When you need a website, you probably wanted it up and running last week! Using website builders like Squarespace and Wix are perfect for certain businesses, but before you decide if it’s right for yours here are some things to consider.
In this post, I’m going to give you an overview of how to prepare and plan your website from design to launch, and what you need to be online in 30 days.
Some of you love the DIY lifestyle. There is a lot of satisfaction is envisioning what you want and creating it. However, for your business, you need to consider a couple of things.
First, do you have the time to put into creating your website. Designing a website, picking out templates, and creating pages and content is time consuming. If this is just a resource website and not something you are updating often, putting the time into doing a DIY website is probably perfect for you. There are a lot of large companies, like Pixar, that use a Squarespace site because it gives them an online presence and that’s all that they need.
The second thing to consider is how you are using your site: Do you want your website to maintain an online presence or is it more of a sales tool? Our team has worked with a lot of businesses who have outgrown their website builder site. We often hear, “if it just did X it would be fine.” Since these sites have to be flexible to all kinds of businesses, they miss a lot of industry specific features. This is where a design and development team can take you to the next level.
After you have decided the route to go, it’s time for the design phase. In design, you will start to get a feel for what your site will look like, but there is still some more work you need to do before passing it off to a developer or before selecting your website builder template.
This is usually the time when a client questions whether they need a new logo, new typeface selections, and a fresh color scheme. The design phase is definitely the ideal time to have these discussions. If you think it may be time for a rebrand, we highly recommend conducting a branding session with your team.
Branding sessions can take some time, but after a few hours, you know what personality you want your brand to have and where you want to take your business moving forward. This type of strategic thinking is critical in making sure that your website accomplishes the goals you have for your business.
With a brand personality, you can also work on crafting your message. The notes from your branding session will be helpful in writing the text for your internal pages. This is also the point where, if you aren’t a writer, you can bring in a content creator to flesh out your message and get it ready to go online.
Having your content written during the design phase will give your web design team more direction when creating your wireframe. From your content, they can focus their design on the user experience and effectively guide them through your website and ideally take them from casual visitor to your newest customer.
Once your brand and your content starts coming together, its NOW time to think about your website’s design. The first phase is wireframes.
With a wireframe, you want to sketch on paper the main blocks your site. When you draft a wireframe, the question you are answering is “Where does my content go?”
The wireframe will outline where photos, video, text, and CTAs are placed. This quick sketch is basically your website at 30,000 feet. Make sure you can visualize where the content will be place. If you see something missing or the flow feels off, make a change. If you are working with a design team, this is the hardest, but most important time to speak up. It’s hard because you can’t physically see the whole thing, but it’s important because this is the easiest time to make adjustments.
From the wireframe comes the mock-up. Your designer will take the wireframe and drop in your content so you can now see what the finished product will look like. This is usually where revisions start to be requested. If you are working with a team, make sure that there is a meeting scheduled to review your mockups. Before that meeting, get your notes together on what you like (and why) and what you dislike and want changed. These notes will be the guide your development team will use when making adjustments. If it’s not in there, it will stay as it was in the original mockup. Be honest, be critical, and know that you aren’t going to hurt someone’s feelings. Your design team wants you to be happy with what you see.
After a couple of rounds of revisions it’s time to bring your site from concept to completion.
For the DIYer, this is where you will select your template and start dropping in in your content. Testing the site and making sure all the features that you need are available and functioning as you expect them to.
If you have chosen to work with a design and development team, this is where they takeover. You have done some solid heavy lifting and put a lot of thought, now’s the time when your developer will take all that and bring it to fruition.
You may be a little worried to step back for a bit, but knowing about what you will receive at the end of it will relieve some of that anxiety.
If you aren’t familiar with WordPress, here’s a little background. WordPress runs over a third of all websites on the internet. As open source software, developers can tailor the needs for an client making it work for business large and small.
We have helped clients of all skillsets increase sales with their WordPress websites by
The backend of WordPress is easy to manage so you will get a website at the end that doesn’t can be updated internally, but can also be adjusted as your business grows.
