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The psychology of good web design

multilingual website design

Making a great first impression is important, and that goes double for websites. If you’re designing a multilingual website for your business, consider harnessing these subconscious influences for maximum effect. Read on for five small things that can make a big difference to your website.

Color

If asked to associate colors with feelings, most of us could easily rattle off some common clichés—blue and green are calming, red is energizing, purple is royal and sophisticated… The trouble with laying out a hard and fast index of color associations is that in practice, color meanings are often very subjective. One person might have a garden full of daffodils and see yellow as a happy energizing color, while someone else might remember the time they ate five bananas in a row and felt queasy. 

Website colors

The colors you use in your website can speak volumes about your brand

So you can’t put too much stake in your color choices sending a crystal-clear message. The best you can do is make sure your color choices doesn’t obviously clash with your brand’s identity. Pull up any famous logo and it’s not too difficult to work out why its colors were chosen. For example, notice how the discount store chain Target, which aims to be unpretentious and “of the people”, uses a simple unpretentious primary red. The same goes for McDonald’s friendly color scheme: eye-catching yellow and hunger-inducing red (most fast-food chains opt for red because it’s said to trigger appetite).

Meanwhile, Chipotle, the sophisticated side of American fast food, uses a deeper maroon hue. Imagine if Target’s logo was a dove-gray fleur de lis, or if Chipotle branded itself with neon orange. It would change the image entirely, and you would feel instinctively that something was wrong. These considerations are vital when designing a website, especially a multilingual website where colors can also have cultural significance.

Contrast

Color contrast adds interest and guides a viewer around a webpage. Our eyes are drawn to contrast, and we also remember information longer when it stands out visually. So if you want to get people to click on a certain button or remember a name or phrase, make it pop, like a bright red against a field of pale blue.  

If you’re using WordPress or another helpful platform for your site, you can take advantage of the pre-set color scheme options. These are nice tools for those who aren’t trained in graphic design. They let you get a more complex-looking final product without risking color clash, because they pre-pair shades that work well together.

Font

When it comes to typefaces, you must once again think hard about your brand and what qualities your core customer will be looking for. An elaborate script could intrigue a luxury shoe shopper, but strike someone looking for combat boots as snobby and bourgeois. A slick sans-serif font could speak to a hipster seeking a metropolitan hotel but come off as flighty and untrustworthy to a family that needs a bank.  

Website fonts

This font might look great on paper, but online it might be harder to read

Also important to pay attention to is the combinations of different fonts your webpage uses. If your page is too uniform, it can be like speaking in a monotone voice; everything would run together and the viewer might lose the sense of how to navigate the page. Contrast principles of color apply to fonts as well. If you want a headline or phrase to stand out, make it bold and sans-serif where the rest of the page is more delicate, or curly and ornate where its surroundings are utilitarian. If you want to keep things simple, there’s also the option of sticking to different versions of one font, adjusting the size, boldness, or italics.

When translating your website into multiple languages, be sure to check out how each language looks in your chosen font in case certain characters don’t display clearly.

Spacing

We rarely pay attention to a page’s spacing when it’s done well, but we notice if it’s out of whack. Spacing affects all elements of your webpage. Lines of text must be spaced so the reader doesn’t get them mixed up, but also doesn’t have to leap too far from one to the next. Both of these defects can make the information hard to follow. Different sections of text should be arranged on the page so that it’s clear where one ends and another begins.

In addition, pay attention to the overall composition of the page. Is there enough negative space, with no text or images filling it? If your site is a wall of words or too busy, a visitor might be overwhelmed. If one page is overstuffed with content, consider breaking it up into sub-pages, making sure there’s an easy-to-navigate menu. Let viewers get your message at a comfortable pace, not as an info dump.

Multilingual websites must take special consideration for spacing as formatting can unfortunately change with the text.

Mobile compatibility

Your work isn’t done when your website is a beautiful symphony of color and typeface. It will all be for naught if you haven’t made it compatible with mobile devices. These days, a big portion of your viewers will be browsing from their phone or tablet, and they won’t be impressed if the content is garbled or won’t load. Even if they stick around and suffer through it, a mediocre site reflects badly on your competence.ç

Mobile compatibility

Not having a well-designed mobile site today can lose you valuable users

Luckily, WordPress and other website builders can handle this issue for you. If there’s an option to create a mobile version of your site, take it. You might wish everyone could see your desktop site in its full glory, but it’s better to accept the limitations and take control of your brand’s mobile face. A mobile site should generally be simpler and less cluttered to cut back on tiny touch-screen buttons and frustrating wrong clicks. Pictures are always attention grabbing, so be sure they show up on mobile devices. On WordPress, it helps to save your images and upload them to the blog photo library, rather than copying and pasting. This will make them more stable and less likely to malfunction across platforms.

Be sure to check your mobile site thoroughly in every language it offers as formatting errors can occur on the small screen that don’t necessarily affect the desktop version.

Put it to the test

Once you think you’ve got your site design as tight as possible, it’s time to do some testing. The most obvious way to do this is to have members of your team look at it and pick out anything awkward or distracting. A pair of eyes besides your own will be helpful; it’s hard to see something objectively when you’ve been staring at it for too long.

However, to really test your site, you’ll need outside help, people who can mimic potential customers. Be clear on what concrete outcomes you want from your website. Do you want visitors to make a purchase, join a mailing list, or request more information? These specific results are what web designers call conversions.

A great way to test conversion success is with A/B testing. A/B testing shows a pool of subjects two different versions of a page, and tracks which version most often produced the desired click. Google Analytics offers an A/B testing service; this is a great proactive step to optimizing your site.

Web design is a specialized career, and this guide is of course no substitute for those years of study. But if you’re still getting off the ground and don’t have a design team, these key considerations are a good place to start. 


Don’t launch a live version of your multilingual website if you’re not 100% sure the language, tone and style is accurate. VeraContent offers proofreading, translation and copywriting services to make sure your multilingual website launch goes off without a hitch.

Tova Seltzer

A lifelong writer, poet, and seeker of just the right words, Tova is excited to be spending time abroad immersed in Spanish, although she misses the breakfast scene back in Washington, D.C.


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