Good design is about more than looks
Your website ‘look’ needs to reflect your brand and business model, and a good website designer will be able to help you do just that. But what a website looks like is less important than the features and functions that make it valuable to your customers. Design is also about usability and customer experience.
Usability and customer experience
Ease of use, combined with a positive experience for the customer, is probably a website’s most important function. The customer needs to be able to find what they are looking for and access all the relevant information they need. If you know your customers, you should know what aspects of your website’s experience to focus on. For sectors where customers are more diverse, this could be a bit tricky, but a good web provider will have the experience to guide you in the right direction.
Let the technology be your guide
You may have noticed that many websites have very similar structures or layout features. For example, the process for checking out on an online store, the way many websites display on mobile devices, and the layout style of homepages. While there’s a marketing view that the design of a website should be wholly unique and stand out from the crowd (and to some extent I think it should), there are two important reasons why so many websites seem to have similar layout. The first is about usability – things need to be where customers expect them to be. The second is a balance between technology and function. A website needs to look great and maintain its function on a myriad of devices and screen sizes. There are, generally speaking, a few designs and structures that work really well and that’s why we see these repeated in many websites. After taking a brief, your web provider will probably suggest a layout for your website and online store that may have elements of structure that you’ve seen on other websites. This isn’t a bad thing.
Focus on value added features, not bells and whistles
When you’re considering the design of your website, try to think about it from the point of view of your customers. Then incorporate the things that would eliminate any information asymmetry. In other words, ask yourself what customers are likely to look for when they arrive at the website and what additional information will satisfy their enquiry. Include features that are going to enhance your products and/or services. Regular blog posts, product reviews and social media integration may create value for customers wanting to understand your business. If you’re going to have an online store, then the product browsing and checkout process needs to be slick, utilizing as few clicks and distractions as possible.
At the same time, features for the sake of features are a bad idea. If a video is going to enhance the customer’s experience, then include it. If it will distract or possibly annoy the customer, then it should probably not be included. The same applies to blogs and social media. In my opinion, social media has at times been promoted as an end to all marketing and promotional problems. This is simply not true. There are sectors where social media would have little or no impact on the customer experience. There are other tricks to getting noticed online (like Google Adwords) that your Benefitz web developer will be able to help you with.
Finally, the way it looks
For a good web provider, the graphic design of your website will be a reasonably easy process once you’ve defined the features and customer considerations mentioned above. Make sure that the graphic design aligns to your brand, but remember that in some cases you may need to accept some design compromises. Here are some graphic design considerations.
The use of colour can have a significant impact on the customer experience, so use colour in a way that compliments your brand, and the copy and imagery on your website. If you have very specific brand colours, these may not always look exactly the same when viewed on a screen. Your designer will help you choose the best substitute.
When it comes to font faces, some fonts were designed for print and simply don’t look good on screen. Again, your designer will help you choose suitable screen friendly fonts. Look for font faces that are easy to read on screen and that compliment your brand design.
Good quality images that are relevant to your business can make all the difference. Your web provider will probably be able to offer you photography services if you need some good imagery, and there is always the option of using stock images.
And don’t forget: customer value!
As I mentioned in my previous column, everything revolves around customer value. Taking a customer-centric approach to designing your website is a great starting point for growing your business presence online.
Written by Dustin Bisschoff, a Shore based graphic designer and web developer, Benefitz old-boy, customer consultant, and post-grad business student.