Once your development team has coded out your site. It’s time for you to test it. Click everything. Go to every page. Make copious notes about what works and what doesn’t. The QA phase is your final stage before your website is launched so you want to make sure that it is exactly as you want.
At the end of your website journey, you will be excited and a little nervous for the world to see what you have been working on. While you want everything to work and be perfect, minor imperfections are expected. Most development teams you work with will follow-up with a few complimentary adjustments that weren’t caught during QA. As long as these are kept to a minimum, they shouldn’t add to the cost of the website.
Now is the time to share your new site with your customers by promoting it! Shout from the rooftops, send out an email to your customers, highlight your new site on social media, or add a blurb to your email signature. You want people to know that you are investing in your business and that they should think of you when they need you.
You are going to be involved in your website design. Whether you do it yourself or hire a team of developers, you need to commit time to making sure the design, content, and functionality will showcase your business in the most accurate way. Set aside at least 30-days to plan, design, and create your site for the best results. If you don’t have the time (or desire) to do it yourself, hiring a professional will give you a site that functions as you want it to with the ability to grow as your business grows.
If you have been thinking that WordPress is just for bloggers, we have to talk about what’s been going on the last 10 year or so. WordPress has become one of the most versatile content management platforms allowing people from all different backgrounds to get on the web. The system’s evolution allows business and individuals with varying needs and skill levels to use the platform successfully. Let’s answer the burning question: What is WordPress?
In 2003 a blogging platform called b2/cafelog was created by Michel Valdrighi and was built with PHP and MySQL. Two key features made b2 unique. First, it was one of the first systems that allowed for content to be stored in a database so people didn’t have to code out every page of their website by hand. This made it easier for developers to write code while also allowing non-technical users to continue adding content to their sites without having to write code. Secondly, it was also a trailblazer for the GNU General Public License. This means anyone can use the code to do whatever they want with it – in shorter terms: open source.
However, there is an inherent problem with a lot open source software because once the primary creator decides he or she has better things to do, the software is no longer supported and all of its users are left to find the next best thing. This is what happened with b2/cafelog – Michel disappeared one day and left all of his users in the dark. One of those b2/cafelog users was Matt Mullenweg. He knew he wanted to create a new platform that was open-sourced so other people could pick up the torch whenever he had to drop it. Since b2/cafelog was already open-sourced, he decided he could use all the cool pieces from that and add new features to it as a new release. He wrote a blog about it and decided to take the b2/cafelog code and make it better. On May 17, 2003, Matt launched WordPress 0.7 which would be its first release to the public.
Let’s zoom forward to 2010. WordPress 3.0 is released in June with a new feature called Custom Post Types. Up until this release, WordPress was mostly used for blogs as it only allowed for two content types: Posts and Pages. Custom Post Types opened up a new realm of possibilities for developers. If you were a restaurant owner who ran a franchise, now you could have a section on your site called Restaurants with each restaurant having a name, address, phone number and email address (amongst many other pieces of data). This new development was the conversion point of WordPress transitioning from a blog-only platform into a full-blown content management system. The 2011 year saw WordPress climb from a 13.1% market share to a 15.8% market share. This may not seem like a large leap, but WordPress’s closest competition (Joomla) only had a 2.8% market share the same year.
In short: WordPress increased by [almost] the size of its main competitor’s market share. Not too shabby for 12 months worth of work.
The two primary components of day-to-day WordPress shenanigans are themes and plugins. At its core, your theme controls the look and feel of your website while plugins add interesting functionality to your site that you don’t have to code yourself (ie. shopping carts, contact forms or even discussion forums)
Developer Aside: As we discussed before, WordPress is built upon a primary foundation of PHP and MySQL. As of WordPress 5.0 (or “the Gutenberg update” as most people call it), WordPress also introduced React into its development stack as well. This was a huge change from all the server-side systems that were currently in place. As a developer, it might be time to start introducing some more JS into your day-to-day activities so you can evolve with the changing WordPress landscape. Soon, WordPress may even be used primarily as a headless CMS.
