In the age of the Internet, and in the rush of where every business must have a website, some critical factors are sometimes missed. A website is for many companies something to check on a tick list, instead of an invaluable tool. We are going to be looking at some key factors to ensure your website is useful, instead of useless.
An unintended secret
I have seen time and again companies forking out thousands and thousands for designing the most beautiful and excellent websites. The site has all the bells and whistles, and it has all the latest features and functions, but no one sees it, because it has no visitors. I always tell the businesses I consult for, spend 10% of your budget on the site and rest on getting people on the site. There are thousands of websites on the net that looks terrible but, are also some of the most successful websites in the world. There are also thousands of site on the web that looks amazing, but that no one ever sees, except the people that made them.
It is pointless, to have the best website, that no one knows about. Your site should be optimised for social media and search marketing. Getting the word out, visitors on your website is a much higher priority than what colour the home button should be.
In fact, I suggest first developing your online marketing strategy and then designing your website, to fit the online marketing plan. Tailor make your website to suit your marketing plan, not the other way around.
It has no clear goal
Very often, the team that develops the website discuss what to put on the site and in an attempt to accommodate everyone and not step on toes, they end up including everything. It then quickly becomes a blur of too much senseless information.
A choice must be made, what is the reason for the site and what is the goal, the website needs to achieve. Is the purpose of the website to generate more business or sales, or instead to inform and provide critical information?
Once this is decided, you need to make sure it is purpose built. If it should be driving sales, every single page and function should contribute towards that goal, and it should function more like a squeeze page or a landing page. If the goal is to inform, design landing pages for your sales, and let the website provide information and every aspect of it should be geared to inform. Keep landing pages and websites separate and let each of them do what they are purposefully designed to do.
A very well planned layout and structure is fundamental. Put information that belongs together, together. You don’t want your visitors to think about where they should click, or let them feel they are looking for a needle in a haystack. Navigation should be clear and obvious.
I usually like to test it out on someone, that is not very comfortable with the internet or a computer. These types of people are hard to find, but I am sure you will find someone that prefers to avoid technology.
Simplicity and ease of use are vital. A page should not have an insane amount of options to click, and the navigation should be easily distinguishable. The flow from one-page to another should be logical and like steps natural following the previous step to the next.
Function before a feature.
It is sometimes difficult for a web designer to remember that a website is a functional tool and not a feature showcase of their ability of design. Designers try and impress the owner or clients of sites they design, with the incredible skill set they possess in design or development. It is first a business tool that serves a specific purpose, and if there is a feature that supports the goal, then it is something great to include.
Having a great looking site is crucial because it contributes to the visitor’s experience and if the features of the website help to better portray or communicate the message, that is delivered, it is perfect. Always ask yourself, what am I trying to achieve, is this feature or design assisting, aiding or supporting that goal?
I think the most critical test one can do with a website, is to get people outside your office or place of work, to use it and give some feedback. People you would usually not ask, and that is not afraid to provide you with some criticism. I also believe that a website is an ever-changing and evolving project, just like coding software, it is never done. Having regular reviews to see how you can improve your website is a great idea. Remember the most valuable feedback is from the people using it, your customers or visitors, try and get some feedback from them.