Website design strategy is more than just making a site look visually spectacular and professional. It is about grabbing a potential customers attention and leading them on a journey down a clear path to an end goal; the solution to a want or need.
In this day and age, the human attention span sits at around 6-8 seconds - that is shorter than a goldfish’s at 9 seconds! Web designers need to use a 7 second design test to evaluate the functionality of a website and whether a new visitor would know what the website offers within that first seven seconds that they land on your page.
Think of your business website like the first thirty seconds of meeting someone in person, because that is when their initial impression of you is formed. Your website will get even less time so you will need to ensure it communicates with these elements:
- Present a visually appealing and professional appearance
- Evokes positive feelings and emotions about your business
- User-friendly interface without the interruption of disorganised clutter
- Deliver impressively simple steps to your solution
- A clear call to action that converts the visitor to a lead
Use these elements of strategic design to identify your goals and assist you in meeting the business objectives that drive your website to achieve its end goal.
Implementing a Web Design Strategy
Consider these steps when planning a strategically designed website project:
Define your goals
You must clearly define your business goals and understand exactly what you are expecting to achieve by designing or redesigning your website.
While increased website traffic and sales may seem to be obvious end goals, they are meaningless if you don’t assess the objectives necessary to achieve the results you want. A successful website requires an effective, sustained marketing strategy that goes beyond presenting a collection of products and services. That means your website design should be focused on specific goals, along with measurable objectives to attain them.
Web design is a functional art that goes beyond a visually attractive and well-balanced layout. It is imperative that you spend the time needed to identify your website objectives. Start by listing specific website goals and corresponding objectives that fit your overall marketing strategy and capabilities. Examples might include:
Goal: Increase sales
- Search engine optimisation
- Well-organised content
- User-friendly layout
- Responsive design
- Effective calls to action
- Increase conversion rates
Goal: Becoming an authoritative resource
- Providing quality content on your website
- Regularly adding fresh content
- Collecting customer reviews to build trust
- Creating backlinks to your site on authoritative websites
Goal: Improve interaction with existing and potential customers
- E-mail marketing lists
- Online support (live chat)
- Delivering informational webinars
- Valuable content designed to give your visitor a reason to come back
Goal: Build your brand
- Active social media program
- Reputation management
- Promotional material
Know your audience
How your website looks and functions will depend on for whom and what purpose it is being designed. The demographics, technology, gender, age, and interest will influence your choice of aesthetics and usability.
Knowing your customer inside out is vital to the success of your website. You need to go on a journey of discovery about your ideal customer. Research everything you possibly can about them, for example:
- What makes them tick?
- How do they measure success?
- What are their pain points?
- How does your solution make their lives easier?
Brand Image Drives Design
Consider these five tips for developing a strong brand identity:
- Sell your brand, not a product.
Product-centric marketing may have been the way before, but now, in the current digital age, you’ve got about 20 seconds to make your impression. And that’s not long enough to convey the excellence of your product, so what will keep your leads with you long enough to convert to sales? It's the impression and perception you cultivate, which basically means your brand. It won’t matter how good your product is if your brand doesn’t excite people, they will simply go elsewhere, and quickly.
- Your brand should reflect who you really are.
The key is to think about who you are as a business and to let that dictate your branding and marketing. For example, if you are a dentist specialising in cosmetics, why is all your copy in an old-school serif font? It would make more sense for your text to be in something sleeker like Helvetica. These elements provide your customers with a sense of who you are and what you deliver. You should create a favourable, authentic relationship between your business and your customers. Small details like this buy you invaluable time for that relationship to gel before your potential customer clicks away to a competitor.
- You are only as good as your image and copy.
It’s important to understand the huge role your image and copy has in making up your brand identity. If you want your brand to be perceived in a positive light, it’s crucial that you nail your message and create designs that accurately portray who you are to your customers.
- It’s OK to rebrand.
If you have read this far and noticed some mistakes you’ve made in your own branding. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly okay to rebrand, especially if your intention is to differentiate your business or service in the minds of your target market.
- Avoid resorting to gimmicks.
Don’t substitute gimmicks for hard work and reflection. If your brand identity is not where it should be, no amount of ebooks, webinars, or SEO strategies can save it.
Goals Drive the Design Direction
Once you have established the demographics of your audience and have a clear vision of your brand image, it’s time to sync design strategy with design decisions.
