Friday, May 28, 2021

The 6 Kinds of Digital Marketing Collateral You Should Be Creating

It goes without saying, but your marketing materials shouldn't be limited to conventional outbound advertisements — particularly if your business is B2B. Sure, capturing attention is part of the battle, but what happens when a prospect visits your website and sees nothing but some product descriptions and a pricing page?

There has to be more there. You need to have some material to show that you can walk the walk. One kind of content that helps get you there is known as marketing collateral, and it can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Here, we'll get a more in-depth understanding of the concept and go over the five most important marketing collateral formats you can use to help establish legitimacy and supplement your sales efforts.

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At its core, marketing collateral is a way to let prospects know that you know what you're talking about. It's not supposed to be as flashy as conventional advertisements. In creating marketing collateral, your first priority generally isn't to capture attention — it's to retain and enhance it.

In most cases, the prospects who are looking at your marketing collateral are curious about your company, but they might not be intimately familiar with you or what you're offering. Well-crafted marketing collateral can put them at ease. It can help build the kind of trust necessary to start and sustain a customer relationship.

Now you might be wondering, how does marketing collateral relate to marketing materials in general? Good question. 

Marketing Materials vs Marketing Collateral

In general, the difference between marketing materials and marketing collateral comes down to showing not telling. While other marketing materials might tell the reader explicitly why their company or offering is the best, marketing collateral is focused on showing why their company or offering is the best. 

That's why marketing collateral tends to be educational in some capacity. When done right, the informative nature of the format lets you separate yourself from the competition by letting you showcase an extensive understanding of your industry that others in your space might not be projecting.

If all of your marketing materials are solely dedicated to talking up your product or service, you'll be selling yourself short. When prospects are deciding to buy, they're not just considering what's for sale — they're considering your company as a whole.

They want to know they'll be taken care of by a competent, capable, knowledgeable organization that they can rely on to address any issues and concerns they might have as they arise. Creating thoughtful marketing collateral is one way to help that cause.

1. Blog Posts

Producing good marketing collateral is often a matter of consistently providing value to your audience. One of the better forums to create and promote the kind of material that does that on an ongoing basis is a well-maintained company blog.

It allows you to supplement your sales efforts with helpful insight and audience engagement — driving traffic to your website and generating leads through actionable advice, expertise, and entertainment. Below are some examples from HubSpot's Website Blog. 

Blog Post Example

digital marketing collateral example of blog posts on HubSpots Website Blog

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Like any other kind of effective marketing collateral, good blog posts can project authority in your industry. You want to show you're staying abreast of industry trends and understand the nuances of your space — constantly churning out high-quality, helpful content can help that cause and put your prospects at ease.

Keeping all these benefits in mind, it's no wonder then that marketers ranked blogs as the second primary form of media used within their content strategy in a recent HubSpot survey.

2. Ebooks

Ebooks are similar to blog posts in that they should project industry authority through engagement, but they tend to be longer, more in-depth, and less snackable than typical blog content. This type of marketing collateral generally attracts prospects with a vested interest in your industry. Below are some examples from HubSpot.

Ebook Example

digital collateral ebooks

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In some ways, an Ebook could be likened to an extended blog post or a few blog posts strung together. Like blog content, an Ebook generally contains accessible language and directly actionable advice.

In many cases, Ebooks are downloadable and can only be accessed in exchange for a prospect's contact information — making them a powerful vehicle for lead generation.

No matter where your company stands, you likely have the resources and knowhow to channel your industry-specific knowledge into a thoughtful Ebook. Remember, your marketing collateral should be designed to build trust with prospects and customers.

If you can put out Ebooks to reliably bolster their knowledge of your industry, you can convince them they're in good hands when they buy your product or service.

3. Case Studies

Case studies are offering-specific documents that detail how specific customers saw success as a result of leveraging your product or service. This format is different from the previous two in that it's never product-agnostic. Below is an example from HubSpot.

Case Study Example

marketing collateral example of case study of HubSpots customer the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

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Every case study is made in collaboration with a satisfied customer. It's a form of cross-promotion that shows what your product or service is like in practice — a roadmap that lets prospects imagine what you could do for their business.

Like almost every other example on this list, case studies are educational. They provide a more thorough explanation of how your product or service works through an active example. It's also another avenue for building trust.

If you can point to reputable customers who are willing to vouch for your business in extensive detail, you can bolster your company's reputation as a solid, knowledgeable organization with a product or service that delivers results.

4. Testimonials

Testimonials are essentially condensed, snackable case studies. Many — if not most — prospects don't have the time or interest to delve into a full-on case study. If you want to reach them, you're going to have to provide quick-hitting content that they can glance over passively. Testimonials can do just that. Below is an example of one from HubSpot.

Testimonial Example

marketing collateral testimonial

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This testimonial follows the format's best practice. It's visually engaging, clearly establishes who provided the quote, and references specific benefits — a solid example of an appropriately informative, easily digestible piece of marketing collateral. Ultimately, a good testimonial helps project the company's legitimacy while inspiring potential customers to further explore the product it's promoting.

5. White Papers

A white paper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic. Generally, one of these documents will raise a problem and present a solution to it.

It's typically more technical and less accessible than an Ebook. It's meant to draw a crowd more intimately involved with or interested in your industry — an audience that might naturally run into the issue at the core of the document.

White papers shouldn't be product pitches. It's best practice to keep them objective and educational. That being said, the topics you choose need to be relevant to your company or space.

This kind of collateral also needs to be thoroughly researched, thoughtfully formatted, polished, and written in a serious tone. That means no flashy language or cute gimmicks. Below are some examples of topics from HubSpot's Not Another State of Marketing Report.