Every style that is on your website is derived from the theme you have installed. And one of the biggest pros of using WordPress is the ease of switching from one theme to another. Let’s say you have had your current site for a year or two now – it might be time for a facelift. Once you find a new theme, you can upload it to your site and with a single click, activate it as your website’s new look-and-feel. However, if you do a quick search for WordPress Themes on Google, you will be required to navigate a plethora of choices. Some of them will be free while some costing $150 or more. You might find some on a marketplace that sells hundreds or a boutique company that only sells one or two. With so many options to choose from, where should you start?
For starters, WordPress.org has its own marketplace for free themes and one of the great things is that they are vetted for quality standards by the “code police” that run WordPress. The “code police” are volunteers that have a passion for WordPress and want to make sure it remains the high-quality product it is known to be. While this library of themes might not have the largest quantity of ones to choose from, you can rest [more] assured that you are using a theme that has quality coding behind it and thus is more secure. If you go the free route, you need to be very careful that the theme does not have anything malicious inside of it. It would be very easy to sneak in a few lines of code on a free theme that may send passwords for your website back to the creators of the theme to use however they want. This is hard to detect, as themes are typically made of up quite a few files, and perusing each of them line-by-line would take quite a bit of time. This is why I highly recommend using the WordPress theme repository if you want to go the free route since they are vetted for quality.
Now we start talking about money. As of writing, normal themes cost anywhere between $40 – $70. The majority of these themes can be found on marketplace-style sites that sell hundreds (if not thousands) of WordPress themes. Classic City Consulting has had the most long-term success with ThemeForest.net. Much like with WordPress’s theme marketplace, Theme Forest goes through a quality check before allowing authors to post a theme to their site. This allows them to filter out a lot of bad themes so they maintain their quality standards.
Even though there isn’t a way to determine a theme’s usability before purchasing and installing it, there are a few things we always look for that tend to narrow down the field.
On the right-sidebar, ThemeForest publishes some useful numbers:
Before you make a theme purchase, you need to know what you want to do with it. If you are going to be running an e-commerce store, make sure the theme is compatible with WooCommerce. If data collection is going to be vital for your site, make sure it’s compatible with Ninja Forms or Gravity Forms. Below is a list of the basics that should be considered for a handful of different use cases:
You have finally found a theme that checks all the boxes and have installed it – but what’s next? You want to be able to get your website looking exactly like the preview you loved so much, yet don’t want to have to rebuild everything from scratch. That’s where the last feature comes into play: when you are scrolling through the theme’s information, make sure they advertise a “one click demo install.” This phrase isn’t always the same, as there isn’t a standard phrase all theme developers use, but be on the lookout for something like it. If a theme doesn’t state they have a “one click” content import process, then don’t purchase it. You’ll have to rebuild the entire theme from scratch and will waste a lot of your time – which is the whole reason for buying a theme in the first place.
These themes typically offer the highest level of customization – but they do take some time if it’s the first time you’ve used them. We’re going to focus on Divi, however, most themes in the “expensive” arena work very similarly.
A framework structure means that most users can create a website that meets their needs by using the elements included to create a functional site layout. Frameworks, like Divi, are like the building blocks of WordPress design. You have a lot of different elements and it just depends on how you choose to create within those confines.
Divi comes pre-packaged with its own page builder. This will allow you to work with the various elements that come with Divi to create a customized layout for your company’s website. Everything is drag-and-droppable on the front-end of your website – you can see what your site looks like while you edit it.
When you are using the Page Builder, one of the options it gives you are Layout Templates. These are pre-packaged/pre-laid-out groups of content blocks. Take a look at the screenshot above. This is a layout template for Team. It contains a row with three columns. Each of the three columns has a place to upload a team member’s square photo, name, a brief bio as well as a link to view their entire portfolio. By using this Layout Template, you don’t have to spend time creating each column individually.
One step above Layout Templates are Page Templates. Divi has pre-built entire layouts for pages for your use. These combine a variety of Layout Templates together on a single page so all you have to do is copy your content in, delete the sections you don’t need and “voila!” You could have an entire page built in less than ten minutes.
