Head of Digital
Posted on March 30, 2016
A common issue when in financial services website design (or any website for that matter) is choosing the type of layout and style. Different designers and agencies often favour particular looks, while trade publications evangelise about the latest and greatest trends and layouts.
You may have seen long, scrolling pages, grid or card-based layouts or a multitude of other styles, but which one is best for your website?
In this blog, we take a look at some of the most popular layouts of the moment and draw attention to some pros and cons of each style.
What’s the purpose of your financial services website?
Before we even begin discussing different styles, it’s worth laying the groundwork and thinking about the purpose of your site. What is your website there to do? For example:
- Is your website a brochure style or an e-commerce / buy online website?
- Will your website be talking about one thing in particular or a multitude of things?
- What’s the desired outcome for your website, i.e. what do you want visitors to do?
- Is SEO important in your overall marketing strategy?
By reviewing these fundamental questions, you’ll find it easier to make informed decisions about the best layout and style routes to explore.
Now let’s run through a few common choices.
Single page vs. multiple pages
Over the last two years, there’s been an explosion in the number of single page websites – those websites which place everything on one long, scrolling page (see our website, for example). Single page websites are fashionable, reduce the amount of navigation that a visitor has to do, and are easier to maintain.
On the flip side, there is only so much information that you can convey on a single page. As financial marketers, our clients typically need to communicate a lot of information to cover a multitude of financial products and services. Cramming all of this onto a single page may be difficult.
Single page websites are also limiting in terms SEO, despite what others may claim. For the highest performing SEO, each page should be designed to focus on one (maybe two) keywords or phrases. If you only have one message to convey or one product to promote, this can be fine, but what if you are a supplier of a range of products and have many keywords to consider? A single page website may end up severely limiting your SEO results.
Consider a single page website if:
- You have only one product or service to promote, or are only targeting a niche sector of the market.
- SEO isn’t important as other marketing activities will drive people to your website, or you only need to target 1-2 keywords or phrases.
Go with a multipage website if:
- You offer a range of products or services targeted at different markets, or each product requires a substantial amount of information.
- Keyword research indicates there are many keywords and phrases that could bring traffic to your website. Designing a page around each keyword will bring added SEO benefits.
The hero image
Many websites use a hero image (a large image at the top of a page with a strapline) to communicate key messages. A hero image can be very effective in delivering a message to the visitor if the imagery and message are tightly aligned.
Many websites will utilise multiple hero images through the use of a slider. However, at Talisman, we’re not a fan of this approach.
- A web page should be designed to communicate a core message. If there are multiple messages to communicate, then they should be split into multiple pages.
- Visitors are impatient and will very rarely wait for your hero images to scroll.
- Multiple images will increase page load times, particularly on mobile devices.
Many websites these days use a grid as a basis for their layout and design. Grid-based layouts offer a range of benefits, the biggest being that a grid can be very easily programmed to be responsive – i.e. to adjust its size based upon the visitor’s screen size.
Some argue that designing around a grid hinders how creative the design can be. While there is an element of truth in this, the reality is that we live in an age where we have to cater for as many different devices as possible and the benefits that a grid system can bring often outweigh the relatively small design constraints they introduce.
Consider a grid-based layout if:
- You want your website to be responsive to a range of devices with minimal extra development effort.
- Your design or brand is not overly complex or does not rely on elements being in certain screen positions in relationship to each other.
You may wish to avoid using a grid-based layout if:
- You already know the devices and screens your website will be viewed on, for example, a corporate intranet, and there won’t be many variations.
- Your brand and design are very complex and rely on things being in exact positions.
- You have a large budget to design and develop multiple versions of a website for different devices.
Flat designs have been very popular recently. Minimalist by nature, they make clever use of white space, clear fonts and high contrast colour schemes. Flat designs are designed not to overwhelm a visitor and their simplicity can be very effective for drawing a visitor’s attention to a particular part of the screen or delivering that key message.
If your website has a lot of information to convey, for example, news articles or events, then a card-based layout may fit the bill. Card-based layouts became popular with the rise of Web 2.0 services, such as Pinterest and Digg, where a lot of information needed to fit into a single screen space.
For a financial services website (or other corporate website), a card-based layout may not be suitable for your entire website. Several pages of card based layouts may be overwhelming for a visitor and hamper your efforts to deliver specific messages.
However, a card-based layout may be a good choice for specific areas of your website, for example, news or events listings, or literature downloads area. It’s often possible to mix-and-match layout styles, so ask your developer.
When it comes to website layout and style, there are no clear right and wrong answers. The layout and style you choose should be dependent upon your requirements as a marketer, and thinking through these needs and considerations is undoubtedly the most important stage of any website project. Don’t choose a path that is trendy right now unless it’s going to be a real fit for your business both now and in the future.
You could start with defining the products, services and information that your website will need to hold, and draw this out into a sketch or sitemap. Against each page, scribble the information and elements you would like the page to communicate to visitors. You’ll likely find that layout and styling questions begin to answer themselves.
At this point, it may also be worth engaging with a professional web marketer or designer who can ask the right questions, flag up potential issues, and work with you to choose a path you can have confidence in.
Good luck, and remember: we’re here to help!