Have you ever been unable to find what you're looking for in the main navigation of a website? Have you ever been considering a product on an e-commerce site but been unable to find the return policy? The frustration that this causes prompts some users to leave and find a site that is more transparent or intuitive.
This instance of user behavior is exactly why your site needs a well-designed website footer. Think of a footer as a safety net for users who haven’t been able to find the information they’re looking for in other sections of your site. By providing a link to your return policy or contact form, for example, you can prevent some visitors from leaving your ecommerce site and never returning.
In this post, we’ll explain what a footer is and why it’s important to the user experience. Then we’ll go over what to put in a footer and conclude with some of the most creative examples to inspire you.
What is the footer of a website?
You might be thinking that there's no point in putting a lot of time and effort into the footer because people don't pay attention to content below the fold. This type of thinking is definitely validated by most scroll behavior research, including one performed by Neilsen Norman Group in 2018. They found that 57% of page-viewing time was spent above the fold.
However, according to the study, time spent above the fold is decreasing over time as screens get larger, designers favor minimalism, and scrolling becomes normalized in general. The summary of this study states that "people will scroll if they have a reason to do it."
With that in mind, because footers serve navigational and informational purposes for your audience, it only makes sense to optimize this real estate for them despite it being so far down the page. You'll even notice that despite Neilsen Norman Group found that time spent viewing decreased the farther down the page, there's an uptick at the very end.
This is an indication that users know that the footer valuable information and they can go it, particularly when they are looking for something specific.
Now that we understand the importance of a website footer, let’s take a closer look at what information belongs in this section of a web page.
What to Put in a Website Footer
Social Media Icons
Email Sign-up Form
It’s important to understand that the only requirement for designing a great website footer is knowing what your visitors are looking for. That’s why there’s no precise recipe for a website footer. There’s some standard ingredients but what exactly you put in, the amount, the order — it’s up to you.
Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients you might use to design your footer.
Arguably the most important element of a website footer is the copyright notice. According to Stephen Fishman, J.D., in a legal article on Nolo, a copyright notice is “a written notice stating that a particular work is protected by copyright, and that you own that copyright.” The purpose is simple: to deter anyone from copying an image, animation, paragraph or otherwise trying to steal content from your website.
You can add a sitemap to your footer in two ways. You can either provide multiple links to sections of your website, or you can provide a single link to your XML sitemap.
The first approach is known as creating a “sitemap footer.” These footers contain navigation points that can’t neatly fit into the top-level or global navigation bars of larger sites, or navigation points that encourage visitors to browse the site. The sitemap footer on Grace Eleyae, for example, includes navigation links that visitors might not have considered when first entering the site but would like to explore.
The second approach to including a sitemap is designed with search engine bots in mind. One of the most important things a search engine bot will be looking for is a link to your XML Sitemap. Your sitemap is a file that contains URLs and information of the pages and media files you consider most important on your site. According to Google, search engines use this file to better crawl websites, particularly large and content-rich sites. That’s why providing a link to this file in your footer is considered a best practice for SEO.
Footers are a great place to reinforce your brand identity. There’s a few approaches you can take. You can include your logo, but present it in a different way than in your header. Maybe you increase the font size. Maybe you include an image. Maybe you include a mission statement or your brand values below the logo. These are just a few ways you can remind visitors what your company stands for and make a memorable last impression.
Envoy, for example, adds some branding right below its logo in the footer. It reads: “We create possibilities for the connected world. Be Bold.” That way, a reader would have an idea of what the company did, even if they didn’t read the About page.
You want potential leads to be able to get in contact with you as easily as possible. For that reason, website footers will often contain contact details like a business email, phone number, or mailing address. Or it might simply include a link that brings you to a contact form.
The luxury boutique hotel Bellevue Syrene dedicates one part of its website footer grid to its contact information. To ensure potential guests can contact the hotel in the way they want, the footer includes an address, phone number, fax number, and email address.
Ideally, you want to present an email sign-up form to a visitor who understands the value of your content and wants more. A visitor who has scrolled to the bottom of your web page is a likely candidate. That’s why many websites use their footer as an opportunity to increase their subscribers.
For example, Chobani includes a simple email opt-in form in its footer. The tagline above — “Get the freshest Chobani news” — helps set the subscriber’s expectations on what exactly they’re signing up for.
Now that we know what possible content and elements we can put in a website footer, let’s look at some real examples that might inspire you.
Website Footer Examples
As discussed above, there’s no “right” way to create a website footer as long as it reflects your unique brand identity and is tailored toward your audience. Let’s check out a few examples that do exactly that.
Lorelei Londres is a luxury hotel in Italy that strives to provide hospitality and charm. Its footer succeeds in both aspects.
Superfluid is a vegan beauty brand designed for anyone to use. Like Superfluid’s mission, its footer is basic but also redefines what basic means. Superfluid’s footer contains the information you expect — a well-organized menu of help articles, legal info, and social media accounts to follow, an email sign-up form, logo, and copyright info — but not in the way you might expect it.
The logo is enormous compared to the other text in the footer. Beneath the footer, you see icons representing its value propositions — cruelty free, vegan, easy to use, no mineral oils. Below that is a traditional copyright notice as well as the accepted payment methods. In short, this footer provides important information to address any questions that either potential or existing customers might have in a bold but clean way.
Spline Group is a mechanical and electrical engineering firm that values effective communication and simplicity.
This is clear in its footer. A minimalist design, the footer features black text on a white background. There’s an address and links to its Instagram, LinkedIn, and Careers page. Below that is much larger text. But unlike Superfluid, it’s not Spline’s logo or brand name. Instead, it’s a contact link with the simple but inviting CTA: “Let’s talk.”
Art4web is a creative digital and branding studio committed to making unique websites, mobile apps, and brand designs. Its own footer section is an example of unique design. Rather than offering one touchpoint to potential customers like Spline Group, Art4web offers three. Potential customers can email them, fill out a form to get a quote for their project, or give them a call. Or they can opt to connect on any of the social media platforms represented by the icons below.
gOOOders is an online platform and series of hotel boutiques that sell ethical and sustainable products. Its mission is to help people make better choices in the products they buy and the way they travel.
Pranjal Kaila, also known as Ajeeb, is an independent interdisciplinary designer. According to his bio, one of his specialties is “creating interactive spatial and sensory experiences.” This is clear in every part of his website, including his footer.
Designing Your Website Footer
Designing your website footer requires careful planning. It’s a section where humans and search engine bots look for important information that they haven’t found elsewhere. You want to make sure you’re providing them with the content and elements they need so they continue to explore your site, rather than exit out in frustration.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 7, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated July 05 2022