Good web design happens when you focus on the individual user.
Is your website designed, or just pretty?
In recent years, the term “web design” has been conflated with all sorts of design and marketing activities – graphic design, seo, usability, responsive design, etc., etc., etc. – and used to make you feel insecure or unsure about the state of your existing website and your future needs. It’s true that “web design” is a broad topic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a clear definition and some basic benchmarks for what makes a website good or bad.
One aspect of web design in particular that gets most of the attention is graphic design – which is actually a shame because graphic design doesn’t have a whole lot to do with how well your website performs. A beautiful website might very well be useless at growing your business and an ugly website might be your best salesperson by a healthy margin. We’re not here to tell you that spending your money on an award-winning beautiful website is a waste, but it might be if that’s the extent of your investment.
Let’s adopt the most basic definition of web design we could find – “the process of creating a website” – and explore some of the really important stuff that you should think about when you’re considering creating a new website. . .
Each element that you place on your page, whether it’s a block of text, a graphic, a video, or a call-to-action, is responsible for telling a part of your story.
Storytelling: Building Relationships in Three Acts
Every brand has a story to tell and a product to sell, but which is more important to focus on when you’re growing your business? Your story.
For all the ways consumers are evolving to become more informed, more cautious, more diligent when it comes to spending money, it’s amazing how our primal attractions still affect us. Some things just never go out of style, and storytelling is one of them. But why? Storytelling is how we receive, store, and share information. It’s how we form relationships with other people. And it’s the most effective tool for selling in existence.
When you approach a new website design for your business, your primary goal should be to craft a story told in three acts:
- Introduce Yourself (The “Who”). Communicating yourself to your audience (without trying to sell them something from the start) allows you the opportunity to form a relationship, an ongoing connection, that becomes the foundation for loyalty. You want to demonstrate your mission and values first – and the more you can do this on an emotional level, the better.
- Demonstrate Value (The “Why”). People come for the magician, but they stay for the magic, and what they want most is to see something they’ve never seen before – something too good to be true. Chances are, your product isn’t original, but the way you show it off can be. Communicate the value of your product with passion, confidence and proof.
- Inspire Action (The “How”). Great stories draw people in and capture attention because they don’t ask for anything more than that – attention. Don’t make the mistake of interrupting yourself with a call-to-action too early! If you’ve done well in acts 1 and 2, your final plea can be quite unassuming.
Effective storytelling requires cohesion – every part of your website working together to guide your audience through the three acts as effortlessly as possible. Each element that you place on your page, whether it’s a block of text, a graphic, a video, or a call-to-action, is responsible for telling a part of your story. Don’t expect to succeed at this overnight. Great stories take time to perfect!
Designed Conversion Points with Sales Funnels & Mapping
Similarly to storytelling, creating a plan for how you want your audience to engage with your website can help you build relationships with your audience before they ever make a purchasing decision. Your goal in designing these funnels is to give yourself an engagement roadmap you can use to segment your audience into smaller groups according to their biggest need. Ideally, a highly effective funnel will deliver sales qualified leads (SQLs) right to your sales team through an entirely automated process. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is, and your marketing team will need to constantly tweak and rework those funnels to make them better. But good news! We have some amazing tools to help us along the way:
SEO Secret Sauce: 3 Ingredients for Better Search Rankings
The best approach we’ve seen to building contextual relevance is the pillar page built around topic clusters.
There have been millions of articles published about the secret to high search engine rankings, and depending on when they were written the answers vary wildly, but with the advent of ever-smarter, human-like AI algorithms combing our web content, we may finally be settling on a recipe that will stick around for more than a few months!
In short, if you want high rankings in organic Google search results, consider the quality score, relevance score, and context.
Those familiar with PPC Advertising should recognize quality score. This is the grade Google assigns to your page based on several major on-page SEO factors, like keywords, content, site popularity, and backlinks (as well as several minor factors like page speed, accessibility, and security). There are fewer and fewer tricks you can pull to affect this score. Instead, focus on producing quality content and following best practices for web development.
