12 Principles of Effective Website DesignPosted on Wednesday, 19 August 2009 00:00
Here you’ll find 12 suggestions that can improve your business website design or provide the tools to get it right from the beginning. Please keep in mind that some of these suggestions require patience, time and quite a lot of planning. However, it’s worth it; using these 12 simple rules, you can achieve outstanding results.
1. Define your Criteria and Strategies for Success
"Try to keep your goals restricted so your message doesn’t become muddle."
Any project benefits from goal definition. Mission statements may seem hokey and outdated but they do provide a common agreement for your business by outlining your goals. After all, once you know your goals you can make informed decisions.
Below are some common business website goals. Some websites combine several goals and to an extant, that is allowable; however, try to keep your goals restricted so your message doesn’t become muddled. In addition, you will need to prioritize your goals because the web is a medium of compromise and choices will have to be made. You may even want to consider creating microsites if your goals are too far apart and you desire an even handling.
The Hire Me Website
Employment is the goal of this website. It’s typically used by service and consulting industries. This type of web design focuses and targets your services and experience as well as uses benefit language to encourage contact.
The Sales Generation Website
Leads are the goal of this website. Every design and content consideration is motivated to drive potential customers through your sales funnel.
The Reputation Building Website
Focusing on your reputation the goal of this website is to highlight your company’s individuality and premiere service. Our customers who choose this type of website will often hear the term SME or Subject Matter Expert. Through blogs and galleries, this type of website illustrates your company as a SME in your field thus increasing trust and reputation.
The Informative Website
This website is the most common. Its simple goal is to inform visitors who, where, when, why and how.
2. Consider Using Microsites, Landing Pages and Portals
- "Offer one goal message to one visitor."
Because of the way users read the web, it’s extremely important that your message isn’t diluted. As mentioned last week, it takes a practiced hand to strike the balance between too much and too little information. Unfortunately, budget considerations often compel companies to use a shotgun approach, peppering their website with inconsistent messages and too much information, which they hope will strike a customer. One website cannot be everything to everyone one. Using a shotgun approach is more confusing than appealing.
Generally, it’s a better idea to offer one goal message to one visitor. You can achieve this tailoring by using microsites, landing pages and portals.
A microsite, also known as a minisite or weblet, is an Internet web design term referring to an individual web page or cluster of pages, which are meant to function as an auxiliary supplement to a primary website. A microsite can often have a different URL.
Microsites are typically used to add a specialized group of information either editorial or commercial. Such sites may be linked in to a main site or not or taken completely off a site's server when the site is used for a temporary purpose. The main distinction of a microsite versus its parent site is its purpose and specific cohesiveness as compared to the microsite's broader overall parent website.
Microsites used for editorial purposes may be a page or group of pages that, for example, might contain information about a holiday, an event or similar item that gives more detailed information than a site’s general content area may provide. A community organization may have its main site with all of the organization's basic information, but creates a separate, temporary microsite to inform about a particular activity, or event.
Often, microsites will be used for editorial purposes by a commercial business to add value. For example, a retailer of party goods may create a microsite with editorial content about the history of Halloween or some other holiday or event. The commercial purpose of such editorial microsites, (beyond driving product sales), may include adding value to the site's visitors for branding purposes as well as providing editorial content and keywords allowing for greater chances of search engine inclusion.
Microsites may be used for purely commercial purposes to create in-depth information about a particular product or service or as editorial support towards a specific product, such as describing a new technology. A car manufacturer, for example, may present a new hybrid vehicle and support the sales presentation with a microsite specific to explaining hybrid technology.
With the prevalence of keyword contextual advertising, (more commonly referred to as Pay per click or PPC), microsites may be created specifically to carry such contextual advertising. Or along a similar tactic, they're created in order to specifically carry topic-specific keyword-rich content with the goal of having search engines rank them highly.
In online marketing a landing page, sometimes known as a lead capture page, is the page that appears when a potential customer clicks on an advertisement or a search-engine result link. The page will usually display content that is a logical extension of the advertisement or link, and that is optimized to feature specific keywords or phrases for indexing by search engines.
There are two types of landing pages, reference and transactional. A reference landing page presents information that is relevant to the visitor and may display text, images, dynamic compilations of relevant links or other elements. A transactional landing page seeks to persuade a visitor to complete a transaction such as filling out a form or interacting with advertisements or other objects on the landing page, with the goal being the immediate or eventual sale of a product or service.
A web portal is a site that provides a single function or experience. Web portals often function as a point of access to information for a specific segment of your demographic. Portals provide a way for businesses to provide a consistent look and feel with access control and procedures for multiple applications, which otherwise would have been different entities altogether. Portals also allow companies an extremely sophisticated answer to tailoring their website to multiple customer demographics.
3. Target Your Market
"The more targeted the message the better it’s received."
Think of your website as a resume cover letter. Candidates who send you a generic cover letter aren’t showing the imitative to explain why they believe their skills are a good match for your company. This is not as effective as a custom cover letter that makes a direct appeal and uses an individual’s experience, education and affiliation to explain how they will augment your company.
Websites that take the time to directly appeal to their demographic and understand the difference between features and benefits have a better chance of success. After all, the more targeted the message the better it’s received.
