We don’t always think of websites as being part of a company’s arsenal of marketing tools, but they fulfill the same objectives as a brochure, an ad or a social media post. That is, to attract talent and/or prospects; to educate or inform employees, stakeholders, customers, the competition; to sell a product or service or raise funds; to collect data as an endpoint in a campaign and for future communication — or all of the above. A website is a foundational tool that may be the first exposure someone has to your company, and as such, a positive experience is paramount. We offer the following best practices if you are considering building a new website or updating an old one.
Like any good marketing tool, there needs to be a reason for why you are building or revamping your website to begin with. This is especially important when there are multiple decision makers involved in the project, each with their own specific business needs and personal biases. Having consensus over the call(s)-to-action – upfront – gives designers and programmers something to refer to throughout the process, ensuring the objectives are being met and the project stays on track.
All too often, people think about search engine optimization (SEO) after a website has been built or redesigned. But SEO and web design are intimately linked, and an improved ranking should most assuredly be included in your list of goals.
According to Jakob’s Law, a principle created by usability expert Jakob Nielsen in 2000, users have an expectation that a website will function in the same manner as what they have experienced on all the other websites they have visited. This means that operationally, a website must appeal to the masses – including people of different ages, technological familiarity and comprehension levels. A good web designer will understand the ways humans perceive and interpret information to optimize the user experience.
Optimal functionality includes clear, concise navigation with a logical hierarchy, with the goal of helping people find what they are looking for, with ease. Adding breadcrumbs on more complex websites helps ensure that a user doesn’t get lost along the way. Redundancy is a good thing in web design; putting information in multiple places and linking across pages takes into account the various ways users navigate websites — and will improve your SEO to boot.
Hand-in-hand with functionality is accessibility, and accessibility extends beyond desktop versus laptop, tablet versus mobile. The site you build must work for everyone. This includes those who are visually impaired, colorblind or have physical or learning disabilities, and may utilize assistive technologies such as a screen reader. Without considering these needs the color, motion, layout and functionality may be compromised depending on the device.
Design is where ads and websites part ways. The goal of a print, broadcast or digital ad is to capture someone’s attention or to stand out from your competition. With a website, most users are there willingly, and there is a fine line between looking fresh and modern and being “out there.” A cluttered page with tons of animations may look cool at first, but may defeat the purpose of guiding users towards the information they need, and, worst of all, leave them feeling frustrated.
Instead, opt for a clean and simple layout. Hiding menus behind button presses or revealing content on a hover makes for a neat trick, but what if people don’t position their mouse in that spot? Valuable content may get overlooked. Anything that needs to be interacted with should be very apparent. A good web designer will add in something unique and fun without distracting from the goals of the website.
If the person who designs your website is the same person who designs your printed pieces, they must be mindful of the distinction between mediums. Unlike with a printed piece, bleeding content to the edge of a screen won’t translate well on different monitors with different screen resolutions. Likewise, floating graphical elements that don’t align with the underlying design grid require special coding to cement their placement across devices, and should not be included if there’s no strategic basis.
Lastly, as a marketing tool, your website should reflect and be consistent with the look and feel of your brand in terms of colors, font and images. The content’s tone of voice should sound like your brand and should be far more neutral than an ad. Such design elements subliminally create an identity and reputation for your organization in the minds of each visitor.
To learn more about the capabilities of FIFTEEN’s web development team, check out some of our most recent projects, the unique challenges we faced and how we approached each assignment to produce best-in-class websites and landing pages.