Your relevance score is based on the same factors as your quality score, but with an organic twist. Relevance has to do with how your page measures against the search query. A good quality score can go to waste if the content you’re producing isn’t relevant to the searches your audience is making. Focus your content publishing efforts on those keywords your audience is searching, and prioritize keywords with high search volume and low competition.
Over 15% of Google searches are unique, meaning that Google has never seen that search query before. What’s more amazing is that this fact has been true for so many years. Google sees a billion searches every day that it’s never seen before, and in those cases it has to depend on context to deliver the most appropriate results. Interestingly, it’s difficult to force contextual authority for your content. The best approach we’ve seen to building contextual relevance is the pillar page built around topic clusters.
The User Experience Matters: Why Function Trumps Form
A lot more people are talking about UX as the way we access the internet changes rapidly around us, but what exactly are they saying? UX, or the User Experience, is essentially a user-oriented approach to design and usability that prioritizes functionality over form. Good user experience has been proven to boost conversion rates at every level, but this goes far beyond the functionality of the website itself.
For companies whose focus is growth, addressing usability issues is a top priority, if not the top priority. Most businesses already have an established set of product or service offerings as well as a well-defined sales process. Addressing usability problems in established processes before expanding those processes is critical to minimizing growing pains and maximizing results.
Most people endorse a data-driven approach to usability, us included, which means we do a lot of research and testing on our products to ensure we’re following best practices, but the process we use that catches and fixes the most usability issues is actually not data-driven at all. We call it mindfulness, and it centers around the idea of caring for the individual user on a personal level.
It sounds touchy-feely, but it’s surprisingly easy to totally disconnect yourself from the user’s point-of-view after you’ve spent a few hundred hours looking at and working with the same website. And so this consideration, like all considerations we’ve made thus far, leads us to the same conclusion: that great web design happens when you make it your goal to mindfully serve the individual user.
Everybody’s always saying, “Oh this trend is SEXY. That look is SEXY. Well you know what we think is SEXY? Usability. And every survey we could find seems to agree. 89% of people surveyed by Adobe said that they would switch devices or click away as soon as they encountered a usability issue.
We like to think that people are going to forgive us if our site’s a little slow, or if our contact information isn’t staring them in the face, but the cold, heartless truth is that 9 out of 10 visitors would sooner floss than give you an extra second of their time. That being said, the same surveys also highlight the importance of aesthetics, but only to the degree that they aren’t distracting. The best places to focus your design prowess? Navigation, storytelling, and typography. In particular, your users want to engage with interesting, readable content that tells the story of your product or brand.
So before you call your marketing company and ask them to make your website look like this, remember those 89% of people who have better things to do than to put up with any nonsense.
The Internet will disappear. There will be so many IP addresses, so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with, that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. . . you are interacting with the things going on in the room.
Design for Everything (and Everyone)
Responsive Web Design (RWD) has been a buzzword for a while now, and we’ve gone into great detail already about exactly what that term means, but there’s a bigger issues we should be talking more about (and you should be thinking more about). Responsive design and development is all about accessibility for screens of all sizes – making sure your website works on your smart watch and your 4k internet TV – and a few years ago that seemed like enough to be concerned about.
The goal hasn’t changed: Accessibility for everyone everywhere. What has changed, and continues to change, is the way we interface with the web. It didn’t seem like it back in 2014, but dealing with different screen sizes isn’t that hard, and if you buy a new website today – even from the neighbor’s kid – there’s almost a 100% chance it will be responsive for screens. So let’s move on to the next big challenge.
It goes by many names: The Internet of Things, “Smart” this or that, or maybe just “Siri” or “Alexa”. The new challenge for web designers is the idea that maybe there isn’t a screen at all. Here are a few ideas for how to prepare your business now:
Streamline, clean, and organize.
