Let's look at the The Telegraph's rebrand improvements to see what you can learn from it about web design:
The Telegraph.co.uk masthead is dead - long live Telegraph.co.uk. The site is now under the banner of 'The Telegraph', with the stated aim of creating a more consistent brand with the newspapers (the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph). And the website now uses the same colour palette as the papers too.
This is online branding 101 - your brand needs to stay consistent on the web as it does offline. That means using the same colours, feel, style of writing and, in this case, monikers. It breeds familiarity among visitors to the site who know your business from offline, and looks professional.
The Telegraph's navigation wasn't too shoddy before, but it's well worth highlighting how it's done. All nav happens across a simple bar across the top. This is how navigation should be: all along one strip, not with some across the top and some down the left-hand side. You should also avoid duplicating links and buttons on a single page - it confuses readers. Keep links to all other pages in the same place, so a user can find them instinctively and immediately. Attention spans online are mere microseconds, and if a user can't find what they're looking for straight away, they just go to another website.
It also helps to have a 'breadcrumb trail' across the top (that tells you which sub-sections of the site you're in) if you have a fairly complex site with numerous sub-sections. You should also have lots of internal links (going to other pages on your site) from text. This helps your SEO and encourages users to stay on the site longer to find out more.
The Telegraph online is now buzzing with big, bright images, videos and graphics - it's full of colour, and much more engaging than Telegraph.co.uk was. This is a simple lesson, but a crucial one: imagery is powerful, and site visitors love it. Include plenty of nice images (particularly if you sell products online, as users can't see them in real life), and make sure they're top quality. Ask someone with a good eye if you're not aesthetically inclined.
Key Telegraph journalists now have their own dedicated web pages on the site, introducing them and their specialities and listing recent articles. This is becoming an increasingly standard feature on newspaper sites, and for good reason. The web is a dauntingly anonymous and vast place, yet people love people. Introduce your visitors to the faces behind the website, and they feel more loyal and emotionally involved with the site. This is such a simple concept for business owners to imitate: just have a nice 'about us' page with pics of all of you, and brief bios. This also gives you a chance to shout about your skills and expertise.
Check out the website of this B2B sales performance consultant to see what we mean.
Marketing.co.uk wrote of the redesign: "The investment in digital media is a bid by The Telegraph Media Group (TMG) to increase online readership and gain ground on Guardian.co.uk, site which has received higher figures since April 2009." It's not wrong there.
You might not be competing on as big a playing field as national newspapers, but you need to be acting just as competitively. Check your rivals' sites constantly to keep an eye out for improvements, learn from what they excel at and what they botch, and strive for the edge, always.
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