With functionality, it’s key that people know how to use your site. On a desktop site, people are used to seeing navigation at the top or on the left. Putting it somewhere else would be like putting the contents page of the book randomly in the middle. With these sorts of things, it’s important to adhere to what people are used to seeing. You can certainly add in extras, but the basics should be obvious. With the move into various devices, adaptive or response design is increasingly important. This is where the site actually looks and behaves differently depending on the device the visitor is using. If your visitors spend a lot of time browsing on their phone or a tablet device, you need your site to feel right in this context.


Small business network

Join the Guardian Small Business Network. Sign up for free to access best practice resources, expert advice, live Q&As, and entrepreneur blogs. When it comes to impact, there are trends, but you can also make yourself distinctive. There’s a trend, particularly in software as a service, for ‘marketing’ sites (not the product interface) that’s very clean, with one message, one video, and one button click. Mailchimp is a good example of this trend. It’s up to you if you’re a follower or a trend-setter.

Images are important. Getting people to have an emotional connection with your business is a key factor in securing long-term sales. Imagery appeals to the emotional side of the brain. Something real, human, and impactful will always help this. I’d also say you need to pick stock shots carefully, there are some great images available, but some are so ubiquitous as to become wallpaper. I tend to advise clients to have a primary and secondary image style. Primary imagery should be bold and unique. Secondary imagery is used on blog posts, for example, and can be effectively sourced from stock libraries, but even then I might crop, or color, or frame in a way that gives them your own style Planet Reporter.

Rebecca Swift is the creative planning manager for iStockphoto

How image-heavy should a site be?

I would always advise that the size and number of images be considered part of branding discussions on how imagery signals a message to the target market. For example, the travel industry relies heavily on imagery to sell holidays. Many bargain holiday brands load up their websites with images used in small proportions to signal the economically minded customer towards the different destinations or holiday types. The websites look like supermarket shelves, with lots of color and detail. However, the luxury or more aspirational websites use few images but will invest in using strong emotional, conceptual, and often artistic meaning to add value to their product offering.

How can SMEs source the best images for their sites?

You should never use Google images unless there is a creative commons license. Most images that are free to use will have “CC” in a circle attached to them in the details or, in the case of Flickr.com, if you right-click on the image. Otherwise, there are many stock sites available that offer images at prices that are affordable to small businesses and use a royalty-free license to enable the business to use the image on their website legally.