White Paper Example

marketing collateral whitepaper

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As I keep mentioning, every format listed in this article is tailored to project authority to some extent — the white paper is the purest example of that trend. It's a technical document that's meant to demonstrate technical knowledge to a crowd with technical prowess.

6. Explainer Videos

Explainer videos — the most commonly-created types of video — are an excellent way to appeal to visual learners. Designed to provide a quick and easy explanation of a product, service, or topic related to your industry, these help your company establish expertise and gain the trust of their target audience.

They are generally between 30 to 90 seconds in length, which translates into a written script of 200 words or less.  This type of collateral can often be found on a website’s homepage, landing pages, prominent product pages, and social media accounts. Below is an example of one from HubSpot.

Explainer Video Example


The explainer video is a quick and memorable way to make an impact on your audience. It can be the difference between a prospect buying your product and not buying it, or subscribing to your YouTube page, and more. 

For inspiration, check out 17 Examples of Fabulous Explainer Videos.

Ready to Create Your Own Marketing Collateral?

Well-crafted marketing collateral can give you a leg up on your competition. Not only is it an excellent vehicle for lead generation, but it can also offer your business an element of authority and trustworthiness to make potential customers more comfortable and inclined to buy from you. If your company isn't producing it, consider trying out one of the formats listed above.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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The 6 Kinds of Digital Marketing Collateral You Should Be Creating was originally posted by Local Sign Company Irvine, Ca.

12 Critical Elements Every Website Homepage Must Have [Infographic]

Serving as your company's virtual front door, this page is responsible for drawing in a majority of your website's traffic. Still, despite its prominence, many businesses struggle to optimize it properly.

You see, your homepage needs to wear a lot of hats. Rather than treating it like a dedicated landing page built around one particular action, it should be designed to serve different audiences, from different origins. And in order to do so effectively, it needs to be built with purpose. In other words, you'll need to incorporate elements that attract traffic, educate visitors, and invite conversions.

To improve the performance of your homepage, check out these elements every homepage must have.

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12 Critical Elements Every Website Homepage Must Have


12 critical elements for a website homepage infographic


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What You Should Include in Your Website Homepage Design

1. Headline

Within three seconds, a website needs to tell visitors what the business has to offer. That's where your headline comes in. It may only be a few words, but it's one of the most important pieces of copy on your website.

Many types of people might visit your website, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a few words that hit home for everyone. Instead, write your headline to target a third of those people who are most likely to be happy with your product.

Keep the headline itself clear and simple. Dropbox's headline is a great example: "Everything you need for work, all in one place." It's simple, yet powerful — no need to decode jargon to figure out what Dropbox really does.

Dropbox website homepage

2. Sub-headline

Your sub-headline should supplement the headline by offering a brief description of what you do or what you offer. This can be done effectively by zeroing in on a common pain point that your product or service solves.

Here's an example of a great sub-headline from Mirror: "Hiding in plain sight." It hones in on the primary selling point of the mirror gym: It’s a full at-home gym, personal trainer, and workout plan all in the comfort of your home without taking up precious square footage with equipment.Mirror website homepage subheadline that reads hiding in plain sight

To optimize your headlines for mobile, use larger fonts to give visitors a better experience. Small fonts could force mobile visitors to pinch and zoom in order to read and interact with the content on your site. Our advice? Use the heading options in your page editor. H1 headings are perfect for page titles — there should only be one H1 on a page. Subheadings should follow the order of the hierarchy, H2, H3 ... H6, and so on. You can have several of these headings, just make sure they’re in order. For example, you won’t want to jump from an H1 to an H3 — choose an H2 instead.

3. Primary Calls-to-Action

The goal of your homepage is to compel visitors to dig deeper into your website and move them down the funnel. Include two to three calls-to-action above the fold that direct people to different stages of the buying cycle — and place them in spots that are easy to find.

These CTAs should be visually striking, ideally in a color that contrasts with the color scheme of your homepage while still fitting in with the overall design. Keep the copy brief — no more than five words — and action-oriented, so it compels visitors to click whatever you're offering. Examples of CTA copy are "Sign up," "Make an appointment," or "Try it for free."

Afterschool HQ’s website features two CTAs above the fold, both geared toward program directors who are interested in promoting their after-school programs to families on the site. The note below the longer CTA “Create Your Free Profile” gives visitors the nudge they need to create an account — the first step to becoming an Afterschool HQ provider.

4. Supporting Image

Most people are visual. Make sure to use an image (or even a short video) that clearly indicates what you offer. Use images that capture emotion, drive action, and visually tell the story you’re writing about.

To optimize your images for mobile users, use high-quality images that have a reduced file size. (HubSpot customers don't need to worry about this, as images uploaded to HubSpot's software are automatically compressed. Otherwise, tools like TinyPNG will do the trick.) Also, always add alt text to your images to make them more accessible to visitors who use screen readers and to take your SEO efforts up a notch.

The 4 Rivers Smokehouse homepage is a great example of emotional imagery: It features a series of short, high definition, and mouthwatering videos that play on a loop behind a simple headline, sub-headline, and primary CTA:

4 rivers smokehouse website homepage featured image with a cheese burger

5. Benefits

It's not only important to describe what you do, but why what you do matters. Prospects want to know about the benefits of buying from you because that's what will compel them to stick around.

Keep the copy lightweight and easy to read, and speak the language of your customers. Evernote does a great job of listing benefits on their homepage in a way that's compelling, visually pleasing, and easy to understand:

Evernote website homepage benefits

6. Social Proof

Social proof is a powerful indicator of trust. Your product or service could be the best in the world, and it's okay to lay that claim — it's just that people may not believe you unless they hear it from other people, too. And that's exactly what social proof does.

