t care what anyone says, you can put interactivity into any web site. And I think you should!

    I thank you for the article despite what I see as flaws in the thinking. I acknowledge that I could be completely wrong and hope others who think so will write their perspectives!

  47. 47

    Bruno Alberto Byington Neto De Figueiredo

    February 6, 2009 2:16 am

    Joe, I’d love to discuss with you on your previous post but Im kind of stuck with so many deadlines and just came across SmashingMag. to get some informative Distraction…

    I like the article because it is very informative. Its easy to understand and its ‘cool written’. Im unfortunately one of these people who talk all day long and who tends to write even more. Now I am not a fan of this very extrovert alike characteristic of mine what might be the reason why I think that the article is a bit too long. No offense to the author but maybe the article could have been set more to the point if you know what I mean?

    I liked what you had to say about the demographic Target Perspectives and that is something I never looked at before. I checked things like usability, beauty and function as also the marketing target I generally speaking aim for at my Web related projects for example but I never thought about the ‘where do my visitors come from?’ in relationship to just increase my marketing target or… I dont know, find out more about demographic things?

    Anyway, Im already kind of behind things.

    Liebe Grüße,


  48. 48

    wish someone would post something on instructions or layouts.

  49. 49

    very good article to have a grasp of their websites

  50. 50

    Brilliant post keep it up Steve Snell!!! Loved this… Examples are awesome. I think pixelhaven already fixed their typo.

  51. 51

    Great article, thank you

  52. 52

    Can’t believe I had to scroll to comment 43 before finding something relevant –, you almost say what I want to say:

    Why doesn’t this web-site follow it’s own advice? The layout and communication here _sucks_ .

    The fact I can only see ads in my window when I first open the article and no content at all is horrible to say the least. I only scrolled past it all because I was shocked at the article’s title vs what I saw of their web site.

  53. 53

    Thanks for a great article, Snell.

  54. 54

    Mark @ Alchemy United

    February 10, 2009 6:51 am

    1) Nice. Thanks. This is going to be good to share with clients so they can understand the process.

    2) 2.2. Every Visitor is Different – This should be #1. IMHO far too many sites are “designed” with the site/company and/or designer being the #1 priority.

    3) As Luntz sez, “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” “Words That Work” is a must read for anyone who trades in communications. It’s focus is words but ultimately it’s a book about effective communication.

  55. 55

    Daniel Whitmore

    February 11, 2009 7:43 am

    Superb read. Many thanks.


  56. 56

    clear cut explanation .thanks for sharing .

  57. 57

    hi here is good

  58. 58

    Wondering if some of the links to the images are broken as I can’t see many of the images, or if it’s something on my end. Would be helpful to see them to reinforce explanations. Thanks!

  59. 59

    I find this article very helpful. It shows a trend among some well-known design blogs to combine the world of designers with the world of marketing. I wish there was a blog entitled: “about graphic design for marketing managers and about marketing management for designers”.
    Maybe I will start one myself…

    Anyway, again great read here :)

  60. 60

    Brant Schroeder

    February 25, 2009 1:22 pm

    Excellent Article

  61. 61


    Useful article when creating/changing a website from the customers point of view.
    Though, I have to agree on some of the replies considering the “random” order the elements of your article are put in.

    When writing an article as deep as this, it would be useful to put the elements in order of importance. From “scratch”, which elements are most important when creating “customerized” website?!

    A very strong aspect of the article are the examples put in. In a quick overview we, the readers of this article, immediately getting the message per element.

    Once again, nice post!


  62. 62

    very nice, excellent work

  63. 63

    This was a very interesting article. Thanks for posting.

  64. 64

    How about personalization if I know my target audience and I can therefore group them in likeminded groups/ ofcourse these require login and registrations which is a discouragement to some users!

  65. 65

    Very interesting and informative article, I really enjoyed it. I’m especially intrigued with the point about “Every visitor is different”

    I’d love to read a more elaborate article covering some website design guidelines for websites with International target audience.


  66. 66

    This article was simply great. I have no words.

  67. 67

    Thanks for putting many of my thoughts into words and elaborating on other points. It’s a long article but all the points are important. Thanks for taking the time to post and share your perspective on clear and effective communication in web design.

  68. 68

    Great templates but honestly I’d rather using simple templates because it loads easier and faster. But this just my opinion. Thanks.

  69. 69

    Wow, this is the most comprehensive single article I’ve come across on how to communicate in web design.

    It’s really helpful to have a breakdown into broad topic, what you call
    Methods, Challenges, Message and Priority

    Like some of these comments suggest, it’s hard to now how to translate this into a plan of action for designing an effective website. I think you have the major elements identified. But as a web designer, I find myself working really hard with clients to clarify their message first. You can’t design anything until the message and audience is crystal clear.

    So the first design task really isn’t a design task. It’s more a marketing decision – what is here and who benefits? Would you agree?

  70. 70

    Thanks for sharing such a nicely organized article! This one is so helpful for me to put my ideas into words;) Thanks a lot!!

  71. 71

    thanks, very effective post

  72. 72

    Very interesting and informative article, I really enjoyed it. I think marketing communication is one of the most important factors to make the success of the web.


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