While design will always be important, it is no longer the driver of a new website process. At the same time design is becoming more important, its primary role is to help the site perform. It serves in a supporting role to aid the other areas that are more critical to achieving a brand’s goals.
The phrase “website redesign” is outmoded because it creates the illusion that the challenge is primarily a visual one, with an assumed understanding of a technical component. This misnomer misrepresents the scope and import of a new website.
These are some of the important areas that you will need to focus on in order to create an effective site that is nimble and can work hard for you to achieve goals and provide insights into attracting more of the right visitors.
This is what you’ll really be focusing on when you create a new site:
Prospects and clients are searching for information or help and they are going to find it online. But whose content will they find? Will it be yours? Who will assume the leadership role as the purveyor of useful content for your audience? If you are not ready to make the investment, there are many who will. Because the upside is big.
But that doesn’t mean that all of your content will need to be on your site. In the universe of content, your site may be a spec of dust. So, your content is your most valuable marketing asset as it can travel through the universe attracting people to you. You need to create content that can be adapted to perform for you in many channels. And while it seems counter intuitive, visiting your website may be deeper in the sales funnel than you may have ever considered.
Robust Search and Analytics
Don’t fear, eventually they will get to your site! And once they do, it had better be easy to find what they came there for. Your search function needs to think like them in order to serve them. (Stats show that people don’t move through sites in the same way any longer. They don’t use buttons on sites as much as they link through content products and use search.)
And as they move through your site they are giving you great insight into what they need, what they want. You’ll learn where you hook them and where you lose them. You learn what they search for. The information they are offering is so valuable you would pay for it, but once you have a good analytics set up, you don’t have to pay for this data. It’s free, well almost free, you pay for it in time; the time you invest to understand the patterns and habits of your visitors.
Mobile and Compatibility
User stats around the world show a trend: weekends = mobile. As our mobile devices deliver more functionality, and they get far better year after year, and our habits become ingrained, businesses will see their analytics show more mobile users than they ever expected. You can either get ready for that surge now or scramble in real-time to ensure that your website and its best content is easy to consume on a mobile device.
And it is not just one of the mobile devices, it is all of them. That’s right. Your site can’t only work best for the iOS platform or only the Android platform. So, we all know by now that means no Flash and that it means a responsive site. Because no one knows for certain what just 3 years from now will bring for us in terms of mobile computing.
If you don’t have a written content strategy informed by data-driven buyer personas, then don’t bother creating a new website. You think that language is too strong? I can tell you that is sugar-coated.
If you don’t know who your 4-5 buyer segments are, how can you write or design for them or provide them with an outstanding user experience? You simply can’t.
Even a content creation team of one will benefit from being guided by a thoughtful and purposeful content strategy. Content strategy is like food and water: you need it. There shouldn’t be any question whether any organization can go without it. No exceptions.
Your site content needs to be in context with your visitors. Doing that is a whole process view of content marketing. From having data-driven buyer personas and using dynamic content on your site to put the right content in front of the right person at the right time. That’s the fundamental of contextual marketing.
But it can’t be achieved without the right technologies in place. You need to be able to deliver in context, measure, test and adjust.
Your next buyer may be following you on Pinterest and Twitter but has never been to your site. They may enjoy articles that you publish in mainstream magazines or on niche blogs.
You’re not the only one talking about your brand. If your marketing is successful, there will be many more people out there who talk about you, sharing or consuming your content, retweeting, like-ing or pinning you.
So why should this robust discussion end once a visitor arrives at your site? Well, it shouldn’t. On your site, a visitor should be able to see an integration of your social universe. We are all becoming wary of online marketing, we don’t entirely trust what you have to say about yourself – first we want third party recommendations.
If lots of people are singing your praises, then you will attract people to leave their universe and enter yours. Your site has to be good because in some ways it is like a dead end street off the universe. Social integration can bring life back into it with real-time connections to the rest of the universe.
Humans visit your site, not robots. Well, actually robots do visit but we are not concerned with them here. When visitors come from Pinterest they are primed to connect with images. But when they come from a financial site, they likely will respond to a more analytical experience. You have to make a site that will work for both.
What color is the best to use on your site so that a link will get clicked? Easy — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — it’s the color that stands out the best. If your site is very blue, then red or orange might be your color. But something to consider is that maybe you should design your color strategy with limited color so that you can gently guide users using color?
When you list information, group it in threes because people can grasp and recall a cluster of three best. If you want subscribers, be careful about how and when you give them choices.
And if people are buying through your site it is important that they can recall on which site it was that they found something that they liked. Attention must be paid to how you can trigger memory for a visual versus a spatial memory. One person might recall the oversized, purple, serif subheads while another remembers the three-column presentation of content.
This list is far from comprehensive, but it shows you that there is a lot to thoroughly explore and solve before you begin to turn your attention to the design. Don’t waste your time with design unless you have the other important elements fully resolved. And if you are thinking of skipping some of these steps and getting to a great looking site, then that may be the most costly design you ever buy when you factor the loss of revenue that will eventually be linked to a poorly performing site.