If you are a business owner or marketing professional, you understand the importance of having a great website. Having an attractive, well-written company website will not only keep potential customers on your site longer, but will increase your chances of converting them to paying customers.
But what exactly constitutes a great website design and what steps do you take to ensure you get one?
The anatomy of a great business website.
If you’ve started doing research about what you want in your website, you’ve most likely started looking at competitor sites, design inspiration blogs, and other sources. Though you can’t quite put your finger on it, you know a well done website design when you see it. When it comes to design aesthetic, there’s no right or wrong answer. However, there are definitely specific elements in a website that make it amazing and most of it has nothing to do with the pretty pictures on the page.
So, what key elements make for a well done website? Here’s the short list:
- Well thought out, relevant content that’s easy to find and access.
- An intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Think easy navigability.
- Clean website design that supports and highlights the content, not overshadows or hides it.
- Optimized site code that takes into consideration page load times and user experience.
Now that you know what your site needs to be top-notch, there’s just the small matter of making all these things come to fruition.
There are a few things you need to consider before searching for a web designer and a web developer to get your dream site up and running, however.
1. Figure out your budget.
Working out your budget before you do anything else will help you keep a better perspective on what you’ll get for your money. Your website design needs can vary from a simple brochure site to a more complex site that is borderline web app. The below ranges are a rough estimate of what you can expect. Like with anything else in life, you get what you pay for—so be sure to scrutinize design and build estimates carefully.
If you find yourself with a small budget ($0-$5,000), you’ll have to manage your expectations for bells-and-whistles, including custom design. Your best bet here is to run your site off of a pre-designed template that can easily be installed through WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or some other free and open-source content management system (CMS). There’s no shame in using a pre-designed template, and there are thousands to choose from. With a budget on the higher-end of this range, you can hire a web designer and/0r a developer to make some customizations to the design or functionality of the template you choose. As for the copy and content development of your site, this will be left on your plate to do.
With a medium-sized budget ($5,000-$15,000), you can expect to get a custom designed website with custom code development. However, this is an assumption based on a limited number of pages that don’t require any complex functionality. If you have a very complex eCommerce site or require a lot of custom functionality, most of your money will go towards development. This won’t leave much for copywriting and design.
Large budgets ($15,000+) will open the door to even more services to get your website into fighting shape. With a larger budget, you can expect custom design, copywriting, and web development—plus additional services like information architecture planning, interaction design and SEO services. The benefits of these three additional services are astronomical.
Information architecture is the content planning around your site. This includes the organization of your content by pages and site structure, otherwise known as a site map. It also includes the planning of your content layout in a pre-design phase called wireframing. Wireframes contain little to no design elements, but show you where copy, call-to-actions, and other forms of content will appear on your site pages. This ensures proper information flow and easy access to necessary information your users are searching for.
Interaction design, also known as usability or user experience design, does more than make your site pretty. It makes your website easy to use. An interaction designer will ensure your navigation is easy to follow, actions make sense to your common user, and processes are easy to complete. Shouldn’t a web designer do this? Well, a web designer will have a basic understanding of these principals but won’t be as experienced with this. Interaction design tends to be more technical and less visual.
SEO services are something every business owner is at least familiar with. SEO is how your users will find you. It’s important to have an SEO specialist on board with your website project in the early stages because they can provide insight and wisdom to get your business ranked in search engines better and faster. They can also help you develop your list of keywords relevant to your industry before your copywriter starts working. This will make integrating organic search terms into your site copy much easier, plus sound more natural (which search engine bots look for).
2. Write your site requirements.
After settling on your budget, writing down your site requirements will either validate it or indicate you need to reconsider it more carefully. But more importantly, putting down your site requirements in a single document will help keep your team all on the same page—meaning less revisions, less time used, and less money spent.
In your site requirements document, be sure to put down everything you want. This includes dynamic forms, integration with third-party vendors (like Salesforce, Marketo, MailChimp, PayPal, etc.), shopping carts, single-sign-on integrations, social features, content sharing, and anything else you can think of. Whatever your marketing team needs or wants, write it down!
3. Determine your target audience.
This will be key in helping your web designer and copywriter. Both of these specialists will tailor their work to appeal to your target demographic. This will also help you further on down the line when you develop marketing plans. You’ll want to create something called a persona. A persona is a short document that describes the personality, goals, and unique problems of a made-up person that fits within your target demographic. Typically, you’ll want to do a few of these to create a well-balanced view of your target audience.
4. Write a creative brief.
A creative brief is a short document that spells out your goals, your target audience details, your budget, your design preferences and dislikes, the mood and messaging of your website, plus more relevant info for your web designer. Your designer will use this document t0 ensure your website design meets all of your project goals and needs while also meeting your specific design aesthetic.
Armed with a budget, site requirements, personas, and a creative brief, you’re now ready to approach the various service vendors needed to make your website design happen. Choosing the right consultants will be your next challenge and possibly your most critical.
In subsequent posts, I’ll be detailing out how to select an information architect, web designer, web developer, and SEO specialist. I’ll also discuss all the processes associated with each specialist, as well as what order the processes need to occur to ensure a quick, smooth site launch.
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