This is an email interview I was approached to do about web design tips for the Sensis blog. Some thoughts on what makes for attractive web design, how to create a great user experience and some key features your website design should include.
Q. What makes for attractive web design?
Attractive web design delivers a great customer experience that smoothly guides a visitor through your website – making it easy for them to find what they’re looking for or do what they need to do. Your customers shouldn’t have to work hard to use your website, you don’t want them to feel frustrated.
As Steve Jobs famously said “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” There’s no separating this. A good website needs to be visually engaging, stable, quick to load pages and intuitive to use. It must also have great content that delivers value and ideally something people want to read and share. If just one of these attributes is missing, the whole experience is compromised.
Q. How do you create a great user experience for your visitors?
Knowing who your target customer is, what motivates them, why they’re visiting your website and what their expectations are is the essential starting point. A great user experience is about connecting with your customers and designing with empathy.
A website should be consistent with your business personality and brand, the impression they get online needs to match the experience they have with you on the phone, in store, with your product or however you interact. Once you have that insight along with clarity on the value you have to offer to solve their problem – the rest falls into place pretty quick.
There is no single answer or one size fits all solution to this. A good web designer will work with you to understand your business, your customers and the role of the website.
It’s important to be clear on what you want from your website. When someone visits, what message are you trying to communicate and what action do you want them to take? It’s then a matter of designing and building a website that smoothly guides the customer through that journey.
The experience the customer has when using your site on their smartphone or tablet is more important than ever. Most clients we work with receive around 30% or more of their traffic from mobile devices.
Since last November, Google has emphasised the importance of optimising for mobile experiences even more by labelling search results as “mobile-friendly”. The goal being to make it easier for people to find what that they’re looking for when searching on mobile. According to Google, 48% of mobile users start on a search engine when researching products. If your website in mobile search results doesn’t have this label, your customers or potential customers know they’re going to have a poor experience on their mobile and are more likely to visit a site that is “mobile-friendly”.
There are still a surprising number of Australian businesses (including very large brands) without an optimised mobile experience. Getting this right is still a good way to differentiate from many of your competitors.
It’s important to listen to feedback from customers and make adjustments. It’s easy to get this insight by talking to them and by observing their behaviour through web analytics to see if conversions are effective and where customers abandon your site.
With a well-designed content managed website it’s very easy to make minor updates like changing a button label, an image or your call to action text to see what works best. You should be able to do this yourself without any web development skills or software. A website isn’t set and forget.
Q. What specific features should the design include and why? (Categories, menus, social media links etc)
Some key features you should make sure you have:
- A good content management system that is kept up to date with security patches. It must be secure and you should have control to make simple updates yourself if you want to
- Simple and clear navigation that smoothly guides the visitor through your site
- Optimised for mobile, tablet & desktop experiences. The best approach to achieve this will depend on the context, goals and budget
- Quality content people want to read and share
- Social media and email marketing integration. Make it easy for people to share your great content!
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) – there are basic web development standards that must be followed
- Professional hosting and platform management to keep your site online and running well. This should include hosting in a top-tier datacentre; proactive monitoring and support; backups, security updates and code management; separate servers for development and live – so unproven changes don’t compromise your live site
- Ability to easily add advanced features like online shopping, bookings and payments when you’re ready
We Can Help
Dynamic4 will work with you to get your business and brand online to reach millions of new customers on their mobiles, tablets and desktops. Check out our Dynamic4 Websites plans and packages. We’d love to work with you to design and build a great solution.
29 April 2015 Update: The article has been published on the Sensis site as A Checklist for Business Websites.