Last time I wrote about the importance of structuring your insurance agency website for consistency and coherence. When I asked Kat Westcott, who has designed most of the insurance agency websites for SmartsPro Marketing, about what I said in that post, she agreed and added some of her own comments.
“Speaking in general, when I see poorly designed web sites, the flaw is usually that someone has tried to do it themselves without laying out a structure,” says Kat. “They just start typing into an html document. So the site is mostly text flowing down the page, on and on without any kind of visual relief or organization. Then comes the temptation to try to make things interesting by inserting various font sizes and popping in random graphics here and there, sometimes making poor choices about size and position. Attempting to set up your own web site from scratch is admirable, but often the choices made come with a price when you consider how the page affects your viewers and hoped-for customers.”
In addition to the problem of main pages filled with poorly formatted content, Kat also points out that often the sidebars and footers suffer from the same problems. “I sometimes see a lot of itty-bitty type in the sidebar, where it’s seemingly expected that people will read it. But really the sidebar should be more of a quick reference for lists, key points, graphics/ads, action buttons, etc. to accompany and counter-point the more densely packed main content area of the page. Things in the sidebar should be parceled out in small bites, like little information ‘snacks. It’s not an area for meaty content.
“In my opinion, the footer should be kept small and simple as well. Unless it’s going to be a deep area with a site map and/or plenty of white space, it’s not really the best place to position a lot of content, for reasons similar to why you should keep the sidebar simple,” says Kat. From a practical standpoint, people are not typically going to look at your footer for important information anyway, just incidentals.
“The reason it is sometimes easy to make poor choices about where and how to place content, is that many times, people are working with no ‘bones’ to their site. They open an html document and start adding their content into it without the guidance of a structure, perhaps not understanding how sidebars and other features are supposed to work. Structure is key.
“The website layout diagram included in your last post is a good example of how many good websites are set up. If one were to view sites on the net with this structure in mind, one might see how these components are the ‘bones’ of most clean, easy-to-navigate, visually appealing sites. It may seem like a very basic layout, but it’s actually the structure of just about every site, regardless of a site’s sophistication. Sites sometimes have a feature slider in between the header and nav bar, or the main content area may be further organized into smaller pieces, but these additions are more or less just a variation of the basic structure.“
Kat concluded by pointing out that structuring your website using different containers — such as sidebars and footers as well as the main body of the page—for different content will ensure that your site provides good readability, visual flow that is easy on the eyes, and quick access to the data and opportunities that are most important to your customers and prospects.
Kat Westcott has been a freelance web and graphic designer since 1992.