Include just a few of your best (short) quotes on the homepage, and link to case studies if applicable. Adding a name and photo gives these testimonials more credibility. Lessonly nails this on their homepage with glowing testimonials from actual clients.

Lessonly website homepage testimonials and reviews

7. Navigation

The design and content in your homepage navigation could mean the difference between a website conversion and a bounce. To decrease bounce rate, give your visitors a clear path to the pages they need right from the homepage. Make the navigation menu visible at the top of the page, and organize the links in a hierarchical structure.

No one knows your website better than those who helped design it, so be sure to conduct user tests to make sure it's simple and intuitive for visitors to find what they're looking for on your site. Include a search box if you can. (Read this blog post for more helpful website navigation tips.)

Here's an example of a clear, well-structured navigation design from Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria homepage:

Slim and huskys website homepage navigation

8. Content Offer

To generate even more leads from your homepage, feature a really great content offer, such as a whitepaper, ebook, or guide. Folks who may not be ready to buy might rather download an offer that gives them more information about a topic they're interested in. If you need inspiration, here are several different content types to pick from.

9. Secondary Calls-to-Action

Include secondary CTAs on your homepage to offer additional conversion opportunities for prospects who aren't interested in your primary objective. Think of them like the contingency plan: They offer another path for visitors who are not yet ready for something as high-commitment as you're asking.

While your primary CTAs should be above the fold, place secondary CTAs below the fold to give visitors things to click on when they scroll down. For example, below the fold on Spanx’s homepage, you'll find three, clearly labeled calls-to-action that give folks who've scrolled that far a few more options to click on. These secondary CTAs are for two different types of conversions: one on the far left for $20 off and another, “shop now” to explore the online catalog.

Spanx website homepage secondary CTAs

10. Features

In addition to benefits, list some of your key features. This gives people more of an understanding of what's provided by your products and services. Again, keep the copy light and easy to read. Dropbox for Business, for example, doesn't shy away from showing off a features matrix right on their homepage below the fold.

dropbox for business website homepage features

11. Resources

Again, most visitors to your website won't be ready to buy ... yet. For folks who are looking for more information, offer a link to a resource center where they can browse relevant information. Not only does this keep them on your webpage for longer, but it also helps you establish your credibility as a thought leader in your industry.

Lovesac adds a resources link to the footer below the fold. Notice how each of these secondary CTAs cover multiple stages in the buying cycle: a credit card link to help customers buy their furniture easily, a fabric swatch guide for those who are still looking for the perfect color before making a purchase, and an online catalog for people who are in the market for new furniture but aren’t yet ready to make a purchase.

lovesac website homepage with resources and CTAs in the footer

12. Success Indicators

In addition to customer success stories, both awards and recognition can also help inspire a good first impression. Is your company a critically acclaimed restaurant? Were you voted best new app this year? Let your homepage visitors know of your accomplishments. Like social proof, it'll give your business more credibility to those who don't know you.

On Calendly’s homepage, for example, you'll find the names of famous organizations that have recognized them, like Gartner and Dropbox.

Calendly website homepage

A Homepage Worth Visiting

The homepage of your site is the first introduction each visitor will have to your business. Before they make up their mind to become a customer, they’ll review your homepage to get an idea of what you sell, why that matters to them, and how they can benefit from what you have to offer.

Make a brilliant first impression with a homepage that incorporates the elements outlined above. And for more inspiration, check out stunning examples of homepages by downloading the free lookbook below.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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12 Critical Elements Every Website Homepage Must Have [Infographic] was originally posted by Local Sign Company Irvine, Ca.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

302 Status Code: What It Is + Its Impact on SEO

If you've spent any time on the internet, chances are you've encountered an HTTP status code.

In simple terms, HTTP status codes are standard response codes that show the relationship between all the things that go on in the background when you travel from web page to web page. Things like the user agent (i.e., your web browser), the server, the web page you're trying to load, and any third-party web applications you might be running.

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Because of the complexity of how all those elements interact, there are many possible HTTP status codes you can run up against.

HTTP status codes identify and diagnose the particular blocker preventing you from loading a resource, and can give you information about the journey you took on the way to a page.

In this article, we'll cover what you need to know about the HTTP 302 status code – jargon-free.

For starters, it's helpful to know that all HTTP messages with 3xx are redirection messages.

Say no longer exists, and the content is now permanently housed on This would trigger a 301 status code, which indicates a permanent redirection from one location to another.

The 302 redirect, on the other hand, is only temporary. A good example of when to use a 302 status code is for localization and language purposes.

For instance, if you visit a clothing website based in the United Kingdom but you are located in the United States. A 302 redirect would send you to the US version of the site to ensure the currency and other content are displayed correctly, according to your location.

You can also use a 302 status code when:

  • Redesigning a page – You can send users to a temporary location while the other page is under construction.
  • Conducting A/B tests – Want to test a new page and get feedback on its performance? You can do this with a 302 redirect without hurting your ranking.
  • Running a promotion – To drive traffic to a particular offer, you can set up a temporary redirect for a page that usually includes other content.
  • A product is sold out – In the case of a sold-out or temporarily unavailable product, you can redirect users to a related page until it is available again.

While this list is not exhaustive, here's the golden rule to keep in mind: Only use a 302 redirect if the change is temporary.

Furthermore, a 302 status code happens on the server-side and shouldn't be noticed by users if set up correctly. The web server serving up the 302 redirect will immediately indicate the new location of the page to your browser (and search engines) and should send users there right away.

How a 302 Status Code Affects SEO

From an SEO perspective, it's important to understand how a 302 status code can impact your ranking and when you should use it.

302 status code explainer

Firstly, if the location of a page has changed and a redirect has not been set up, this can lead to a 404 status error (i.e., your page cannot be found) and affect your ranking. After all, Google won't want to send users to a page that leads to nowhere.

