(modified post from Aug 31, 2015) We naturally gravitate to good design. We notice the light, color, texture, movement, visual message. All this captured in an instant.
The web design, along with the images and graphics, provides a fast overview about a particular topic. Once the visual has gotten our attention we are likely to seek more information and dig deeper into the content.
And this last point is key — capturing our attention quickly with visual, quality content so we’ll want to find out more.
Images and graphics provide a fast overview about a particular topic. Once the content has gotten our attention we are likely to seek more information. (For this reason infographics are some of the most popular images on the web.)
Engaging the user is what all organizations want, it’s at the heart of a website and will lead to accomplishing your online goals and conversions.
Yet many organizations design their websites in a bifurcated manner. What I’ve heard most 1) I want a terrific design like this; and then 2) can we make it do something.
Often the look and feel comes first — and why not, it is the first thing we notice when we come to a website — images and design matter, the visual content.
But often organizations disjoin the web design from the development process in three ways. Listed below are these three mistakes — and tips about how to avoid them.
1) Some organizations say, “Hey, I like this look and layout, let’s use this.” And they try to fit their content in. When the time comes to update the content – the core of their message is lost.
Instead, organizations should start with a site map (not an HTML “Sitemap” created after site is built), but a sketch of all the web pages needed and why. What’s the message of each page, how to keep it at the top, what is static information and what will be regularly updated and where does it go?
Who will be responsible for each section and each page when time comes to update and archive.
While concentrating on message for each page — keep each page consistent in layout – some pages will deviate as necessary, but continue a similar layout, look and feel so not to confuse the user who has been navigating your site and is expecting to see, say, the navigation (or other image or page marker) at top left for quick reference.
2) Organizations usually have tons of content — newsletters, public news announcements, product descriptions , reviews, polls, research data, etc. — but they don’t allow for the right layout to make this content easily readable and accessible.
Organize long articles into sections. Use introductions and overviews to start an article, or an outline of sections or chapters.
Use functionality to present sections of content or to deliver relevant content as needed. Watch for length of lines, color contrast.
Use graphical elements like rules, bullets, pull-outs for highlighted portion of important content. Shade sections that contain auxiliary information or place it in a sidebar.
Use images as much as possible and is appropriate. Highlight one main image and keep other images consistent in size and style in order to show the logical flow of information.
Use captions with your images — this bit is very important to keep the reader engaged. Captions should clearly relate to the topic and section in which the image is placed.
3) How many businesses have been guilty of these notions… “No I’ll think about a blog later, maybe; I just want to get this website up for now.”
Or, “We’ll just start a Facebook account now and when we have specials we’ll post to it. That will get us started.”
And this one, “No time to think about tweeting either, but we’ll just auto set our blog to twitter, when the time comes for the blog.”
Planning your website has a dramatic effect on the design of the pages and how it functions. If a blog, social media strategy, or other web strategy isn’t part of your new website plan, you’ll have a hard time integrating these strategies after completion of your website.
Blogs often are micro-sites located off the main website. But however your blog is developed, understanding the topics you’ll discuss within your blog affects how you’ll structure your content within the website. How will the content on your website integrate and dovetail into a blog post? Making these relationships work increases time spent on your site.
Utilizing a social media strategy
If you’re going to drive traffic to your site from any source, social media, SEO, or traditional marketing, you’ll need landing pages. When providing links on external sites, especially social media, you send users to a landing page that’s consistent to the message specific to that marketing effort. Otherwise, you lose your audience if they don’t see what they expected to find in the first place.
A landing page addresses specifically the topic of the external link, drives the user to find out more, and better compels them to take action.
Research has found that developing landing pages increases conversions more so than sending users from an external link to a page that generally address the topic of the link — or worse yet, takes the user to a page where they have to search through the layout to find the particular topic that made them click your link to begin with.
Knowing how to handle this traffic and planning during the web development process greatly increases the success of your website. You may not be ready to start a web strategy, but do discuss with your web developer your ideas of what you think will work and what you’ve seen that you believe works. Set up a simple strategy to phase in at a later time while you’re in the process of developing your new website. Then when you are ready to engage a web strategy, you’ll be set to move forward and not to backtrack, saving you time and money.
Published by Cindy Barnard, freelance writer, dba CCB Creative
I mold my approach to art and the written word by observing the light and seeking out information, by following color, form, time, and sources. I'm continually learning new ways of working and reminding myself to pay attention to the sights and sounds, and to always take notes.