Sarah Malcolm is the founder of Quiet Valor, an ad agency servicing companies within the tech, biotech and healthcare innovation space.
Your website is the home of your brand and its messaging. In the setup and design phase, it’s easy to focus on domain names, plug-ins and the back-end setup. These are important considerations, but we need to keep the user experience top of mind. A poor user experience due to website design will impact the brand. Get people engaging with your website to have an excellent experience from the first click.
Let’s assume you’ve worked through the initial startup phase of creating your branding and buyer personas and selecting your content management system. Here’s a process I work through when helping new brands build their website so it works effectively to help grow their company.
Plan for the messaging.
With the brand persona in place, we need to think about what we want to achieve with the website. This is the front door of the company. It’s critical to nail the messaging so we attract and win over the relevant audience.
Get the critical people to the website’s function at the same meeting. This would be your website designer, the graphics team, the UX/UI person, the copywriter, the marketer — anyone who’s going to have a part in creating the website. These people need to be on the same page.
Turn to your company mission and values to help with establishing a message. For example, if sustainability and green practices are a core value of what you offer, highlight that on the home page. The graphic designer may recommend specific colors or logos that reflect the sustainability movement. Also, incorporate the value into the language that appears on the pages. The website messaging is key to building a cohesive experience for the user.
Design based on your objectives.
You’ve likely heard the design cliche “form follows function.” It’s so true in website design. Some businesses need a website to function as a selling tool, where the consumer buys the product right there. For others, the website is more about marketing your services and gathering contact information to close the deal off-site.
These different objectives influence the website design in dramatic ways. A company marketing services needs a website that takes the user on a journey and presents them with relevant information for their stage of the research process. A product-first company needs easy search and navigation and a product catalog.
Align the design with the marketing and financial objectives for the website.
We live in a mobile-first world, and we have to design websites with this in mind. A mobile-friendly website reduces bounce rates and helps your audience buy into what you’re pitching.
From a designer’s perspective, it’s about the scroll. Think about what catches your eye when you are on your phone looking at websites. It’s big, chunky text. It’s eye-catching images. It’s video. It’s the ease of movement, easy scrolling, easy navigation.
Consider chunking your website into succinct sections. Not only is it better for mobile formatting and loading, but it also fits with how people browse websites. Formats with short text, images, videos, bullets and white space help people navigate.
In the mobile-first design, it’s critical to get to the heart of brand messaging using the most important words, images, video and design elements.
Make everything scalable.
Design the website to be easily scaled as your business grows. You want to be able to add new features or pages as you enhance the services or pivot directions to serve your audience better.
Part of this will be a back-end issue for your website team. Selecting a CMS that can handle growth and expanded content is a consideration during the initial setup. You can change later, but it can be complicated.
As you add information to the website, keep in mind long-term growth. If you keep adding pages to the navigation menu, eventually, it will detract from the user’s experience on the website. If you add more scrolling to a home page and make it harder to find what the user wants, they’ll bounce.
Video messaging is crucial for engaging your target audience. One survey found that 78% of respondents got more traffic after using videos.
The approach for incorporating video into your website depends on the industry and target audience. I’ve seen restaurant websites that set their background as a video of the kitchen at work, and service professionals with a welcome video on the home page. We’ve used video to tell the story behind interesting commercial real estate properties. You’re probably familiar with demonstration videos.
Look at your target audience and consider what kind of video will enhance the website experience for them.
Don’t worry about ‘finishing’ the website.
A good website is never completely finished. The digital marketing industry is always changing. Savvy entrepreneurs and website designers stay on top of trends.
Consider your website always a work in progress. Keep the website up to date by tracking how your audience is engaging with you. If you can keep the user experience on your website forward in your mind, you will generate traffic over time.