This future web will depend on easily accessible, well-written and organized, valuable, contextual content. Perhaps the best thing you can do for the future of your web presence is to trade in your cluttered, code-heavy, disorganized website in favor of a streamlined model that emphasizes clean, readable content. The goal is to make it lightweight and fast, with a clear understanding of what content you have and how you can be using it.
Make video a central pillar of your content strategy.
We are already at the point where you can run a business successfully by publishing video content exclusively. If you aren’t producing video content at all, you are literally years behind. Over half of all marketers name video as the medium with the best return on investment. That statistic is even more meaningful when you consider that video is also the most expensive medium to produce.
Turn to software for help.
We use software a lot, and we love it. When it comes to developing applications that are forward-thinking and accessible, we’re complete rubbish, but we’re friends with a lot of companies that are amazing at delivering the exact applications we need. If you’re still depending on in-house programmers to keep your website running, chances are you’re falling behind while businesses that utilize products like Hubspot or WordPress are keeping up nicely (and paying less). It’s time to move on from the idea of “custom website design” and embrace the wide array of amazing and innovative platforms we have available now.
It may only take 2 doctors or 3 blondes to change a lightbulb, but how many Wayposters does it take to build a website? A village. It takes a village.
From the very beginning of any large project we send an entire team of strategists, copywriters, designers, project managers, and content producers into a process that we call “discovery”. The purpose of discovery is to make sure that every member of our team understands your product, audience, mission, and growth goals before the work even starts.
Speaking of growth goals, we have to ask, have you thought about what you want your website to do for you? Some people need traffic. Some people aren’t getting good leads. And some people are having a hard time closing sales. Our team is so big because there’s never a single solution for the multitude of goals we may set.
Your website isn’t a bulletin board of information getting redecorated. It’s a living, breathing member of your marketing and sales team, and your customers are talking to it more than they’ll ever talk to you. Every member of our team is a specialist in some way – trained to keep your most productive salesman healthy and productive. So no matter what your goals may be, we have a villager who knows your business ready to help.
Growth Driven Design is the opposite of the “one and done” mentality.
A benefit of the trend to forego custom web design in favor of hosted website platforms like Hubspot or WordPress is that the time and money it takes to launch a site gets slashed. In addition, because you can depend on these platforms to roll out regular updates, the idea that you need to rebuild your site from scratch every 3 years is almost entirely dead. Instead, we recommend an approach called Growth Driven Design.
Launch fast, on-time, and on-budget.
Growth Driven Design focuses on quick builds using the customer data and product research that you already have. The research and discovery phase for a new website typically lasts 7-14 days and focuses on those strategies that will yield the quickest results. Once in development, we focus on a streamlined website that provides a clean and easy user experience and only the highest priority conversion funnels. The end result is that we can launch much sooner and at much lower costs.
Grow your strategy and your business month after month.
We work with a lot of companies whose growth goals and strategies are constantly evolving, and we work with very few companies who aren’t interested in growing. Growth Driven Design takes that constant evolution and applies it to your web presence in real time, so every month we are able to analyse your most recent performance, your evolving strategies, and your growth goals and apply that information to your website in short 1-2 week design sprints. The greatest benefit to this approach is that your website is accurately addressing your highest-priority growth goals all the time – not just in the months immediately following the launch of a redesign.
Prioritize higher value, not lower cost.
We regularly speak to prospects who tell us they’ve received quotes for the same website that range from a few thousand dollars all the way up to huge six-figure price tags. How can that be?
The true cost of a website will vary a great deal depending on who you ask. There are real factors at work that can affect the bottom line – factors like overhead, personnel, and the general quality and dedication of the team or individual you’re talking to. But the cost of a website can be almost inconsequential when you measure it against the value of a visitor, lead, or new customer. If these are numbers that you’re unsure about, we have some helpful resources to walk you through the calculations, but the most important thing to consider when you’re shopping around is whether or not you’re talking to someone who cares as much about the value side of things as you do.