I will use Jetty as an example and the first 3 steps their homepage uses to increase registration numbers as the goal.
- The header on the homepage must be clear, concise, and free of jargon. Make it very clear what you have to offer so there is no confusion.
- Draw the eye of your website visitor to the registration button or link. If you use brand appropriate colour and contrast the button or link will be instantly visible.
- The registration process should be short and simple because people may be put off by the sight of a long drawn out form. Any additional information can be collected on an as needed and when needed basis.
These 3 steps will lead you to your goal of increasing sign-ups. The strategy of directing the focus of design elements toward the goal is the same regardless of the goal. You want the aesthetics and focus that best suits the brand and audience.
If the brand is photography then focus on creating an emotional experience using shape, colour and imagery. If the website is meant to inform then make sure it’s easy to use and read. You want to create an interface that doesn’t distract the user from the content.
Design for the Right Audience
Every visitor could be a potential customer but there is one audience that stands apart, and the audience is more likely to be influenced by the products or services your website promotes. Focus on attracting that right audience.
Everything about the website including periodic advertising or promotions, product design, overall look, and feel are for one target group of people.
A website for motorcycles may target adults over the age of 20-45 earning $50,000 plus per year. However, that group is your target. Alternatively, a beauty website has a smaller target audience of all women with a broad age range.
Barriers to Sign-up that are Counter-Productive
If you think customers are impressed by the need to provide a detailed personal profile to sign up to your website then you will greatly reduce your conversion rate.
Paying customers like to give as little information as possible until they’ve had time to research your products and services. The more barriers you position to sign-up the quicker they will leave your website and look elsewhere. Research has shown the fewer fields on a sign-up form the more likely people are to sign-up.
Make it easy for your visitors to take the next step. If you are offering a free trial, customers are more likely to accept that offer if they don’t have to give you their credit card. If the service is web-based or the product is downloadable, then you won’t need their address.
Request only the information you need to provide a product or service and don’t ask for more than is necessary, even that should be kept brief. Simplify your sign-up forms by using only the essential fields. Monitor your conversions to see what works and what does not.
Marketing Drives Engagement and Investment
Your marketing message comes before a visitor converts to a lead. Marketing tells the potential customer about the nuts and bolts of the product or service. It answers important questions; What is it? What does it do? Why do I want it? Why your product or service over your competitors?
This information should be clearly available. Don’t make customers go hunting through your website to find these details. Put them right out there in easy to find and understand format. Include the actual cost along with how and when they will be billed. People are more likely to sign-up if they are clear about what you are selling and the term under which you operate.
Remove Barricades to Buying
There are many internal factors that can affect achieving your website goals. In spite of what you do, other things stand in the way and a small change to the website might have a tremendous effect on how your funnel is performing.
Here are some of them:
- Pop Ups
Popups may seem like a great way to get people to sign up for on your website. But let’s make one thing very clear – they are super annoying, especially when they appear right at the moment your visitor is trying to decide whether to buy a product.
- Generic Stock Photography
Stock photography websites offer some great visuals. But choose wisely, are visitors really supposed to believe that those people work for your company? That they are always so happy and productive at meetings or while talking between themselves? Keep it real as much as possible.
- Confusing Copy
Is this product for me? Will it solve my problem? Will they stand by me if things go wrong? Will Will this cost me if I make the wrong decision? These are typical questions your customers ask themselves before making a purchase. Answer those questions on your website and your chance of converting will increase.
- Confusing Navigation
Implement coherent menu structures and navigation labels throughout the site so the user can browse your site intuitively, without wondering where links to everything are. The last thing you want is for your visitors get confused about where to go and frustrated that they can’t find the information they need to make a decision to buy.
- Broken Links
Imagine constantly being given wrong directions which almost always get you end up in a dead end. How frustrated would you feel? How many times would you try before giving up? The same applies to your visitors trying to follow the links on your website.
- Poor Layout and Typography
Unfortunately, this is still one of the most common UX problems. Disorganised layout elements, unreadable text, pixelated images, information scattered around the page and poor readability. These barricades will put even the most determined buyer off the purchase.
- Slow Loading Time
If your website loads for even a second too long, your visitors will get irritated. Add one or two more seconds and your visitors are pretty much gone.
Strategic design really is just common sense. You design a product or service to meet a specific need and that product fulfills its purpose. Know your audience, define your goals and create a solid plan to ensure your website meets your expectations.