Designing websites which market themselves

From the initial version of HTML in 1990, the needs of businesses and the technology has drastically changed, but some things remain constant.

In short a good web site does today exactly what it did in 1990 and that’s convey a message to a potential audience.

And although the styles and eye candy has evolved its worth remembering that a well performing website is never about the technology that drives it.

What is good web design?

Ask a hundred designers that question, and although you won’t get one hundred different answers, to some degree it reflects the goals of the author.

To me it’s marrying good design skills, which marketing language glued together with a massive dose of SEO.

But although my web design elements bake into a masterpiece, which factor and methodology works best the majority of the time, for most businesses?

The chicken and egg.

While it’s true there is a conflict often between design and SEO, a common methodology can go a long way to solve both design and SEO issues.

In the business you run, the services and products you offer will have a market and the needs of that market will often shape everything else.

So the first question is not what web design tool to use or what template to populate, it should be about understanding your clients’ needs and more importantly what they see as value.

A great website will address their audience’s needs beyond anything else, as this will often bring rewards of conversions and referrals. It is well known in marketing circles that referrals drive more sales than any other technique.

Translating audience needs into design, marketing and SEO

Search is without doubt the most powerful traffic driver there is and even when it comes to viral links, they need to be found in the first place to be shared, so search is the king we need to think about.

While it’s true that Google is moving away from exact phrase matching, it’s useful to note that most people search in terms of key phrases. If we can identify these, it becomes easier to create pages which are more likely to be searched for. Known as landing or squeeze pages, these pieces of content do more to drive conversion and sales than any other web based platforms.

For a search to be converted into sales or enquiries its worth thinking about the landing page. This page should be ordered to show the most important information at the top. Often this should be seen as the primary Call to action (CTA), where this is not the case, the primary CTA should still be above the fold.

While there is a push for larger and larger display at the desktop end of the market, the same can’t be said for mobile, and for these devices, space is a premium and this also drives the importance for the CTA to be as close to the top of the page as possible.

While visual design is important, clarity of words, speed of page loading and giving the audience a reason to pick up the phone trump these.

If your product or service is unlikely to be an impulse buy, then giving the audience an inducement to sign up for a newsletter should be considered vital. Remarketing is a great way to capture these types of potential customers.

Things to avoid…

Ironically revolving slideshows, transition effects and too much on the page are all factors which can dilute your websites potential.

A single web page should be focused on providing a single course of action. Steve Jobs often presented in series of 3 to allow the audience to concentrate only on those things that were important.

As a general rule, the more options you give a potential client the less chance there will be of a sale or enquiry.

User testing and tying things up

Without testing and feedback you simply do not have a benchmark to test against. Only to be concerned about a websites appearance is a short sighted activity, which not only will leave your audience wanting but will also mean a reduction in potential sales.