- Hit the Target...Audience: Finding your target audience is nothing new. In fact, it’s considered one of the basic tenets of business. You wouldn’t waste much time marketing dentures, for example, to teenagers! In the same token, website designs first and foremost must determine what kind of customers it needs to cater to.
With websites, target audiences can be tricky. Not only must the actual products and services be taken into account, the kind of online user must be taken into account also. For example, if your business sells a product meant for younger people, the website should be compatible with mobile devices such as a smartphone considering the younger generation, on average, uses them more than older demographics. At the same time, a website that mostly caters to older people may want to feature larger fonts and a simpler layout.
- Quality Over Quantity: Expanding on the need to create mobile-friendly websites, especially for a younger, more tech-savvy demographic, it’s important to launch a design that is stylish but succinct. That is, it should avoid stuffing a website with too many graphics, videos, plug-ins, and other website design features that can disrupt loading time and, in general, make things confusing. On a more casual note, users can tell if a website is “trying too hard” to make itself attractive, which can be a turn-off.
Keep in mind that most users have an objective in mind when they go on your website. On average, if they can’t access what they want within three seconds, they will move on to another website.
- Take Charge: It’s important to create a layout that takes command of what the user should do. Have a clear objective in mind. Should the user, for example, buy products directly on the website or go to the business itself? Should the user contact the business for more information or should they have the option of receiving the company newsletter? The more direct a website is in terms of what it wants its users to do next, the more likely a user will pay attention.
What does this entail, exactly? Well, for starters, every webpage on the site should lead to something else. The “About Us” section for example, a section that most business websites have, should direct users to the bios of company heads, including (if they’re willing) to C.V.’s and/or personal website. If a user is trying to find out the details of a business’s products and services, the website should have a clearly-labeled section with that information. Links to purchasing sites and venues is also a good idea.
Long story short, there’s no such thing as a web design element that’s left to chance.
- Create a Budget and Stick With It: A common reason why a website fails is that the company devotes too little of its budget -- or too much -- to website design. Interface, photos, domain names, hosting, visitor tracking, troubleshooting -- it all costs money! There are a number of suggestions and theories about how to go about spending for website design. In general, small companies should spend anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 on their websites, at least according to the blog Executionists. In terms of allocating that money, the breakdown should look something like this:
25% Interface Design
20% Project Management
Executionists also recommend that once the website is completed, companies should devote at least $250 a month for its maintenance. A phenomenal website design comes next to nothing if something is broken, just like an amusement park is worthless if the roller coasters don’t work!
In addition, companies should do research into website design companies to figure out who they best cater to. That is, do they work primarily with small businesses or do they take on big-name clients? A small company that employs the latter may find itself at odds with their designers, who probably aren’t used to Main Street businesses.
- Keep Up With the Times: This point goes along with what was mentioned above, that proper maintenance is critical to the success of a website. Have you ever noticed websites that haven’t been updated in years? Most websites publish when they were last updated somewhere on the homepage. If you’re on a website that was last updated in 2013, for example, you’re probably a little hesitant to trust it. After all, if a business doesn’t bother to check its website every now and again, how reliable can its products and services be? Not to mention the fact that some users might think a company has gone out of business!
Now that information is constantly available, 24 hours a day/seven days a week, keeping your website updated is a given. Not only do users notice updates, so does the competition. Maintenance also has much to do with the competition and not just the users. If your competition’s website features the latest in web design and development, they’re more likely to gain more users. “Keeping Up With the Joneses” has always been a cornerstone in business. In web design, it’s no different.
- Be Inclusive...But Not Too Inclusive: Touching on tip #1, a website needs to have a target audience in mind but, on the other hand, it shouldn’t exclude a user simply because he or she is not part of the targeted demographic. These users are still interested in the products and services; otherwise, they would not even be on it. It may be that they’re looking on behalf of someone, such as when they’re searching for a gift or helping a friend out. Therefore, a website design should accommodate them as they would with the target demographic.
However, the trap many websites fall into is trying to be too inclusive; that is, trying to appeal to everyone. Target demographics are there for a reason. If your business sells high quality meat, for example, the website shouldn’t necessarily cater to the tastes of, say, vegetarians. In general, it’s a well-meaning but ultimately ineffective idea to -- well, be too general! The devil is in the details, as the saying goes, so don’t try to be an angel.
- Don’t Go It Alone: For some things, DIY (or “do it yourself”) just doesn’t pan out. We can’t do everything by ourselves. If we could, there would be no such things as professions! In the world of web design, DIY can be especially treacherous. Designing a website takes a set of skills as well as considerable patience. Some companies decide that they can do it by themselves, relying on Google and other sources to get them on their way.
Needless to say, this approach typically doesn’t end well. If anything, first impressions matter a lot to users. Impressing a user in the first three seconds takes a considerable amount of work, planning, and insight -- something people with little-to-no design experience are simply at a loss for. It’s hard enough for a professional, let alone a neophyte in the designing world.
Do your company a favor and hire a web design company or at least an in-house web designer. You won’t have trouble finding one. Web design is one of the hottest and fastest growing industries in the U.S. You wouldn’t leave your product designs in the hands of amateurs, so why leave your website to them?
- It’s the Economy (of Language), Stupid: Your website design -- the best online representation of your company’s image and brand, of its products and its employees -- depends on something that is rather old-school: the written word. George Lucas once said that “a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” In the same vein, a website design, however stylish or impressive, is meaningless without content that backs its up. Users can see right through a website that’s all glitz and glamour and no substance. An attractive layout won’t make up for confusing, vague, or flatout false content. Good writing, much like a good story, is everything.
For this, be sure to have someone copy edit the website’s content. This doesn’t exactly fall under the domain of web designers; content writers, editors, and advertisers are much better suited for the job. Better yet, have them write the content themselves! This may cost you more in the short-term but then again, you can’t design your way out of poor writing and bad grammar! Spelling errors and grammar mistakes are inexcusable. They make your website look bad and will more often than not drive away users.
- Gentlemen, Start Your Search Engines!: Last but not least, your company website should be designed with search engines in mind. What does this mean? It means that the website’s design and content should revolve around what search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! look for when conducting searches. In a method that’s known as “search engine optimization” (SEO), websites include these design features with the hopes that it will appear first or as close to it as possible on relevant search results pages. That means websites feature certain keywords, for example, or are written in codes that make it easier for search engines to find relevant links within a webpage.
Consider this. Let’s say that your company sells oranges. Under a good SEO campaign, the website would feature keywords such as “orange groves,” “orange juice,” “orange distributors,” “citrus fruit,” etc. -- words that users are most likely to type in when making a Google search. The better the keywords, the more traffic it will get.
In addition to the content, the design part is just as critical. If this website has pictures of oranges (naturally), then designers should embed the image with code that tells search engines what exactly the photo is. The better the design, the more attention it will get.
Of all the facts regarding search engines, this one is probably enough to get any business interested in SEO: more than 93% of all sessions on the Internet begin on a search engine. Ninety-three percent. Considering that there are more than three billion Internet users in the world today, that figure is mindboggling! Think of all the users you can reach simply by employing SEO.
These nine tips should get you well on your way to building a company website that is clean, clear, professional, and most importantly, effective. For better or for worse, no company can escape the wide embrace of the Internet. The World Wide Web is here to stay, and companies that don’t keep up with the times risk falling behind. By following these tips, your company can impress and draw customers nearly everywhere on Earth, let alone Indianapolis.
- December 1969 (4)