Some say websites are not as important as they once were. With the advent of apps and social media there are those that say you can get by without a website. That is simply not true. The fact is your website should be at the center of almost all of your communications when it comes to promoting or advertising your business. Your website is the only place you can tell your story the way it should be told without limitations of layout, number of characters allowed, type of content allowed.
It is vital that your website is up to the task of inspiring people to do business with you. In fact, for the foreseeable future, your website is the key to doing business with customers that cannot or may not want to do business at a physical location. If your website is not up to snuff in the wake of COVID-19, you’re either out of business or on your way out.
There are three key elements to a successful website project. While each aspect is a topic in and of itself, if you have a solid, high-level understanding of what it takes, you can drive a website design project resulting in success.
Three Eelements to Web Design Success
While the terms web design (or website design) and web development are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different. Web design is about the look, feel and user experience of your website. Web development is the programming typically associated with the website’s functionality. We will discuss development in the next section. For now let’s take time to understand what makes a good website design and what are the most important elements.
As mentioned earlier, web design is a whole, almost never-ending topic in and of itself. For the purpose of providing you foundation for knowing how to get good service, we’ll keep this at a 30,000 foot view.
Website design provides more that just a pretty picture of your company. When done well, it provides a level of credibility it is difficult to obtain unless a relationship is formed in person. Your website is almost always the first impression of your business. No matter what, make sure the look and feel are in line with how you want people to see you the first time they see you.
Some companies are lucky to have a solid handle on the brand identity. Meaning they have a well-established and well-followed set of standards that are followed. The standards are rooted in a deep understanding of who their customers are and what drives them. This level of consistency provides a tremendous advantage. The truth is most businesses, especially small and medium sized businesses, do not have such brand guidelines.
To ensure good to excellent design outcomes for your website in lieu of established brand guides, it is most vital to consider using your design to make it as easy as possible to do business with you. Make sure the most vital information is front and center. If you sell products or services but people get to your front page and are met with a bunch of copy about how awesome your company THEN have to search for your products or services section, you’ll lose business.
User experience is key in the design phase of your website project. Your website should also portray your business in a realistic manner. So many businesses try to make people think they are either bigger or smaller than they are. As consumers do business with you, they will eventually see what’s under your kimono. If it doesn’t match the vibe you’ve been trying to live up to, you’ll actually lose credibility. When it comes to your website design, don’t try to be something you’re not. Be the best, most authentic version of what you are.
When it comes to color schemes, fonts and layout styles, if you do not have the brand guidelines discussed earlier, consider your best or favorite customers and what it would take to make them even more loyal or attract more customers like them. Convey this understanding to your designer. Good designers will have your site looking just like they would want it to look from a style perspective.
You could potentially have a website that looks amazing but doesn’t do what your customers most need. Online shopping carts (e-commerce some will call it), configurators that build a custom version of your product or service, lead generators, automated responses, dynamic content that changes per user preference settings, are a few samples where web developers, or programmers, come in to play.
The development aspect of your website project is more complex to understand at a deep level. The good news is you do not need to be well versed in the scientific mumbo jumbo programmers like to use, to be the leader of the project. What you really need to know is what it takes for customers to buy from you. Should your website have online ordering? That could cover everything from products, services and even customizable orders like restaurant menus. Should your site allow visitors to inquire about your product or service? What information should they provide? How will you know when someone fills out that form? How will your staff follow up?
If you need a shopping cart for your customers, what information do they need per product or service to make a purchase? Are there options like sizes, colors, versions that are vital to a satisfying buying experience?
Make sure you understand the buying process, or the process of informing your prospects and customers well enough to make it clear how your processes work. This should be a collaborative process. Programmers speak a different language and often understand things differently. They may draw conclusions without deep enough understanding. Show examples where you can. ALWAYS start with simple versions that you can build on over time.
Finally, every business is unique but do not fall into the trap of thinking your business is so unique that everything needs to be reinvented. Perhaps your business is the only one of its kind but it is more likely that you have competitors in the same space or that your customers have options, Do not reinvent the wheel in the development phase. Your project will be very expensive and take a very long time to cmplete. You may have uniqueness that requires some tweaking, but it is rare that the tools required to improve your business on your website require complete scratch made solutions.
Unfortunately, just because you have a website doesn’t mean you will show up when people search Google or Bing. A huge misunderstanding many new website owners have is believing is getting ranked in Google or Bing is automatic if you have a good website. The process for getting good rankings in the search engines is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. It is a separate service requiring unique experience and skill.
SEO is part art and part science. It requires an understanding of what it takes to match your website’s content to what your prospective customers are likely to search for in search engines like Google and Bing. SEO is one hundred topics in and of itself. To understand it well enough for you to do it on your own is beyond the scope of this guide. The best you can do without a deep understanding of SEO or purchasing SEO services, is to provide honest content that you believe is in line with what prospects would search for to find your products or services. It is also worth noting that it takes time to get good rankings and it also requires continuous effort. If you et good rankings one day do not expect to just stay there. Competitors will keep working to oust your site and replace it with tier own.
SEO specifically relates to naturally ranking in search engines. There is another way, but it is also a separate service. However, there is still a hefty learning curve and it costs money whether you do it yourself or someone else does it for you. This service is called Pay Per Click or PPC. Both Google and Bing have services that allow you to buy ad space at the top and bottom (and sometimes the side) of search results. Another benefit is it is immediate.
Even with PPC you still need an understanding of the keywords people use to find products or services like yours. That sounds easy but it is not. It’s one thing to get keywords that drive traffic to your site, it is quite another to get traffic to your site that is most likely to buy from you.
Here is where social media can play a key role in your business. Many people use social media for one off messaging and to keep audiences thinking about them. The absolute best thing you can do with social media is t promote content that is fully fleshed out on your website. For example it is one thing to say you are having a sale, but saying you’re having a sale and linking directly to your website where they can buy what is on sale is an excellent 1-2 punch in your favor.
You can also use traditional means of promoting your website – print, tv or radio, for example. The take away, however, prospects and customers finding your website doesn’t just magically happen.
Web Design In a Nutshell
- Your web design should make it easy for visitors to do busines with you
- When it comes to your website design, don’t try to be something you’re not. Be the best, most authentic version of what you are
- Use web development to build the features and functionality that facilitate transactions. Lead generating forms, shopping carts, dynamic content based on each user’s preference are all excellent returns on the investment in your website project.
- Your new website will not suddenly show up when people are looking for your products or services. Before you begin, understand this is part of the project and you will need budget for it.