by: Thomas Young
Website design and development can be overwhelming and difficult to understand for many business leaders. It can pull them into the uncharted areas of graphic design and web usability, where emotions rule and what works best is often missed. Business leaders tend to rely on the input of others when it comes to getting this work done. This can lead to negative strategic marketing and usability issues if they miss the mark and do not implement the proper strategic direction. These issues can then lead to an underperforming website and poor digital marketing results.
Understand Design Fundamentals
Business leaders must understand the fundamentals of website design to best lead their company’s strategic digital marketing efforts. They must know enough to provide direction and to make sure their strategic vision for the website is not lost in the design process. It is a mistake to turn this vision over to graphic design or website development professionals, because they will not understand your vision without your direction. They are most likely to duplicate what they have done on other projects and that may not be the best approach for your website.
Five Areas of Website Design
Here are the five key areas of website design that break down the design process into a more manageable overview and summary. These elements are discussed in more depth in upcoming chapters, and will help simplify what can be a very complex project. Business leaders must be aware of each area and be able to provide direction to their strategic digital marketing team in each of these five areas.
1. Navigation and the Site Map
Most website designers don’t start with a site map. But they should, as it is a critical part of any website. The site map is the navigation structure for your website that includes all the links, tabs and methods for the site’s user to move around the website. It gets more attention from website visitors than any other website element. Keep navigation simple and use link titles that are understood by website users. Avoid pull-down menus if possible and only use one main navigation system that is global on all site pages. Your navigation is strategic as well and should be limited to only the most important content pages on your site.
2. Graphic Design
This includes the look and feel of the website and consists of graphics, images, fonts, and other design elements. Design for your target market and not for internal needs or to the preferences of your graphic design team. Many designers will over-design as they work to impress their boss or client. The website design should not get in the way of the site’s usability or its ability to communicate the clear value offered by the business. Simple, professional designs get better results. Avoid clutter and any graphics that look like ads, especially as navigational elements. Website users do not click on ads, which make the site appear cluttered. Keep the focus on usability and don’t be afraid of white space and fewer links, especially on the home page.
3. Development and Technology
Keep the technology and the website development platform consistent with the website’s overall purpose and strategy. Make sure you can control the content on the site and easily make updates from a web browser. The world’s most popular website development platform is currently WordPress. It is an open-source, content management system (CMS) that allows your staff to edit content and has no shortage of available developers. Avoid proprietary CMS software programs that lock you into one application and do not allow you to switch providers. Take the time to understand the basics of the technology platform used on your website.
4. Taglines and Website Content
This includes the written content, images, photos and other media on your site. After users scan your photos and use the navigating system, they will quickly rely on the site’s content to show them value. Do not take home page taglines for granted, as they are key to the site’s success. The home page tagline may be the most important content on the entire website. Make sure it is easy to read and understand. Also, keep it unique to your company. Include a content marketing strategy in your strategic digital marketing plan.
5. Market Research and User Feedback
The final area involves getting feedback from your target market and watching your website stats. Think about user testing or surveys to get feedback. Do not ask opinions, but rather ask people to perform a task and do something on the site. You will always learn something new from this feedback and it may surprise you.
Your strategic digital marketing plan should include details from each of these five areas that are in alignment with your strategic plan. This becomes excellent direction for your design and development team to make sure your website performs at the highest levels.
- Review these five areas with your website designer and developer.
- Determine if the design you are reviewing is appropriate for your target market.
- Make sure you are using a content management system, such as WordPress, for easy content updates.
- Write a navigation plan and site map before you start your design.
- Write an awesome tagline that summarizes your business value in eight to twelve words and is understood by a wide range of website visitors.
- Get feedback from site visitors with user testing and surveys.
- Set up Google Analytics to track website stats.
Thomas Young is the CEO and founder of Intuitive Websites. He is an author, speaker and digital marketing consultant. Order Tom’s book “Winning the Website War” to get more digital marketing insights.