How important is a website header? It is the first impression your brand makes online, so it is pretty vital. Your header sets the tone for how users will perceive the rest of your website and your brand as a whole. And, a website header has the potential to attract or deter real customers.
What is a Website Header?
A header is the top section of a web page. While modern web design favors minimalism, headers have evolved from a small strip of real estate containing logo and contact details to the whole space ‘above the fold’ on the homepage.
A header is more than just a menu. It is like an invitation to the brand laying out all of the critical details that the user needs to navigate the site. You have seconds, possibly even fractions of seconds, to get a message across. So designers are putting more work into headers these days.
Related: 10 Tips for Branding Your Website
What’s Included on Your Website Header?
What information do users need to be greeted with when they visit your site? Depending on their level of familiarity with your company, they may need different things. The goal of your header design is to cater to all needs in one seamless design.
Branding, including logos and your company name, are essential to confirm that users have reached the correct destination. Have you ever called a business and been caught off guard when they don’t answer with the company name? The same thing happens when users visit a web page that has poor branding.
Users should also be able to quickly identify what goods or services you offer and how to get in touch. Other nice to have information includes highlighting current deals or featured products. Consider including these items:
- Logo and Company name
- Call to Action
- Text or Headline
- Navigational Elements (menus)
- Search Bar
Focus on finding a balance between the volume of information and user-friendly design. It only takes users a few seconds to assess web design and form an emotional response. If they don’t find what they are looking for quickly, you will lose them.
Best Practices for Website Design
Good architecture and creativity are the keys to designing a successful header. The size, how information is laid out, the copy, and media need to work together harmoniously to communicate what the user needs to know.
There are a lot of variables when choosing a header size. Compatibility with a wide range of screen sizes is the most important consideration for users viewing websites on mobile devices and big screens. Header sizes range from small strips at the top of the home page to full-screen layouts.
Visual hierarchy refers to placing the most important information in the order that users will look for it. How we read web pages may not be the same as how we read print pages. Users will most often start in the top left-hand corner of the page, so branding identification belongs here.
From here, users tend to scan for information in an F shape, going down the left side and then across the top. Use this to your advantage and arrange elements where users expect to find them. You can use these hierarchy tricks to bring attention to elements like a call to action or navigation menus.
- Texture and Style
- White Space
Use larger fonts for the most crucial information—highlight critical phrases like a call to action by putting the text in a different color. And make sure to use plenty of white space. Cluttered menus and headers with too much or poorly organized information overwhelm users and are ineffective.
A sticky header or a fixed header remains visible as the user scrolls down the page. Sticky headers have become somewhat of an industry-standard in web design because there are several advantages.
On e-commerce websites, conversion rates benefit from keeping the cart visible to shoppers at all times. Many designers will place the cart view prominently on a sticky header for easy access and a visual reminder to check out. For service-based websites, it helps to keep contact information and a call to action visible.
What Does Your Header Say?
The copy on your header is as important as the design. In fact, several studies in copywriting have proven that good copy without the element of design is more powerful at selling than a good design without the element of copy. So the words that you use do matter.
What should you put on your header?
- A call to action to get your customers to do something.
- Wording that builds trust like communicating values.
- Encouragement to explore or learn more.
- Attention-grabbing phrases.
The copy that goes on your header will depend on the goals of your website and the voice of your brand. For some companies, a humorous quip is an appropriate way to grab attention, and for others, it would be very out of place. You can (and probably should) hire a professional copywriter independent of your web designer to find the right words.
Good images spice things up because words alone are visually boring. Your header images should be high-quality and appropriate for your brand. Rather than overloading your header with too many images, use sliders for multiple images.
Video or Animation
Video or animation is gaining a lot of popularity as a more immersive option for visuals. High-quality and professionally edited video can be a great way to grab attention and introduce your brand.
A website header is an important, make-or-break element of your web design. There is a lot of room for creativity in how you present the important information in your introduction. But if we are going to touch on some best practices, we think that sticky headers with professional copy and immersive image decks or video are a good start. Don’t be afraid to cover some real estate with a modern header design covering up to 90% of the first visible screen of a homepage. Your only limit is your creativity.
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