Thomas J. Watson, the once CEO of International Business Machines (IBM) said, “Good design is good business.” Well said Mr Watson. I could not agree more. However, in this statement there’s a lingering question begging for an answer. The question is this: What is good design?
Or rather, the more relevant question in our case is: What constitutes a “good” website? Although I’d like to answer this question with an amazingly clever one liner, I think its best if I be straight with you when I answer; “Well, it depends.”
It depends on:
- what the goals of the website are
- and if the website is achieving these goals.
The essence of a good website is when it achieves specific business and marketing goals. The agency or designer must approach every web design project from a business and marketing standpoint while always keeping the end user in mind. Simple, yes? Not quite.
To create a website that is 24 hour strategic marketing mechanism requires thorough marketing and business thinking. Depending on the complexity of the website, you’ll need a village of professionals to produce it. Some key people required may be user experience designers, writers, visual designers, engineers and project managers who can bring the project vision to life and complete it on time and on budget.
The days of having a plain information based website is long gone. If you’re going to build a website you should make sure that it supports essential business functions like generating leads, assisting with customer service, generating online sales, serving the user and building your brand.
Key ingredients for successful websites
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, you want your next web project to succeed, right? Then you would be wise to consider the following key ingredients to produce an effective website that supports the business bottom line.
Do a situation analysis
Imagine for a moment that you are in an unfamiliar city and you have to travel to a certain location in the city. You have a map pinpointing the location, but you don’t know where you are on the map. Do you think you’ll find the location when you don’t know where you are, even if you know where you need to go? Perhaps with a lot of difficulties. This little analogy is applicable to your web design success. Before you jump into your project you need to articulate your current situation. You need to know what the problem is you’re trying to solve and why it is important. You need to locate yourself on the map first. Guidelines on how to do a situational analysis.
Define clear goals
Mistakes result from the choice of inappropriate or vague goals. Clear marketing goals that align with business goals should be set in place. Do you want to increase website traffic? Do you want more leads? Do you want to increase subscribers? Do you want more sales conversions? Determine the primary business goals and establish what your key performance indicators (KPIs) will be.
Set a meaningful strategy
How are you going to achieve the goals? For example, if your goal is to increase organic traffic on your website you may decide to post search engine friendly keyword rich articles more frequently that relate to your service or product.
Write a website specifications document
Nothing can tank a web design project like a poorly written web site specifications document. Make sure your website is set up for success by including the following specifications: Functionality specifications, technical specifications and design specifications. Oh, and don’t forget to select the appropriate technology platforms with which to build the website.
This may be obvious to you, but I need to remind myself now and again. Your website content is actually the thing people are after when they visit your website. When they arrive at your website they want information. Not just any inforamtion. They want relevant, timely information on demand. Information that solve their problems. Information that educates. Information that helps them. Your content, whether in written format, audio format or video format must be created, compiled, assembled and organised into local structures and hierarchies for users to digest on various devices.
Define the User Experience
If your website is rather complex or task intensive you will definitely need to employ the services of user experience professionals to create user journeys, sitemaps, information architecture and wireframes. These professionals create the blueprint for successful websites.
Visual and interface design
The visual design is the expression of all the work done up to this point. Everything should come together in one blessed union. Colour, typography, imagery, layout and content should be combined to communicate and provide content according to user preferences whether they are browsing on a mobile phone, a tablet or a desktop computer.
Employ the right technology
Choosing the appropriate technology is like choosing the right type of engine for a car. Simply crucial. You must rely on programmers and technologists to source and build the technology stack appropriate for your project.
Make sure there is quality control process
One of the most overlooked and neglected part of a web design project is the quality control. It is the role of one or two designated people to test the website and proof read the content to make sure the website is in working order.
Install analytics to measure success
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Data is the key to planning future marketing efforts relating to your website.