As you can see, Divi is more than just a page builder or a basic theme. It’s an ecosystem where you can create customized experiences from the ground up. It does take some time to master (just like any other framework-style theme), however, it provides you with quite a few options for customization once you get the hang of it. If I was a business owner who was just starting with WordPress, I recommend starting with a theme that falls under the Theme Forest area first and then move up to a framework theme (like Divi) once you have gotten used to WordPress.
Life is great: you have a theme, it’s worked out well, but it’s been a while since your site has had a change of scenery. You can go out, buy another theme and just activate it, however, there are some potential roadblocks you might run into if you just click the Activate button and hope for the best.
Before you do anything, run a backup of your site. There is always the potential for problems when you run scripts on your website (ie. the theme activation). You always want to make sure you have an accessible copy of your site and you know how to roll your site back if there are any issues.
If your current site uses a framework theme (or a page builder), make sure your new theme also has support for it. If it doesn’t, chances are the content on your site won’t be transferable from one page-builder to another. A lot of page builders inject their own syntax into the content of your website (think of this as the difference between Spanish and English) and if you try to use a different page builder, it won’t be able to translate it from one language to another.
When you are using a theme, each widget area has a name that has been assigned by the theme’s creator (ie. Right Sidebar or Header). When you install a new theme, the widget areas might have different names. You’ll want to make sure you populate the new widget areas with the appropriate widgets you will need on your new site – as they won’t transfer over automatically.
The same thing applies to menus as it does for widget areas. Each theme creator will name their menu areas differently, so you’ll want to make sure your menus are transferred over correctly (even if that means you have to re-create them).
Does your hosting provider give you a “staging” site? This is a version of your site that you can use that is not public-facing. It is used for testing out new changes on a copy of your site so if something breaks during testing, your customers won’t know the difference. This would be a great location to test out your new theme to make sure it doesn’t break anything.
Plugins are what gives your site the functionality it needs to help you run your business. Whether that be anything from a shopping cart (WooCommerce) to data collection (Ninja Forms), WordPress has the plugins you need to accomplish quite a few (if not all) of the tasks you need your website to do for you.
I want to point out one big difference where the lines get blurred quite often. Let’s take a real estate theme as our example. This theme you installed on your site allows you to load in the houses you have for sale in an organized fashion. That’s fantastic unless the functionality of saving/organizing your houses is stored in the theme, what happens when you want to switch to a new theme? That property management piece will disappear. The line between a plugin and a theme is typically black and white, however, when you start looking into themes that provide you core functionality out of the box, that’s when you might want to throw up a red flag before you dive too far into purchasing a theme for your business.
Just like with themes, we also have differences between free and paid plugins.
WordPress.org has a fantastic repository of free plugins you can use on your site. These plugins have been vetted, however, there are 50,000+ at the time of writing and a lot of them are not maintained very well. What should you look for when going through WordPress’s list of plugins?
Paid plugins are a great way to go – especially when your company’s revenue is dependent upon it working correctly. Most of the time, a paid plugin is built by a company that is actively maintaining it – hence why you pay for the license to use it. You still need to do research into the plugin to ensure it’s not coming from a source that will halt development within a few months. However, there are a few things you can do to help guide your decision:
This is probably one of my top-five most-asked questions over the course of my career. I hear it mostly from people who are about to start their first website and are trying to figure out whether they should go with WordPress.com or WordPress.org. However, it gets a little confusing when you try to figure out the differences between them.
WordPress.com is a service owned by Automattic. It’s just like every other website building service, except it’s powered by WordPress. It’s 100% free to start your own website – you choose your template, toss your content in and you’re off the races. However, it does come with its limitations. We’ve talked a lot about installing plugins and finding custom themes, and unless you sign up for WordPress.com’s Business Plan, you can’t use any of them. But for a lot of people, that’s a perfect launching point for their business. They already know the WordPress system (or have at least heard of it) and just need to get a website up and running for their business as a proof of concept. The great thing is that all the content can be brought over into their own custom WordPress site when that time comes.