One benefit of using a redirect like this is that you don't have to sacrifice your ranking when you temporarily send users elsewhere.

Say you're using it to redirect users from a sold-out product page to a relevant product page. You wouldn't want your unavailable product's page to drop in ranking, just because it's currently unavailable. With a 302 status code, you can maintain your ranking.

However, this also means that your temporary URL will not benefit from any link juice because Google knows it won't be there long.

For comparison, a 301 code typically sends most link equity to your new URL, but your page can experience some drop in ranking as a result of the redirect.

How to Identify & Implement an HTTP 302 Error

If you want to see when you've encountered a 302 redirect (or any type of redirect), consider using an application or Chrome extension (like this one, Redirect Path). This type of tool will show you directly in your browser when you run into a redirect.

You can also view and implement the code from the backend by accessing your .htaccess file. To avoid accessing this file, you can also install a redirect manager plugin or an SEO tool that includes a redirect manager (like Yoast SEO Premium).

Overall, you want to make sure you understand how redirection messages affect SEO. A 302 status code can be a great strategy when making temporary changes to your website, like testing new website features and product promotions.

So, when you're debating between various redirection messages, make sure the one you choose aligns with your long-term strategy.


302 Status Code: What It Is + Its Impact on SEO was originally posted by Local Sign Company Irvine, Ca.

What is Website Architecture? 8 Easy Ways to Improve Your Site Structuring

Getting lost sucks. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a city or a corn maze, the ambiguity of not knowing where you are and what could happen next can make you break out in a cold sweat.

Website visitors feel the same way when they land on a jumbled website. Nearly one in two people leave a website after visiting just one page. We don’t have a lot of time to make a good impression on a user, and with a poor site architecture, you’re guaranteed to increase bounce rates.Free Download: 77 Examples of Brilliant Web Design 

It’s critical to structure your site in an intuitive and easy-to-navigate way to retain your audience’s attention. If you don’t, they’ll bounce in seconds. And if people leave your website because your user experience is messy, search engines won’t think highly of you, either.

If you need help structuring a website that will engage an audience and rank on Google, we’ve got you covered. We’ll teach you what website architecture is, why it’s important for UX and SEO, and how you can develop a sound architecture for your own website.

Without question, your website structure plays a critical role in retaining users and boosting conversions.

Implementing a website structure helps you design your website for the user experience. You might have the most amazing content, but if users can’t find it, they’ll leave for a competitor’s site.

A typical website structure looks like a rooted tree graph, in which the home page is the root. The pages that are linked out from the home page are branches, and from there, each page has additional branches sprouting from it. These branches then link to each other.

Here’s what that typically looks like:

Typical website architecture in a tree graph

Why is website structuring important?

A sound website architecture strengthens your website’s user experience. When you structure your website in an intuitive way, users can seamlessly find the information they’re looking for.

Plus, when your user experience is strong, your search engine rankings will be, too. Users will spend more time on your website and link to your web pages, which are both heavy indicators that your brand creates quality content.

Furthermore, a solid website architecture:

  • Helps search engines effectively crawl your website.
  • Encourages deep site navigation by providing more pages for users to visit.
  • Distributes “page authority” more equitably, so that a page isn’t left out.
  • Strengthens topical authority because of the strong internal linking structure between related or similar topics.
  • Increases conversions by making it easier to find products and lead-generating content.

Let’s take a look at a few best practices you should keep in mind when designing your site’s architecture.

1. Create a simple top-level navigation menu.

First, don’t provide too many top-level menu items. Second, be sure to deliver the content that’s promised based on the menu item’s name.

For instance, if your users click on the "Email Marketing" tab on your blog’s homepage, they expect to be directed to a list of email marketing posts. From this page, you also need to design a simple navigation path back to your blog’s homepage and your website’s homepage.

Check out an example below from our own website:

Top level navigation example from HubSpot's home page

The menu is divided into three simple menu items: Software, Pricing, and Resources. Under the “Resources” tab, users can find different resources that are divided into different designations.

Don’t make your users think too hard. A hard-to-navigate website will have a high bounce rate. Users don't want to waste time trying to find information on your site. If they do, they’ll just leave. So practice empathy and provide an intuitive web experience.

2. Keep your URLs simple and user-friendly.

No user wants to read an URL like this:

It’s important to create user-friendly URLs. Most CMS systems, such as CMS Hub and WordPress, automatically create a user-friendly URL based on your page’s title. It will usually read as follows:

You can also create subdirectories that are easy to follow.

Tip: While subdirectories are helpful from a UX standpoint, they aren’t required to reflect your site’s architecture. Internal linking matters more than URL structure. That means that you can can structure your URLs as follows:

You simply have to connect them to each other and to their parent pages with internal links.

3. Model your website architecture after the top players in your industry.

Your customers are used to the website architecture of major brands in your industry, so if you run an ecommerce store, analyze how Amazon structures their website and emulate them. Your website will seem more familiar and, in turn, easier to navigate.

4. Keep your website consistent.

Your website’s navigation format, design principles, and link displays should all follow a consistent pattern. Keeping these elements the same will keep your users on your site longer because it'll be easier for them to quickly navigate to new pages and click on links.

5. Implement the pillar-cluster internal linking model.

In the pillar-cluster model, you have a parent page (the pillar) linking out to child pages (the cluster). These child pages then link to each other, creating a cluster.

This model makes your internal linking structure clearer and effectively directs users to other pieces of relevant and useful content. When users come across an internal link on your website, they should immediately understand which piece of content the link will direct them to and why that content is linked from the page they’re currently on.

Here’s what a pillar-cluster linking strategy looks like for a blog about workout routines.

