Dawson Whitfield is the CEO and Founder of Looka, a logo design and brand identity platform powered by artificial intelligence.
2020 saw years of digital transformation take place in a matter of months, as companies opened and expanded websites to make up for closing and shrinking physical stores. While the website rush helped companies survive in a suddenly socially distanced world, many of these sites won’t make it long-term. If companies want to thrive online in 2021 and beyond, website design needs to step up.
More Time Online
To get an idea of the opportunity available to well-designed websites, it’s helpful to understand just how many customers are moving (and staying) online. In 2020, the consulting firm McKinsey found that brands were three times likelier than previous years to report 80% or more customer interactions were digital. And this trend toward digital-first experiences shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, 65% of consumers plan to continue using the new shopping methods they adopted during 2020 going forward. For brands, this means foot traffic is unlikely to replace web traffic entirely, even as stores reopen.
But for all of this increased web traffic, there’s a catch: increased customer expectations. As customers become more accustomed to digital-first experiences, their expectations for those experiences rise.
Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer 2020” report found that 66% of customers say they expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. The same report also found 76% of customers expect a consistent experience across different departments, and 69% think companies should be offering new ways to access available products and services.
All this points to a new truth about website performance: good enough isn’t good enough anymore.
Web Design For Experience
Great website performance requires great website design. From enticing and educating to converting, web design plays many roles across the customer journey. Together, those roles cover two main design categories: performance design and branding design. By designing for both, sites can bolster short-term sales and long-term loyalty.
But how exactly can companies design for both sides of the digital experience?
Design For Consistency
To start, companies can begin supporting both performance and brand by solidifying their visual brand. Considering that 74% of customers think “look and feel” can make or break a brand, great brand visuals are far from a frill. The way visual brand is used is equally important, with an estimated 33% increase in revenue associated with brand consistency.
By consistently using the same logo, font, colors and imagery across their website, companies can offer users a cohesive impression of their brand. Aside from generating brand awareness, visual consistency also generates brand recognition. With a website that looks consistent from landing page to checkout, users are much more likely to be able to recall and return to the same site again.
Design For Ease Of Use
While proudly displaying a cohesive visual brand across a website can begin improving customer experience, user experience design gets right to the point. Following the principles of user experience design, website design can put users at the center.
Designing with customers in mind also has tangible benefits for businesses. McKinsey found that companies that score higher on design quality tend to perform better financially as well. The study’s top 25% best-designed companies saw 32% higher revenue growth than the industry standard.
Simply put, streamlining your web design according to user experience design best practices means easier, faster and more frequent conversions. As customers become more discerning about the type of experience they expect online, sites that fail to take a user-centric approach to web design will be left behind.
Design For Differentiation
User experience design usually focuses on usability, not memorability. While this has some obvious benefits for customers — as websites become more accessible and navigable — it also had some key downsides. Namely, it has led to a sea of sameness.
Even if you’re not using the same WordPress theme as your competitors, obsessive UX streamlining can have a similar effect. Creating an optimal experience through web design shouldn’t just be about optimizing performance. Creating a unique experience that supports the brand is also important.
Part of making a website memorable is creating “good friction.” This consists of moments that slow down customers and showcase some essential aspects of your brand. By incorporating these moments into their web design approach, companies can create an experience that delights, as well as converts.
Designing The Complete Experience
With more and more companies establishing and expanding their web presence, simply having a website is no longer enough. To keep up with rising customer expectations, businesses need to design their websites for both performance and brand. With both short-term conversions and long-term loyalty in mind, great web design will be the differentiating factor for which brands thrive in the digital future.
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