You have this site on WordPress.com and now you’re ready to take it to the next level. You want the ability to customize your site with plugins, themes and possibly even a developer to help you code out that special feature you can’t find a plugin. Meet WordPress.org.
All of WordPress is 100% open-sourced – which means anyone can download it and change it however they want. All you need is a hosting provider that runs the appropriate systems (which most do). Once you make the transition to this version of WordPress, you own the code and the design and can take your website with you wherever you want to go. Are you done with cheap hosting and want to move to something more secure? That’s no longer a problem. Want to install a backup system that saves your backup files to a separate location from your website? That is also solvable.
WordPress is a pretty powerful tool that is very widely used. It gives you the ability to add new features with the click of a button and completely change the look and feel of your site in with another button push. It also has the ability to be customized so much that people don’t even realize WordPress is running the show behind the scenes. What will you create with WordPress?
We made it to 2020!
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the major trends that have come about the last couple years, but that are really making a mark this year and this decade.
You have probably heard a lot about the effects of blue light from your computer screen. If harms sleep. It causes eye strain. As a result, designers have been slowly moving to more dark mode options. Whether your site toggles to Dark Mode or there is a Dark Mode setting, allowing users the option to dim their screens may encourage them to stick on your site longer.
This is a classic trend that seems to stay popular year after year. When you think of minimalism white and black might come to mind, but with this trend, think of more of using negative space with purpose. Large patches of color, simplistic fonts, and clean lines are key characteristics of this design choice.
For websites trying to tell a story, long scrolling allows you to physically take the end user on a journey. The scrolling can take you down, right, and left, weaving you through a sales pitch or a product explanation. This is a great technique to use when you want to lead people through your brand.
It seems that there are no rules with type anymore. Let 1000 words represent a picture. Use contrasting typefaces to stand out. Position words upside down, diagonal, or all over the page. If you want to explore breaking rules, we suggest breaking just one rule at a time as to not confuse your audience too much.
Keep your audience engaged with complex imagery. Mixed media or abstract illustrations have gained popularity for the way that they can capture attention immediately.
The overall design trend of 2020 is you, the business, are in charge of leading your customer through the experience of your brand.
Design is about YOU: Your business & Your brand. Trends this year are designed to stand out and accentuate key elements of a website. Select trends that fit your brand best. If you are using any of these elements, make sure you design with intentionality by focusing on what works best with your brands and what your customers have come to expect from you and your website.
Design trends come and go, so many sure you are on the lookout for what’s up and coming so that your site always looks like it’s on the cutting edge!
With the average website visit lasting only 15-seconds, it’s important to be smart with your homepage real estate. There are a few tweaks and changes that can be changed in order to ensure you are putting your best foot forward and keeping people on your site long enough to take the next action in the process of getting to know you and your business.
Before you move forward in trying to sell or educate, being clear in what you do is critical. The first thing someone should see, is your business’s definition.
Before scrolling down, include a statement that briefly and accurately describes your business
Look at the homepage for TREK bikes.
You’ll notice that there are rotating images of people on their many types of bikes, but more importantly, you’ll see the tag line “Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.” and then a very clear call to action “FIND A BIKE”. You know exactly what you are expected to do on their homepage, find a bike that you can ride so that you can enjoy your life in spandex shorts having fun and feeling good.
While an ambiguous headline can make someone dig deeper into your site, it could also increase your bounce rate if they don’t want to take the time to piece together what you do.
A great headline will answer the key question
What do you do?
In this example, it’s very clear: They sell bikes and you should buy one.
I would like to take this opportunity to be very open and honest about stock photos.
Your business in unique and, while stock photos are great on interior pages, your homepage should really distinguish you from your competition with custom imagery. Whether your industry is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, the relationship is always human-to-human.
Now you may enjoy camping or you don’t, but after viewing the images on the REI homepage you want the experience that these people are having.
