The easiest part of web site design is the design itself. Sounds like an oxymoron but it’s not.
The real holy terror smacking brands and design agencies upside the head are the business rules that underlie web site design.
Yes, your visitors expect branding elements, on page graphics, links to useful content and even video. But, new research demonstrates “load blindness” (too much information) impedes awareness.
Great design today is really about speed - your site should have no limits for the visitor.
Before any business thinks about a web site design it needs to lock in these marketing strategies.
- What’s the product or service going to sell for and how to you communicate this to the market.
- How do analytics and sales funnel metrics tie into the web site; what’s a lead or desired outcome for a visitor other than perusing the site.
- Marketing the business and web site: marketing strategy should be holistically mapped out prior to a web site launch.
- What’s your content marketing strategy and do you have an Editorial Calendar (click this link to access sample via our public Dropbox account) in place to map out content updates, topics, keywords and more.
- Social media integration: social logins, sharing options and plugins, engagement drivers that help to drive virality and social sharing.
- Sense of urgency drivers for the web site. What calls to action are desired for the visitor.
- Legacy content and information; how will this be archived in a meaningful way to continue to drive traffic.
- An understanding of the importance of great Titles and Section headers. These drive the visitors into the web site and help to generate revenue, sales leads and web site engagement.
- A real grasp of your targeted market demographic or persona, with dedicated time and resources defining who the customer is.
- Cloud integration: apps, third party services, appropriate server and/or hosting vendors.
- Integrating and understanding users “read” web site content in F Shaped Patterns.
Great Web Site Design Killers
- Agencies churning time and hours to drive up costs and to add complexity to the design.
- Committees (nuff said)
- For redesigned web sites: building the same web site all over again (too common)
- CEO’s/execs endlessly tweaking the design (see bullet above)
- Egos on both sides of the table (clients and agencies)
- Feature Creep: “let’s just add this……”
- Geeks who have no clue about marketing strategy
- Budget imbalance: “let’s go offshore” and save a bundle….
- Not tiered 1.0, 2.0 design strategy: see: “Rome not built in a day….”
- No content marketing strategy baked in to the design
- Confusing Menus
- Content not formatted properly: no white space, headers MIA, paragraphs too long
- No awareness of SEO best practices
- Get it all done at once: tiered 1.0 with iterations work best
- No Mobile integration: 30% of all traffic is mobile and increasing every day (responsive design)
- Hosting setup is funky (too cost driven)
- Server Side provisioning not well done
- Load times are abysmal (sub set of SEO Best Practices)
- No Cloud Integration or Awareness
Trust Signs that Impact How Your Web Site is Viewed
- Content is not well written
- Too busy: you have 2-3 seconds to garner attention
- Web site looks old and/or not well maintained
- Non standard fonts
- Making the visitor login via Facebook (for consumer site maybe, but a non starter for B2B site)
- Too many flashing GIFs making the site look like a traffic light on steroids
- Image that look like they were bought via a CD purchase at Costco or anywhere for that matter
- No conversion requests or calls to action
- Take over ads or registration that does not recognize return visitors
- “Get rich now” wording or positioning
- No About us Page and Contact Page is “form driven” with no text
- Funky domain name with hyphens and/or no creativity on URL selection
- Non standard Shopping Cart & poor integration with web site
- No social media channel integration
- No “trust” symbols (especially for eCommerce biz)
- Commenting does not function or not available
- Nothing about the company other than boring “resume” content
- No integrated blog
Content Marketing & Audience Targeting are Key to Great Design
Our Top Ten Plus Recommendations for Stellar Web Site Design
- Have a graphics profession (in house or agency) design a logo and integrate it with your web site.
- Get rid of clutter - clean up your pages and have one clear call to action on a specific page: don’t have more than one of these.
- Have content that speaks to your visitor - should inform, resonate and engage with your target persona.
- Keep your paragraphs short with white space in between the sentences. Content structure is crit
- Don’t use too much color - use enough to add some “design” to your site but avoid harsh colors like red or black. Remember 60% of your traffic are women and design accordingly with pastels and softer colors.
- Use quality source images from Getty or Istock photo (both are owned by Getty) and spend time researching and selecting photos; all photos are not created equally; be discriminating. To draw a visitor to specific piece of content use a photo with a person looking at your content.
- Use fonts that are universally supported across all popular browsers; don’t go “exotic” on fonts.
- Think of each page as a mini landing page; it’s a misconception assuming visitors start out on your home page, most do not.
- Keep your content “Above the Fold” is a term that’s been around in web site design since Netscape was coming of age. It’s a publishing term really - keep essential information at the top of all pages.
- Don’t use Flash - it’s now ancient technology and it doesn’t work well on smartphones.
- Your Contact Us page is the last page any visitor sees and one of the most important on your site. Include meaningful content on this page that gives the visitor a “30k foot” last look at your brand.
- Don’t use overly complex menus - less is more, keep them simple.
- Design for smartphones - 30-50% of your traffic is via smartphones. “Responsive web site design” is the term geeks and designers use to describe mobile friendly web site design.
- Every web site should feature a blog integrated in with your universal menus. Don’t bolt it on as an afterthought.
- Have a “need for speed” - everyone is in a hurry today including your visitors. Build a web site that loads fast which in turn helps drive search engine rankings.
Key Takeaways for Busy Execs
- For good function web site design, think in iterative processes: 1.0 then 2.0 - don’t get bogged down into feature creep. It’s a time killer and 60 day project can easily turn into 3-4 months.
- Give your designers (in house or agency) enough leeway to give them buy in to the project. You have to balance your business objectives with the creative process.
- Build your site on a test server first and assess all functionality; then, move to your standard server.
- Hosting is now almost all generic and the biggest “gotcha” we see with hosting is crowded servers. If your not using a dedicated Server like RackSpace (who we have worked with over ten years and recommend) who you use (assuming standard features) makes little difference.
- Don’t stand up a web site without some kind of sales funnel with at least “crude A/B testing for product or service sales and an integrated newsletter list.
- Web site design: to a certain extent you get what you pay for. The web is loaded with funky looking web sites where “price” was the overriding factor and many of them reflect what was invested. These markets are crowded and your web site look and feel is a key determinant of branding and customer perception.
- Recognize 30-50% of your traffic is coming in via mobile - let this be one of the key determinants of your design (UX/UII): less is more.
Five Sites We Love and Why
B2B: Cisco just rocks this design - stellar B2B site: clean site lines, great UX, menus make sense and design elements are upmarket and sophisticated.
Consumer: Upworthy: fun, irreverent but with meaningful content, absolute killer headlines that reach out and grab you, bright bold color scheme that doesn’t overwhelm.
Business/Consumer: Deutsche Bank: design is elegant, minimalist, no clutter, loads fast and “speaks” to the visitor: see Bank of America for an absolute bear of a site with muddy content and design elements.
Journalism: Huffington Post has rewritten how news is reported and shared; iImaged driven site, with subtle design components and color scheme, great “engagement drivers” via content and menu structure, social embeds, with minimalist UI.
Business to Business: Spin66 Studio: elegantly simple, brand, strategy and services communicated almost effortlessly, minimalist: “less is more” functionality.