A simple guide to planning the perfect website for your company.
Good design is often about resisting temptation.
What business doesn’t want to use its website as a platform to showcase all its products, shout about its successes and generally impress the world? The key to good design, though, is resisting the urge to fill your site with too much information.
The website is about the needs of the audience. It is about giving them what they want, not showing them what you want them to see.
So, start with a clear vision of what your business does and what the objectives of the business are.
If you’re looking for a new website design, often the temptation is to jump straight into the look and feel of a site, the ‘bells and whistles’ and the apps or tools that might lift it beyond the ordinary.
What is the site for?
Before starting to focus on look and feel, the most important preparation work for developing a great website is outlining and mapping the aims of that site, and how they fit into your organisation or sales process.
The starting point must always be the needs of the audience or your customer. Segment that audience into 2 or 3 people and have an image of who those customers are.
Be clear before you get too far ahead with the plan what the brand is all about: who is it for, what does it offer, what does it mean to your customers?
For example, take the website for Elite Moving Services redesigned recently by Above Digital.
The aim of the redesign was to simplify, removing as much clutter as possible and stripping out extraneous detail to ensure the aims of the site were clear to anyone landing on it.
Tell people what they need to know – not what you want to tell them
Before starting the redesign of the EMS site, Above Digital worked with the client to understand its offer and who the audience for that product was.
For Elite Moving Systems (EMS), it became clear that the two groups of people who would find the site relevant were HR staff and the moving families/individuals themselves, the groups of people whose international move was being managed by the company. That insight on the user framed how the site was designed.
With EMS Move the team at Above Digital first tracked the sales process to understand where their sales came from and to be clear about whether any of those sales came from the website. From this research it became apparent that the site was not a sales tool but a brochure, an online presence and a reassurance of what the company offers and the work it does for clients.
The focus of the EMS site was on delivering product clarity and creating a straightforward user journey. Therefore, on the main home page of the site there needed to be some clear “blocks” of information:
- A hero image or banner which reinforces a sense of what the brand is and what the values of the company are
- Information that is quick and simple for the two key audiences and answers the main questions they might have
- Reinforcement of the credibility of the brand through client branding and logos
Every page needs an outcome
Once you move on from the homepage, it’s important that you consider what each page of the site will deliver to whom.
Rather than the starting point being ‘where can we put this information about our product, background or service’, ensure the starting point is ‘what will the user gain from this particular page and what user problem are we solving with this information?’
Each page must have a clear narrative & navigation; the user who knows what they want can find it quickly, but the user who doesn’t can navigate to where they need to be easily.
Need for responsive design
Because most of us today are accessing websites through mobile devices it’s important that any site you are considering for your company is ‘responsive’ i.e. it dynamically flexes to be read on any device and works easily on different platforms. This will enhance your traffic and also improve your chances of being found through a search engine such as Google.
The introduction of responsive design means it is more important than ever to strip out any extra detail or content from your site. If you are encouraging users to your site on their mobiles they will need to have a quick and easy journey to the information they need, without scrolling through any extra detail or text.
If you overload your site with copy and text, your users won’t find what they’re looking for on your site, so start by thinning out content to make the mobile experience simpler and easier for your site visitors. If you have more in-depth information that you think users will be interested in, house that in Sub pages or pops ups within the page for quick and easy access when required.
Once you have mapped why your users are coming to the site and established the core principles, a website designer will construct a ‘wireframe’ or basic outline of each aspect of your site. From there you can discern what works and what doesn’t and ensure you have considered every user in your structure.
During this process new ideas can be explored and welcomed with potentially no impact on budget. But, once the build phase starts it’s a whole different story and will come at a cost!
It’s only once this vital preparation and research is done that we would start to consider the design of the site – the look, the feel and the brand, as well as images for integrating into the site and a colour palette.
- Map out why your users are coming to your site and what they need to get from it
- Tell visitors to your site what they need to know in clearly navigable blocks of information
- Ensure your website is clearly signposted with the users and their key questions in mind
- Strip out extraneous detail that will distract users from finding the information they need
- Ensure each page has an outcome or a purpose
Alex Weller is Founder and Creative Director of Above Digital