When the images that you put on your website reflect the aspirational view of your visitors people will want to be a part of your brand. Project the happiness that a customer will feel after engaging with your brand. If after viewing your website they want to go buy a tent, pack up their dog, and take their Subaru to the mountains then you are winning — this is assuming you sell either tents, dogs, or Subarus.
Now that you’ve explained who you are and what you do and shown how happy people are after engaging in your brand, you need to show what the next steps are.
This is a great chance to use a tech superstar and advertising Goliath as an example.
Apple has two primary actions for their users: “Learn More” and “Buy”.
Apple offers twenty-seven products in more than 200 versions. Apple has also sold about 2 billion devices since the 2018 keynote event in September. Yes, their marketing is brilliant, but it’s a case when keeping it simple works. By not overwhelming people with all the options, it makes the showcased items easily digestible.
In the fifteen second window, you want people to take a look at your homepage and know that you can solve your problems. Presenting a compelling message with unique imagery and clear calls to action will encourage people to view your brand different from others out there and you will stand out amongst all the noise. Your homepage is how you make a great first impression.
With more than 50% of internet searches taking place on smart phones, having a responsive, mobile-friendly website or app is essential. When deciding which is right for your business, here are a few factors to consider.
While you can have both an app and a website, building a mobile-responsive website initially means you’ll reach the broadest number of people first. At Classic City Consulting, we recommend that everyone looking have a website that works on mobile devices.
Sometimes an app is what is needed, and building a proof-of-concept or minimum viable product as a website will get the most users the quickest. When it comes time to grow, don’t be afraid to dip your toes into custom app development to really let your product shine.
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When your website’s user experience is short of fantastic, your company risks losing potential customers to its lack of structure. If visitors are unaware of how to purchase products, send you an email, or learn how you can best serve their needs, they won’t engage with you. These are a few key areas that I see when looking through websites that come our way.
Navigation around your company’s website is critical to keeping potential customers on your site. A clean menu with essential page links will allow customers to properly react to calls to action. How do you ensure that your menu is doing everything it needs to do?
Stock images have their place. Original illustration or photography is not always within most small business’ budget. It makes sense to do the things you do well, which is run your company, and leave coming up with how to best represent it to the professionals.
When images are ambiguous or don’t match your brand, it makes it the worst offender on the list.
Just take a look at the images above. The middle image, for example, is a man holding a globe with uninformative icons in hexagons. Without explanation, this image does not communicate anything meaningful.
How do we fix this?
Remember when pop-ups ads littered the internet? Now we have even more types of “in your face” advertising than ever before. With exit-intent boxes, chat pop-ups, full screen take over ads, autoplay video ads, and more, people get bombarded with more ads than they have time to process.
Given the influx of new ad types – and the negative response from consumers – Google has started cracking down on getting rid of them. Using these CTAs is not a bad thing – if done in an appropriate fashion:
This isn’t the definitive list of problems that customers have, but this is a start. Take a look at your website and see if any of these issues are there.
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There are a lot of websites out there that look fantastic – there’s no question about that. With so many options, how do companies take a potential customer from “I’m just looking around” to “This company understands me – and I want to buy.” The difference between having a simple “brochure website” and one that constantly works for you is one where the design of the website is dictated by the content.
Knowing what content is going to get visitors to interact isn’t always clear. There isn’t a formula that will output well-written content for you. That’s where having a clear understanding of your business and your customers will help simplify your content goals.
If you are about to overhaul your company’s website, the design and creation of “Version 2” can be an exciting time. You and your employees have numerous ideas for improvements that you can’t wait to implement. But first, answer the simplest question:
What is the main goal of the business?
The goal here is to define your business in a short snippet that illustrates how you make a difference for your customers. This is what the content plan and site’s layout will be built around. This idea may be communicated in different ways across the website to connect with a variety of customers. To generalize, here are some well-known companies’ main goals to give you some ideas:
A well-defined business will provide you the direction needed to stand out in the marketplace.
Now that your core goal are clear, it’s time to figure out how you communicate your value to your customers. Your company isn’t just about the services or products you sell, it’s also about the problems that you solve. People want to buy from you because what you do makes their life better.