A good idea is to design the website you think your customers want. However, it’s equally important to be able to separate your belief from the reality of what web users want. An experienced web design team is essential in helping align your usage belief and the reality of the web.
4. Make Usability a Top Priority
Navigation, which includes both the menu and link handling, is a primary consideration of any web site design. Fantastic products and services have not been sold simply because website visitors could not find them easily. This is not the time for a company to show their individuality.
"If a user has to think, you’ve lost a customer."
Business websites should also make web standards and best practices guide a priority. Standardization ensures that your website will continue to function as the web matures. Best standard guides ensure that your customer is familiar with the basic concepts of your web presentation.
If a user has to think, you’ve lost a customer.
Search Engine Optimization is also an issue to be considered in designing business websites. While there are many reference books available on the topic, it’s essential you work with a web design team who has the experience and knowledge to implement SEO from the ground up.
5. Utilize the Right Technology6. Plan Your Website Project7. Narrow the Scope
"If technology not improving the performance and user experience, skip it."
Make sure all your technology choices bring value to the product. Just because your competitor uses a flash splash page or flash headers doesn’t mean you should. While there are many “cool” things you can do on website, stick to the maxim “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” If it’s not improving the performance and user experience, skip it.
Updating and maintenance are other issues when choosing technology. If you choose to use flash, how you will update it? Or, on a more basic level, how will your edit your website?
When discussing your website with a design team be realistic about how often you intend to make changes. The easier it is to update and maintain your website the more likely you will do so. Fresh and relevant content is extremely appealing to both your customers and search engines and is therefore an added value.
6. Plan Your Website Project
"Successful website launches can only occur when a client is available to discuss choices, make decisions, give feedback and make timely delivery of content."
A key ingredient to any success is planning. Don’t let a rush to market force you to make poor decisions or band-aid approaches. It’s important that your company consider a website as seriously as any other product launch. Assign a team but make sure there is one clear point of contact. Research your goals, competition and demographic and be able to share this information with your web design team.
Realize that your web design team is just that . . . a team member. Successful website launches can only occur when a client is available to discuss choices, make decisions, give feedback and make timely delivery of content. Set aside time to consider questions posed by your web design team. Once your answer is given, it creates a waterfall effect of design and content choices so it’s best not to answer off the cuff or in dashed off emails. It’s extremely difficult to maintain deadlines when a client decides to follow their own timeline.
7. Narrow the Scope
Again, your website cannot be everything to everyone. Website content and design should be streamlined and in support of your goals. When in doubt, cut it out.
8. Provide Adequate Contact, Illustrations and Explanations9. Present All Content within the Confines of Your Goals
"Answer the immediate question but don’t drown your customers in information. "
Contact information should be easy to find and use. Only include contact information that is relevant to the user. Don’t over complicate things. Clear and simple contact forms work best. Use the data capture and make a personal enquiry rather than expecting a customer to fill out endless entry fields.
If your company’s product or service is complicated, don’t try to answer every question in detail on one page. Do provide documentation but do so in small manageable chunks. Answer the immediate question but don’t drown your customers in information.
Case Studies are an excellent way for companies to show real life examples of how their product or service was successfully utilized. Client testimonials are another excellent source to demonstrate successful usage and customer service.
9. Present All Content within the Confines of Your Goals
Your products and services need to be distinct and driven. If your website graphic elements overwhelm them then you are confusing the goal of your site. A good illustration of this is logo placement. Logos are identifiers but you’re not selling your logo. You’re selling a branded product or service. Too often businesses waste valuable real estate and opportunities by over saturation of their logo. If the average website browser has a vertical height of 600 pixels then 300 pixel high presentation of your logo is waste of space and undermines your goal.
Instead, website graphic elements should work in support of your products. They should be used to create an attractive presentation of products and services.
10. Infuse Your Brand to Provide a Consistent Experience.
"Blend your identity elements into your website without sacrificing usability"
While over saturation of a logo is a common problem you can provide a consistent experience for your user through your brand. On the web, consistency builds trust.
Understand that your brand is not just your logo or your tag line. It’s also your over-all design scheme. Rather than introducing dramatic design or content shifts to differentiate products and services consider subtle changes that are consistent with the over all brand.
Carefully consider how you will blend your identity elements into your website without sacrificing usability and without misaligning the balance between the prominence of your products or services and the design of the site itself.
11. Promote and Leverage Your Work
There are many techniques for promoting your website. Consider joining professional online communities and networking with other community members. Submit your website to related websites. Add a blog to your website. The more traffic you can pull to your website the more exposure your website will receive. Leveraging your work involves linking to it when you send emails. Include a link to your website in you’re My Space profile or any other community you belong to.
12. Develop Your Long-Term Website Goals
It always helps to have a view toward the future. Your website needs are likely to change many times as your company matures and becomes successful. One thing a design team recommends is revisiting your web site design at 6 months intervals and using real life user data garnered through analytics to make design changes.
It’s also important that you share your long-term plans with your web design team. Knowing where you want and plan to be in 1, 5, and 10 years allows your team create a website that is extensible and expandable.
A successful website finds that perfect blend of your identity, products and services, simplicity, and ease of use. This combination will make your website stand out from the crowd and achieve your goals.