Pillar cluster strategy example for a workout blog

The lines represent internal links.

One internal linking caution you should exercise, though, is not stuffing keywords into your link’s anchor text. This is called black hat SEO, and to prevent it, Google has created specific algorithms to punish this kind of behavior.

6. Provide access to most of your website’s pages in 3-4 clicks.

Even if your website has a million pages, the architecture should allow users to start from the homepage and end up on any page within three to four clicks.

To do this, design a top-level navigation that can direct users to your website’s main categories. Then, from each of your website’s main category pages, make sure they can click-through to all the sub-category pages.

7. Use breadcrumbs.

After internal linking, breadcrumbs are the ultimate way to show your website’s architecture. These links show a page’s parent pages all the way to the home page. They’re typically placed above the page’s title and have arrows showing the path to the current page.

Here's an example from Best Buy:

Breadcrumbs on the Best Buy website showing its site structure

You can add breadcrumbs to your CMS Hub website by creating an advanced menu module. If you run your website on the WordPress CMS, we’ve written an easy tutorial on how you can add breadcrumbs to WordPress.

8. Create an HTML and XML sitemap.

A sitemap is a document that lists out all of the crawlable pages on your website. It’s exceedingly important for website architecture because it shows your structure in a readable, crawlable format.

An HTML sitemap is user-facing and has the same design as the rest of your website. It’s typically designed for users who can’t find a certain page and who’d benefit from seeing a list of all of your pages.

Here’s eBay’s HTML sitemap as an example:

HTML sitemap example from Ebay showing its site structure

An XML sitemap is designed primarily for search engine crawlers. They list all of the URLs in a plain-text format. If your site is on WordPress, you can use a sitemap plugin to create both an HTML and XML sitemap.

Upgrade Your Website Architecture and Improve Your SEO

Your website’s architecture is incredibly important for both user experience and SEO. With a solid website structuring strategy, you’ll improve dwell time and entice users to consume more of your content. That means more conversions down the line, improving your ROI and increasing revenue at your company.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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What is Website Architecture? 8 Easy Ways to Improve Your Site Structuring was originally posted by Local Sign Company Irvine, Ca.

9 Guidelines & Best Practices for Exceptional Web Design and Usability

When it comes to designing or redesigning a website, it’s easy to get hung up on the aesthetics. Does that shade of blue look right? Should the logo be on the right side of the screen, or left? What if we put a giant animated GIF in the middle of the page?

However, in a world where folks have more than 1.8 billion websites they can potentially land on, you need to make sure yours is not just a pretty face. It should be designed for usability, how easy your website is to use, and user experience (UX), how enjoyable it is to interact with your website.

Now, you could spend years studying the ins and outs of these disciplines But for the sake of giving you a jumping-off point, we've assembled a list of the fundamental guidelines and best practices you can apply to your next website redesign or website launch. Then, we’ll review 10 features you’ll need on your site to put these recommendations into practice. Let’s dive in.

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1. Simplicity

While the appearance of your website is certainly important, most people aren't coming to your site to evaluate how slick the design is. They want to complete some action, or to find some specific piece of information.

Therefore, unnecessary design elements (i.e., those which serve no functional purpose) will only overwhelm and make it more difficult for visitors to accomplish what they're trying to accomplish.

From a usability and UX perspective, simplicity is your best friend. If you have all the necessary page elements, it’s hard to get too simple. You can employ this principle in a variety of different forms, such as:

  • Colors: Basically, don't use a lot. The Handbook of Computer-Human Interaction recommends using a maximum of five (plus or minus two) different colors in your design.
  • Typefaces: The typefaces you choose should be highly legible, so nothing too artsy and very minimal script fonts, if any. For text color, again, keep it minimal and always make sure it contrasts with the background color. A common recommendation is to use a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes.
  • Graphics: Only use graphics if they help a user complete a task or perform a specific function (don't just add graphics willy-nilly).

Here's a great example of a simple but effective homepage design from HERoines Inc:

examble of website design on the website for HERoines Inc

Image Source

2. Visual Hierarchy

Closely tied to the principle of simplicity, visual hierarchy means arranging and organizing website elements so that visitors naturally gravitate toward the most important elements first.

Remember, when it comes to optimizing for usability and UX, the goal is to lead visitors to complete a desired action, but in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. By adjusting the position, color, or size of certain elements, you can structure your site in such a way that viewers will be drawn to those elements first.

In the example below from Spotify, you can see that the main heading “Get 3 months of Premium for free” sits atop the visual hierarchy with its size and page position. It draws your eye to their mission before anything else. This is followed by the "Get 3 Months Free" CTA, which prompts action. Users can click this CTA, or scan the menu items above for more actions.

a web design example on

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3. Navigability

Planning out intuitive navigation on your site is crucial to help visitors find what they're looking for. Ideally, a visitor should land on your site and not have to think extensively about where to click next. Moving from point A to point B should be as frictionless as possible.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your site's navigation:

  • Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple (and near the top of your page).
  • Include navigation in the footer of your site.
  • Consider using breadcrumbs on every page (except your homepage) so users remember their navigation trail.
  • Include a search bar near the top of your site so visitors can search by keywords.
  • Don't offer too many navigation options per page. Again, simplicity!
  • Include links within your page copy, and make it clear where those links go.
  • Don't make users dig too deep. Try making a basic wireframe map of all your site pages arranged like a pyramid: Your homepage is at the top, and each linked page from the previous forms the next layer. In most cases, it’s best to keep your map no more than three levels deep. Take HubSpot’s site map, for example.
site map for

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One more pointer: Once you've settled on what your site's main (top) navigation will be, keep it consistent. The labels and location of your navigation should remain the same on every page.

This leads us nicely into our next principle...