Let’s take a construction company – Bob’s Construction – as a quick example. Let’s keep their scope simple – Bob’s Construction build houses from the ground up and repairs current homes. They could have a list of Services on their website’s homepage to display all the different things they do:
Having that list is fantastic as it shows the breadth of what they do. However, it doesn’t make a connection with potential customers, and it doesn’t show how Bob’s Construction can solve their problems. They still have to figure out what they want and how to get in touch with you. What if Bob’s Construction phrased these in a way that made a connection with their potential customer and solved one of their pain points?
With these simple tweaks and helping to identify pain points, Bob’s Construction is now meeting people right where they are. Those who click on these links are now more qualified because they have identified with that problem and the call to action, or the “solution,” works alongside the content.
Now that your goals are defined, there is one last question to answer to help your website come to life.
What do you want to be known for?
If you want to be known for “Atlanta Homes”, then you shouldn’t be wasting your time putting content out there about plumbing in Nashville. That is rather farfetched, so let’s bring it to a micro level.
If you owned a wedding venue in downtown Atlanta, what are some key areas of your business that you want people to know about?
What you want to be known for will drive your website’s added-value content. These would be blogs, podcasts, and videos. This will ensure that you are focused and don’t lead your customers on tangents or discuss topics that are irrelevant.
Content is what connects you with your customers. It provides them with insight into your expertise and how you can bring your skillset to solve their problems. Designing a website with an established content plan will expand your customer base through well-thought out solutions.
There are some beautiful websites out there – and yours very well could be one of those. It is an immersive, engaging experience, pleasing to the eye and formatted well across different types of devices. Your developer tossed around terms like “UI” and “UX” during the design process for you to think more critically about your brand new website. Now that it’s live, customers should be buying even more of your products, right? You should be closing a lot of new deals, right?
User experience is the ability for a user or customer to be able to complete their intended action with ease and efficiency. Users expect a site to function in a particular manner. For example, when you head over to Amazon.com, you expect to be able to find items, add them to your cart, then checkout. If that three-step process wasn’t simple, Amazon would lose customers en mass. It’s the similarity between checkout on Amazon, Walmart, or Target that makes each site easy to use.
You have to lay out your site in a familiar structure that provides a clear path to all your customer’s end goals. Brand-consciousness can be communicated with styling (like font choice or color palette) to ensure people know it’s your business and not someone else’s. But the process of purchasing a product is the same everywhere: search, add, pay.
But, the issue here lies in the fact you have different types of customers that might take different routes to buy products. How on earth do you sell the same product to completely different people with varying needs and motivations? Can’t you just point people to your global Shop page and call it a day? No. People don’t want to to search to find the one thing they want – they want you to anticipate what they want.
Apple is a perfect example of this. As we all know, Apple sells lots of different products: laptops, desktops, phones, earbuds, tablets and much more. However, my needs as a business owner versus the needs of an elementary teacher are very different. If we’re shopping for a computer, both the teacher and I might buy the exact same laptop model, but how we made the choice to spend our money is not the same.
Apple has created two completely different landing pages for Business and Education. They are selling the same products but are talking about them differently. Separate landing pages address separate audiences. They are tailored to show off different aspects of the product that might be important from different perspective. In this case, they are talking to two different verticals of consumers, Business and Education. They have simultaneously expanded their audience and made each niche feel welcome.
You can do this too. First, define your main customers – boil it down to the basics: age, gender, occupation, and location. Figure out why these “buckets” of people visit your website and want to purchase. Record how each type of customer walks through the sales process and, voila! Now, convert that buying journey into a landing page. Good design will lead the targeted customer “bucket” to make the purchase.
Success boils down to content and process. You have to know how your users (i.e. customers) think. Know their motivations and objections. Know the steps that contribute to their buying decision (process), and provide the right info to overcome their objections (content).
