Website design journey tips
We started at Station10 only two months ago, and almost immediately, we were given the task of redesigning, and rebuilding, the web site. And we had that moment of panic that you get at the start of an important new project.
But after the panic came the calm, then the research started and we focused on our tasks and enjoyed it! In today’s digital world, whatever your business, your website is one of the most important assets you have; indeed, as many retailers are finding out, digital is more important than your real estate – the greater the emphasis you have on digital, the less you have to worry about expensive rental overheads.
So, it’s important to stand out online and make it easy and accessible to users or customers that need to find a solution or service to their problems. We know you know that, but we thought it might be interesting to share some of our experiences, particularly in terms of what you might want to measure in relation to your new web site.
1. Start with the end in mind
We always start any project (whether it’s our own web site, or a new client project) by identifying the main objective - the goal, what do you want to achieve? Simply saying “we want a better website” is not enough.
- Firstly, find out the primary function for your website e.g. improved lead conversation rate, increased awareness, improved customer satisfaction or simplify and optimise content updates and management, and design your website having this in mind.
- Then put yourself in the shoes of someone that visits your website and ask the question, what do they need to know or learn from you? By answering their questions you will help achieve your own goal.
- In terms of tracking, if you base your website routing using different URLs for ‘thank you’ pages at the end of the destination goal then you will help yourself to make conversion tracking very easy. If not, then you will have to use event tracking which requires programming, takes more time to implement and debug whilst spending more money and resources on developers.
One other handy tip is thinking about annoying websites you have visited and make sure that your website avoids these mistakes. It can be a powerful strategic planning technique to identify what you would need to do to achieve the opposite of your desired end-result. There is so much to think about it but remember web design is a process that keeps developing, it is not a project that has a start and end date. There will always be phase 2, 3, 4 or more.
2. Focus on the user and what they want to do
Analyse when a user lands on your home page, is it clear to know what to do next? You might think this is an obvious statement, but it is worryingly common. We have encountered numerous websites that are poorly written and don’t have a call to action or ask people to click around from the home page.
Your navigation should be clear enough to show your visitors what the next step to take is; it could be subscribing to your newsletter or blog, getting a free demo, watching a video or any action you need and hope your users will complete on your website. Having in mind how you want your visitors to flow on your site will help you to create the perfect navigation bar and to plan the flow of the click around. A well-thought out and designed website is important to have as this will help to build trust, communicate your values and ensure your user completes the tasks you want them to do and ultimately contacts you or makes a purchase.
3. Identify your Audience
You need to clarify your target audience in order to tailor the user journey explicitly for them. The best approach would be to think and act as your future customer would, see with their eyes and act like they would do. Adjust your thinking to this state.
This is particularly important in driving visitors to your website in the first place, but also to allow them to continue any experience they may have had with your brand off-site. If you have been doing any digital advertising, it’s important to help your visitors to continue that journey.
This will be particularly significant as data privacy laws start to change the way in which you communicate with customers, and if you create a better experience for customers and prospects alike, they will be more responsive to receiving communications from you.
Apart from anything else, though, it’s just good practice. How many times have you found yourself on a website trying to locate information and ended up going back and forth with no results and finally bouncing to somewhere else. That is exactly the kind of the journey you definitely don’t want your audience to go through.
For instance, make sure the most important information for your audience is no more than 3 clicks away after landing on a webpage.
4. Check Loading Speed
Another very important factor which affects your site performance is the loading speed of your pages. It’s all very well having high resolution pictures, banners and videos on your website; however, you need to check the loading times. High resolution images and videos require more time to load and as the speed of the internet constantly increases, there is a greater demand on site speed.
And this is at a time when visitors have less patience, so if it takes too long, they will simply switch off. We have already seen a significant increase in our site loading speed since our new launch, just by changing a few things at the back end.
From a measurement point of view, this is also an important element to track, although a surprisingly large number of companies, including enterprise level organisations, don’t do this properly. Often, site speed and hosting is the responsibility of IT. So, while the information is recorded, it may not be linked to the customer experience; as it is regarded as a purely technical area. However, unless you link this information to actual customer experience and behaviour, you are not seeing your experience from your customers’ viewpoint, and will miss this. It takes a bit more of an effort to link these two, but we have seen this make a huge difference for clients in conversion rate performance when managed properly.
Content is one of the main and consuming resource tasks, but it is crucial and of upmost importance as your content will be the one that will help you drive traffic to your website and at the end increase sales. By content, I mean text, images, videos, links and other interactive tools.
Align all your content with your brand values and tone of voice. Remember it is not about quantity; it is all about quality as you are fighting for the attention of your visitors and site visits are normally short. When you are creating the content for your website always consider “why” am I doing this? The creation process of your web story should always start and end with the why, the primary function.
6. Test - Optimisation
Before going live, test, test, test and keep testing! You should ensure your website is spot on and text, images, links, navigation buttons all work perfectly. All functionalities should work correctly. From experience, we know after looking and looking and trying and trying the same thing again and again you can still miss little things, so ask other colleagues to help you with the testing, to proof read your text and check all your content and functionalities.
Check your contact forms are sending and you are receiving the emails; also does your website work in all internet browsers, mobile devices and tablets? Check loading time; it can hurt your SEO as Google ranks go down if your loading pages are slow, so optimise your images to improve loading time. When adding or removing pages it is easy to break existing URL’s, be sure all links go where they mean to go. Check all social media and third party items are connected to the relevant account. Ensure your team are communicating well with each other during this process, in all directions – the development team should have as powerful a voice as marketing, or the key business stakeholders, as they are closest to how your site has been built.
We love checklists! Before launching your new sparkling website build a checklist to double-check every aspect of it: proof reading done, format (headers, sub headers, body..) working, links are working, social media accounts connect, sign up buttons working, contact us form working, images are optimise and tag, analytics are set up, the list go on so check every aspect of your website, having a detail check will lead you to have a high quality website.
Once you are ready to go live and communicate with the wider world, think how to link your existing content with your killer new website and keep your current audience engaged while also engaging future visitors and potential clients. A few things you can do in the pre-launch phase on social media include a countdown of how many days for your new website to launch or including a message in your monthly newsletter. You just need to keep guiding your visitors to your new site. Get the word out!
Hopefully all these tips, recommendations and ideas will help you as you focus on the process of building your new website (or updating your current one). Best of luck and if you need extra advice don’t hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be a pleasure to answer any questions you might have.