4. Consistency

In addition to keeping your navigation consistent, the overall look and feel of your site should be similar across all of your site's pages. Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your writing are all areas where consistency has a positive impact on usability and UX.

That's not to say every page should follow the same layout. Instead, create different layouts for specific types of pages (e.g., landing pages, informational pages, etc.). By using those layouts consistently, you'll make it easier for visitors to understand what type of information they're likely to find on a given page.

In the example below, you can see that Airbnb uses the same layout for all of its "Help" pages, a common practice. Imagine what it would be like from a visitor's perspective if every "Help" page had its own, unique layout. There would probably be a lot of shoulder shrugging.

a help page on

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5. Responsivity

According to Statista, 48% of page global views were from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. And according to our research, 93% of people have left a website because it didn’t display properly on their device.

The takeaway here: To provide a truly great user experience, your site has to be compatible with the many different devices that your visitors are using. In the tech world, this is known as responsive design.

Responsive design means investing in a highly flexible website structure. On a responsive site, content is automatically resized and reshuffled to fit the dimensions of whichever device a visitor happens to be using. This can be accomplished with mobile-friendly HTML templates, or by creating a special mobile site.

Ultimately, it's more important to provide a great experience across different devices than look identical across those devices.

an illustration of a responsive web page on different devices

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Alongside mobile-friendliness, it’s worth your while to test your website’s cross-cross browser compatibility. In all likelihood, you’ve only viewed your site on one web browser, be it Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or something else.

Now is the time to open your pages on each of these browsers and evaluate how your elements appear. Ideally, there won’t be much difference in presentation, but you can’t know for sure until you see for yourself.

6. Accessibility

The goal of web accessibility is to make a website that anyone can use, including people with disabilities or limitations that affect their browsing experience. As a website designer, it’s your job to think of these users in your UX plan.

Like responsiveness, accessibility applies to your entire site: structure, page format, visuals, and both written and visual content. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative and the World Wide Web Consortium, set the guidelines for web accessibility. In a broad sense, these guidelines state that websites must be:

  • Perceivable: Visitors are aware of the content on your site.
  • Operable: The functionality of your website should be possible in different ways.
  • Understandable: All content and alerts can be easily understood.
  • Robust: Your website is usable across different assistive technologies, devices, and browsers.

For a deeper dive into this topic, see our Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility.

7. Conventionality

A big challenge in web design is balancing originality with your expectations. Most of us are expert internet users, and there are specific conventions we’ve grown accustomed to over time. Such conventions include:

  • Placing the main navigation at the top (or left side) of a page.
  • Placing a logo at the top left (or center) of a page.
  • Making the logo clickable, so it always brings a visitor back to the homepage.
  • Having links and buttons that change color/appearance when you hover over them.
  • Using a shopping cart icon on an ecommerce site. The icon also has a number badge signifying the number of items in the cart.
  • Ensuring image sliders have buttons users can click to manually rotate slides.

While some might opt to throw these out the window for the sake of uniqueness, this is a mistake. There’s still plenty of room for creativity within the constraints of web conventionality.

Let’s briefly consider another field of design, architecture. Building codes are put in place so that folks can easily and safely inhabit spaces. An architect doesn’t complain about these codes or violate them because, aside from legal repercussions, they assure safety and comfort of guests. It doesn’t matter how dazzling the building looks — if you trip on uneven stairs or you can’t get out in a fire, you might prefer to stay outside.

In the same way, you can craft a memorable experience while meeting user expectations. If you violate what users anticipate, they may feel uncomfortable or even frustrated with your site.

8. Credibility

Sticking to web conventions lends your site credibility. In other words, it increases the level of trust your site conveys. And if you're striving to build a site that provides the best user experience possible, credibility goes a long way.

One of the best methods to improve your credibility is to be clear and honest about the product or service you're selling. Don't make visitors dig through dozens of pages to find what it is you do. Be up-front on your homepage, and dedicate some real estate to explaining the value behind what you do.

Another credibility tip: Have a pricing page, also linked on the homepage. Rather than force people to contact you to learn more about pricing, list your prices clearly on your site. This makes your business appear more trustworthy and legitimate.

Here's an example of an effective pricing page from the Box website:

pricing page for

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9. User-Centricity

At the end of the day, usability and user experience hinge on the preferences of the end-users. After all, if you're not designing for them, who are you designing for?

So, while the principles detailed in this list are a great starting point, the final key to improving the design of your site is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and implement changes based on what you've learned.

And don’t bother testing usability by yourself. You’ve already invested a lot of time into your design, which brings your own biases into the equation. Get testers who have never seen your site before, the same as any first-time visitor.

Here are a few user testing tools to get you started:

  • Website Grader: Our free tool evaluates your website based on several factors: mobile, design, performance, SEO, and security. It then offers tailored suggestions for improvement. You can learn more about Website Grader in our dedicated blog post.
  • Crazy Egg: Track multiple domains under one account and uncover insights about your site's performance using four different intelligence tools -- heat map, scroll map, overlay, and confetti.
  • Loop11: Use this tool to easily create usability tests -- even if you don't have any HTML experience.
  • The User Is Drunk: Pay Richard Littauer to get drunk and review your site. Don't believe me? We tried it.

For even more helpful options, see our list of the best user testing tools.

Hopefully, these guidelines are useful in informing the structure of your web pages and website as a whole. But, how does one put these guidelines into practice? Let's take a look at some actionable best practices you can follow during the design process. 

1. Select a typography that’s easy to read and skim.

Typography refers to how type — meaning letters and characters — are arranged and presented on the page. Since website typography affects not only how we read but how we feel about text on a web page, it’s important to pick carefully. 