If you do the hard work to learn your consumers, then your site can use layout design, text, and images (i.e. UX) to successfully land sales. The goal is to make a crystal clear path of the actions for your user. If it’s filling out a contact form, don’t bury it at the bottom of the page. If you want people to call you, make sure your phone number is in a high-visibility place. (As a bonus, get a special phone number so you know who is calling from the website versus who is calling from your business card). If you want people to buy a product, collect all the relevant details into a single view.
The term User Experience says it all: created by you, for the customer, with clear design to compel action.
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Responsiveness refers to a website’s ability to expand and collapse depending on the size of the screen it is displayed on. This will be a vital concept in web design as mobile devices claim an ever increasing share of internet use. Consider a site you visit frequently. When you are on a mobile device, it shrinks down and likely shows only carefully chosen information deemed most important. When you view it on a desktop, much more content is shown and it is laid out appropriately to fill a larger space, rather than simply displaying a larger version of the same layout.
In April 2015, Google reinforced the importance of responsiveness by rolling out what they called their “mobile-friendly update.” Their new algorithm boosts the visibility of sites with mobile versions, which in turn decreases the relative ranking of sites that do not have mobile counterparts. Developers heard this loud and clear. The world’s most powerful web company solidified mobile design as a necessary part of the future of the internet.
We discussed user experience (UX) in a recent post. It is vital to note that a responsive site does not necessarily ensure that users are experiencing your website in the most efficient way possible. Great UX must be maintained within a responsive site. Your users will visit your site with the expectation that they can easily find certain information and take certain actions. If they can’t quickly find what they need, they will go elsewhere and not return.
As mobile devices have become so prevalent, development firms have trended toward “mobile first” design. Since smartphones and other handheld devices are the smallest screens websites are viewed on, they are the platform where space is most valuable. Firms assess what content is most important and design for mobile devices with those priorities in mind. They then move on to the bigger screens with a clear focus on the most vital information.
Going in increasing order of screen size allows developers to isolate the core functions of a website and work from there rather than having to come up with items to remove while collapsing to a mobile site. Look for this trend of mobile first design to continue as responsiveness remains a priority in web development.
User experience (UX) can quietly make or break a website. UX refers not to how a site looks, but how it functions for a user. A beautiful site will initially catch a visitor’s eye, but doesn’t guarantee the outcomes a website exists to create. Once your business or application has someone’s attention, it should guide them through interacting with the site easily and smoothly. Through retaining user attention and facilitating desired actions, a site that is easy to navigate simply produces better results.
Responsiveness and user experience are not the same thing, but they should work together in a well designed website. Responsiveness, which we will discuss further in the coming weeks, refers to a site’s ability to operate effectively and attractively across various devices, from the biggest monitor to the smallest smartphone. Good UX must hold up across devices. For designers, this means ensuring that important buttons and desired actions are placed well on all platforms. There is a trend toward “mobile first” design, since the limited space of a mobile device necessitates such intentional prioritization. Regardless of where you begin your design process, a website’s effectiveness hinges on its ease of use on all devices.
User experience is not about keeping up with current design trends. Remaining trendy and relevant is important, but UX should never suffer because of efforts to modernize. We recommend that highly visible businesses experiment with new designs about once a year and completely overhaul their look every two years. However, UX must remain consistently strong to ensure that customers can easily interact with the site after any changes are made. Your customers should never have to figure out how to make a purchase. They should be guided through it by an intuitive experience.
Well defined calls to action are not exactly what we mean by UX. UX is about how your site executes its calls to action and facilitates the user’s interaction with your business. Amazon is a great example of this. We all know what Amazon wants its visitors to do – make a purchase and do it now. But notice how easy that make it for a user to comply. Their site prominently invites you to “add to cart” as soon as you are looking at a product. Amazon would never expect their users to fumble around to figure out how to send them money, and neither should you. Once your user is interested in answering your call to action, make sure they have an easy time doing so!
Great functionality requires some planning, but intentionally setting up your site to further your goals is essential. Don’t waste your time and money on a site that doesn’t optimize your visibility and sales. Invest in excellent UX early to get the most out of each user’s visit. You’ll see the results in repeat traffic and in your desired outcomes.