24 Nov Designing a wow-worthy website the first time round: A guide
By Steve Lipscombe, Director of RONIN Marketing
Following a disappointing response from a new client the other day, myself and one of our graphic designers were having a discussion about why we hadn’t received the resounding enthusiasm from them that we were hoping for. Though a natural reaction for many is to take personal affront and go on the defensive, we decided our most fruitful course of action would be to properly analyse the reasons why we hadn’t rung the client’s bell.
In this particular case, our designer, who has enormous intellect, common sense and is excellent on the tools, was sanguine. She observed that whilst our client believed a fresh approach to the design interface would resolve the perceived issues, it was the issues themselves that needed addressing – we needed to understand what they really wanted. It reminded me again that when it comes to creating a new website, design is the last thing you need to think about. The key to success is detailed planning, with a firm focus on what your customers need. With that in mind, here are my tips for getting your new website right first time:
1. What are your customers looking for?
It’s a racing certainty that all your customers are different. At the very least you’ll need to group their varying preferences into different segments and make sure you have something on your website design to appeal to all of them. This has to be crystal clear from the home page, which should be a smorgasbord your visitors can graze on. It will give them an at-a-glance menu of everything you have to offer, so they can gorge on whatever it is that especially appeals to them. Some folk will be impressed by style and innovation for example, while others have no creative interest but are concerned with practicality or cost. Some customers don’t even know what they are looking for and you have to think about those too. Be careful not to make decisions based just on what appeals to you personally, otherwise you risk alienating large numbers of potential punters.
2. Why should they buy from you rather than your competitors?
What is your real value proposition? This is obviously vital and takes some really careful thought. Ask yourself whether the things you think you’re really good at are the reasons why people will choose you, and/or are they different to what anybody else offers. Again, different customers or segments will be looking for different things, but if you can understand why your customers have bought from you in the past, you can predict why new customers will buy from you in the future; emphasise these on your website. These things don’t have to be unique to you, you just have to be significantly good at them.
3. What information do they need?
There is a bit of a trend for minimalism in web design at the moment however don’t forget that people need information to make informed decisions. Stunning photography and clever headlines are great to attract attention but at some point, people are going to want a bit of meat on the bones, especially if it’s a complicated or expensive purchase and/or it’s something they are unfamiliar with. Remember too that you are going to need some informative content on your website if you want to optimise your search engine performance. So, don’t go for style over content; you need both.
4. How do you want your customers to perceive you?
People buy from people, not organisations, so your company’s personality is important. That personality will be an extension of your company values and culture or, if you are a small business, your very own identity. It’s important to be authentic but be careful of getting too carried away. As lovely as you think you are, not everybody is going to like you and it requires a sensible balance. Think of Michael O’Leary of Ryanair or even Donald Trump.
5. Make your website easy to understand
For those of a certain age, the Ronseal School of Marketing still applies; if you’re too young to remember, Google it. The other day, I found a company with a great looking website. It described what it did, as: “Creating great experiences for brands pursuing excellence.” I didn’t really know what that meant, and it took me several minutes of digging around on their website before I found out – turns out they were a digital design agency. I’m not sure how many people would be as committed as I was to de-coding their message, but they do seem to work with some really big brands, so what do they care? Nevertheless, my point still stands; however cool and clever you want to come across, people need to understand what it is you do, right there on your home page. So, if you are an accountant or an engineer, make sure you say so.
6. Make it simple to use
Planning the structure and navigation of your new website is tough and requires a balance of creativity and logic. You have to think really carefully about the customer experience – how easily can they find what they are looking for and how quickly can they get there? And can they find their way back again? Wire frames can be quite useful in this respect but it’s the clarity of thought which is key, so spend a lot of time on this. Of course, you’d probably like to have a conversation with visitors to your web site at some point too, so make it easy for them to get in touch with you, with lots of calls to action and offers.
If you get all this right, your new website will not only do what you want it to, in all probability, it will continue to do so for a good few years to come. You have to be clear in your own mind about exactly what it is you want to achieve. A good web design company – one with a sound understanding of marketing and business – will be able to help you with that thought process. Once you’ve gone through all this, then you can decide what design you want for your website. If you leap straight into the design you’ll waste time and money on rework and probably end up with something that you’re not very happy with anyway.
Need a website refresh? Contact the team at RONIN here.