Ideally, you want a typeface that is:

  • easy to read
  • easy to skim
  • accessible to all users
  • legible across multiple devices and screen sizes

You also want it to match the look and feel of your brand. For example, the luxury fashion brand Burberry refreshed its logo for the first time in 20 years in 2018. It replaced the old serif typeface with a bold, all-caps, sans serif typeface and dropped the knight emblem. The result is a simpler and more modern-looking logo that’s easier to read on any screen — and that reflects changes in the company to become more transparent and appeal to a younger generation. 

Side by side comparison of Burberrys old and new logo, which uses all caps sans serif font

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2. Choose a color scheme that suits your brand.

Like typography, color can affect not only how we understand and interact with content, but how we feel about it. Your color scheme should therefore check off the same boxes as your website typography. It should:

  • reinforce your brand identity
  • make your site easy to read and navigate
  • evoke emotion
  • look good

Buzzfeed, for examples, uses the primary colors yellow and red to grab users' attention and get them excited about the content. It reserves the use of the primary color blue — which is associated with trust — exclusively for links and CTA buttons. Both emotions are ideal to evoke for a media site. 

Following website design best practices, Buzzfeed color palette evokes excitement and trust

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3. Use white space to break up text and other elements.

Whitespace refers to the negative areas in any composition. Whitespace provides users with visual breaks as they process a website’s design or content, which is not only aesthetically pleasing. By minimizing distractions, whitespace makes it easier for users to focus, process information, and understand what it’s important. 

That means you can use whitespace to avoid causing information overload or analysis paralysis — and to emphasize important elements on the page. This might help persuade users to take a specific action, like sign up for a newsletter, shop your latest collection, and more.

For example, Eb & flow Yoga Studio uses whitespace to lead users toward a specific action: to sign up for three weeks of classes. Notice that whitespace doesn’t mean the absence of color or imagery. Instead, it means that every element on the page is positioned strategically, with lots of space in between, to avoid overwhelming or confusing visitors. 

Eb & flow Yoga Studio follows the website design best practice of using whitespace to lead users to click on a CTA

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4. Use texture to add personality and depth.

Resembling a three-dimensional, tactile surface, web textures aim to replicate the physical sensation of touch with another sensation — sight. They’re a great design alternative to solid color backgrounds, particularly if you want to add personality and depth to your site. 

Take a look at the texture on the homepage for the Santa Barbara-based restaurant Mony’s Tacos below. It looks like chalk drawn on a blackboard, doesn’t it? I don’t know about you but I can almost feel the chalk on my fingers just from looking at it. It's the perfect look for a restaurant that aims to be California's preferred Funk Zone choice for Mexican delights.

Monys homepage follows the website design best practice of using web texture to resemble chalk drawn on a blackboard

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5. Add images to engage and inform readers.

Striking a balance between text and images is essential in website design. Incorporating visuals can make your content more informative, engaging, and memorable. You’ve probably heard the statistics that people remember only 20% of what they read, but 80% of what they see? While the exact percentages are debated, the basic idea isn’t. It’s easier for some people to learn and process information visually.

Here's a unique example of breaking up text with images from a cosmetic company's website. This shows how endless the possibilities of incorporating imagery into your website design are. 

Maggie Rose breaks up text with images in a masterful example of the website design best practice

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6. Simplify your navigation.

Navigation is one of the most important design elements on a website. It impacts whether visitors arrive on your homepage and browse, or click the “Back” button. That’s why it’s important to keep it as simple as possible. 

Many websites opt for a horizontal navigation bar. This navigation style lists the major pages side by side and is placed in the website header

Take the navigation bar on Blavity as an example. The sections featured include three content categories — “News,” “Op-Eds,” and “Lifestyle” — as well as links to their submission page and sign-up page. This provides visitors with easy access to the pages they’re likely looking for. Other nav items are placed in a dropdown menu labelled "More" so they're still easy to find but not cluttered into the top-level navigation. Finally, the navigation bar is sticky so visitors won’t have to scroll up and down the page to browse the site. 

Sticky horizontal navigation bar on Blavity offers an example of a website design best practice

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7. Make your CTAs stand out.

CTAs are elements on a web page, advertisement, or another piece of content that encourages the audience to do something. The call to action could be to sign up, subscribe, start a free trial, or learn more, among many others.

You want your CTAs to pop in your website design. To make that happen, consider how you’re using color as well as other elements like background color, surrounding images, and surrounding text.

Square provides an excellent call-to-action example. Using a single image to showcase the simplicity of using their product, Square uses bold typography to also show how unique and future-oriented their product is. Against this dramatic backdrop, the blue "Get Started" CTA awaits your click.

Square uses color and unique posititioning to make their CTA pop in their website designImage Source

8. Optimize for mobile.

We’ve already discussed how important it is for your website to be responsive. But since mobile devices accounted for 59% of organic search engine visits in 2021, we’re doubling down on how important it is to design your website to be mobile-friendly. That might mean altering or removing some elements that would clutter smaller screen sizes or negatively impact load time. 

For an example of one of the best mobile website designs, compare Etsy’s homepage on desktop vs mobile. On desktop, you’ll see a navbar with categories. Hovering over each category will reveal a dropdown menu.

Etsy homepage on desktop

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On mobile, this collapses behind a hamburger button, which improves the appearance and performance of the mobile site. You'll also notice that the images are larger — perfect for tapping with your finger on a mobile screen.


9. Limit the options presented to users.

According to Hick’s Law, increasing the number and complexity of choices will increase the time it takes for a person to make a decision. This is bad news in website design. If a website visitor is presented with too many options, they might get frustrated and bounce — or they might pick an option you don’t want, like abandoning their cart. That’s why it’s important to limit the number of options presented to a user. 

For example, a visitor landing on the homepage of Shawn Michelle's Ice Cream will have three options: to learn more about the company, the flavors, or the ingredients. But instead of presenting all three options at the same time, they are presented one at a time in a slider. This is a great example of implementing Hick’s Law in UX design. Shawn Michelles Ice Cream homepage uses an image slider to present CTAs one at a time

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Now we understand the principles and best practices that should guide you throughout the design process. In the next section, let's run down the essential page elements that you should strongly consider including in your design plan.

1. Header and Footer

The header and footer are a staple of just about every modern website. Try to include them on most of your pages, from your homepage, to your blog posts, and even your “No results found” page.

Your header should contain your branding in the form of a logo and organization name, menu navigation, and maybe a CTA, and/or a search bar if well-spaced and minimal. On the other end, your footer is where many users will instinctively scroll for essential information. In your footer, place contact information, a signup form, links to your common pages, legal and privacy policies, links to translated versions of your site, and social media links.

2. Menu Navigation

Whether it’s a list of links across the header or a tidy and compact hamburger button in the corner, every website needs a guide for navigation positioned at the top of at least your homepage and other important pages. A good menu limits the number of clicks to reach any part of your website to just a few.

To reduce clutter, you might consider making some or all menu options a dropdown menu with links within it, as can be seen on HubSpot's homepage.

homepage for

3. Search Bar

In addition to menu navigation, strongly consider placing a search bar at the top of your pages, so users can browse your site for content by keyword. If incorporating this functionality, make sure your results are relevant, forgiving of typos, and capable of approximate keyword matching. Most of us use a high-quality search engine every day, be it Google, Amazon, YouTube, or elsewhere. These all set the standard for your own site search.

4. Branding

Remember the conventions we’ve discussed? One that you see practically everywhere is a logo in the top left corner. On first landing, many visitors’ eyes will instinctively shift to this region to check they’re in the right place. Don’t leave them hanging.

To reinforce this notion, incorporate your company branding into every element you add, piece of content you post, and color scheme you create. That’s why we recommend establishing brand guidelines if you haven’t already — check out our style guide for a reference.

5. Color Palette

Color choice plays a major role in your site’s usability and UX as well. This decision tends to be more subjective than other requirements in this list. But, like everything else we’ve discussed, try to simplify — limit your color selection to 3-4 prominent colors at most.

Starting a color palette from scratch can be surprisingly difficult the first time. We seem to intuitively pick up on which colors work well together and which don’t, but we stumble when trying to pick from the infinite combinations available.

The solution? Try a color palette that’s been shown to work on other websites. Take influence from your favorite sites, and see our list of our favorite website color schemes to get started.

6. Headings

Headings are key to establishing the visual hierarchy we discussed earlier, especially on text-heavy pages. As users skim your pages what you need, a clear and to-the-point heading alerts readers to stop scrolling after finding what they want. Use only as many headings as there are distinct sections of your page, as too much blown-up and bolded text will dampen this effect.

7. Clear Labels

Whenever a user takes an action on your website, it must be obvious exactly what they’re doing and/or where they’re going. All buttons should have clear text or an icon to precisely and concisely signal their purpose. The same goes for in-text links and widgets (simple interactive elements, like dropdowns and text forms).

For example, a button linking to a pricing page should just read “Pricing” — anything beyond that (e.g., “See our prices”, “Check out the pricing page for a deal”) is superfluous. A search bar/button only needs a search glass icon (🔍), and perhaps also the word “Search”, to denote its purpose.

User testing can be a major help here. While you yourself know what all of your interactive page elements do, the same can’t be said for a new user. Testing will give valuable insight into what users think your labels mean beyond your own perspective.

8. Visuals and Media

When incorporating static images, gifs, videos, and other media into your pages, remember to be consistent and intentional in your choices. These elements will draw attention over most other text and will likely stay in users’ minds, so choose wisely.

Here’s just one example of effective media on a homepage. Notice how every image complements the page aesthetic and supports the offer of personalized fitness training with results.

an example of web design guidelines used on a web page for a personal training gym-min

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Also, all images and videos should be optimized for search engines and include descriptive alt text for accessibility.

9. Calls to Action (CTAs)

Having a pleasing website is great, but how do you know whether your visitors are actually doing what you want? Are they engaging with your content? This is where CTAs come into play.

A CTA is any page element that prompts user action. The action could be adding a product to a card, downloading a content offer, or signing up for an email list. Make your CTA elements prominent in the visual hierarchy (remember our Spotify example), but not intrusive or distracting like many click-through ads tend to be.

If you need ideas for sleek CTAs that drive more conversions, see our CTA examples list.

10. Whitespace

As mentioned above, sometimes it’s about the elements you don’t include. After reading these guidelines and requirements, you may feel tempted to stuff your pages with all the bits and bobs needed for a flawless UX. Don’t forget that your viewers need room to digest all this new info, so give your elements room to breathe.

But, how much whitespace should you have? That’s another personal call, and varies from site to site. So, user testing is handy here as well. What are people focusing on? Do they feel overwhelmed with the density of content? Once again, it all ties back to our first guideline, simplicity.

Design that Puts Users First

Indeed, web design is largely subjective — your website’s look and experience isn’t going to please everyone. However, there are also tried-and-true UX principles that, when carefully considered and incorporated, help visitors feel more at home.

According to Amazon Web Services, 88% of website visitors are less likely to return to a website after a poor experience. And how could you blame them? We’ve surely all been there.

So, as a final bit of usability/UX wisdom, start caring more! Imagine yourself into the shoes (or, more accurately, browser windows) of your visitors, and keep them in mind every step of the design process.

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9 Guidelines &amp; Best Practices for Exceptional Web Design and Usability was originally posted by Local Sign Company Irvine, Ca.