To map out the path to positive impact from website design, one must first answer the question: What is the purpose of a website?
Ask 20 business owners and marketers, you’re likely to get 20 different answers:
- “Our website is for branding”
- “Our company needs an online presence”
- “We have to have one”
- “We need one to get friends on Facebook”
However, a website exists for a specific purpose and most of the time that purpose is to create opportunity.
Websites Should Generate Leads
Whether the organization is a nonprofit or a for-profit business, the website should connect those that need your services to the services they need.
It isn’t an “online brochure,” but a system that gives visitors enough information about your company and services to encourage them to reach out to the company and further engage with it.
It exists to be the last stop before a prospect gives you their identity and then makes the move to do business with you.
A well-designed website includes four pillars: SEO, Content, User Experience, and Lead Generation/Sales Funnel. The accomplishment of those four pillars is done via the execution of 5 key points. These 5 points are so important that without them, the website is likely to produce nothing of value and, in fact, will be a drain on a company’s valuable resources.
Building a Website That Creates Opportunity
These 5 steps are required during the process of any website build, in this sequence:
- Strategy and Planning
- Custom Content
- Website Design to Bring Strategy to Life
While this list is simple, correct sequence is terrifically important. A website that is built out of sequence will be a black hole for time and money, with no result.
The easiest way to get these steps done is to assign a pro in each of these points 1-5 and let them work on their area of expertise.
I’ll dive in on each of these below.
Website Research is Marketing Research
Most website design firms let the client control the direction of the website, right down to design and copy. This is a grave mistake because most small business clients are not themselves marketing professionals.
Terrific examples of website design and copy gone awry can be found on most dental websites. If designed and/or written by the dentist, the sites will list numerous procedures performed and describe them in nearly clinical terms.
The dentist forgets that his clients aren’t other dentists – they’re laymen who have something that they want to address – they have tooth pain, or they want whiter teeth, or some other desire.
They don’t want to learn about procedures. They want to know – “Can my teeth be whiter?” “Can you make my tooth stop hurting?” “Are you a gentle dentist with empathy or will I be in pain for days?”
Therefore, market research is an essential part of building an effective website and the results of this research impact every aspect of the website build.
The targets for this research include:
- The intended customers and prospects
- Open ended questions about them, their business and their products and services
- The marketplace
- Who buys these products and services? Who is the ideal client?
- The competition
- What are they not doing well that can position this website and business to dominate?
- Google search volume for potential keywords
- This is where we find what keywords to include in the all important SEO titles discussed later on.
Website Strategy and Planning Follows Research
An effective website draws visitors who need a company’s service, brings about an awareness of the problem they are trying to solve, provides a clear solution to the problem, increases the visitors’ confidence that this company will provide good service, then convinces them to further interact with the company.
Website strategy uses the market research in step one to work out how to accomplish this sequence. This is where bright ideas come to play. This is where the user experience is actually mapped, based on what we want that visitor to actually do.
Strategy done without research is out-sequence and will miss the mark.
This aspect of the website development process should be market driven. It should never be client driven. These questions are often a waste of time:
- What pages do you want on your website?
- What color do you think it should be?
- What should the menu items be?
The correct questions to ask are answered through research and mapped out during strategy and planning. If a digital marketing company is executing your website, they won’t ask you these questions. If you have selected someone that is solely a website designer, they might. This is because digital marketing and website design are different disciplines. Appropriate questions during research would include:
- Why are you passionate about your business?
- Why do your customers keep coming back?
- Which service or product are you most interested in promoting?
The differentiation between a website designer and a digital marketer is in the research and strategy of a site. A digital marketer will do the research to determine what pages are needed. You may think of more for your site, and that’s great – it simply isn’t step one.
If you hate the strategy for the website, you should first ask the digital marketing firm you hired to explain their research and findings more thoroughly. You’ll know soon enough if this is simply a matter of adjusting the strategy, or if there is too big a difference in viewpoint to continue working together.
At the end of the day, most of us appreciate being being guided through such a complicated process.
Here now is where you put together your sitemap, with keywords by page, and SEO Titles by page. With this in place, which can be a simple spreadsheet, you have the backbone of your website planned out in its most basic form.
Website Content – Google Reads Everything
The content for a website should be based upon the research, strategy and planning done to ensure the website is successful. You’ll notice the example of questions above would be music to the ears of any copywriter – they are the questions which enable content to flow.
Client generated content is rarely appropriate for a website. There are rare times a client has a copywriter, or is a writer, or who is a marketer themselves. However, most client content speaks over the heads of typical new visitors and does a poor job of selling. Even technical or specialized copy should be edited to ensure it includes understandable benefits, features, and appropriate calls to action.
We see this happen a lot in the marketplace: websites often go overdue and take months because the client delays the project by not providing content. Whenever possible pair up with great copywriters, or firms which have copywriters.
Content also plays an important part in your overall search engine optimization strategy – which is crucial to effective digital marketing. Every page should have at least 300 words. And every page should have a preset SEO title which contains the keywords most germane to that page. Those keywords are decided during the research phase, and placed with appropriate pages during the strategy and planning phase. As recommended, a simple spreadsheet can be compiled of which words go with which page, and what SEO title it pairs up with.
Never fall for the idea that people don’t read anymore. This is false. If they don’t read the website content, it is poorly organized or written over their heads.
And from an SEO perspective, Google reads every single word you write – and indexes them along with your website.
Website Design – So Important It Could Wait
The design of the website must follow from the strategy. While content and design can be done concurrently, the design should never be started prior to research, strategy and planning. The form should follow the function. I love great design; however, Ogilvy spoke the truth when he said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”
Design guides visitors through the site to a conversion. It isn’t unique graphics and Jony Ive mimicked white space. Great design gets a result and it is built to ensure the visitor can get where they need to go.
The strategy team should always review design and ensure the goals of the website are being accomplished.
Website Development and Programming
Here we are talking about the nuts and bolts of putting it all together. A great website usually doesn’t have a custom content management system. WordPress works great, and there are some others as well. Custom systems are risky, if only because it can be nearly impossible to get inexpensive edits done – especially if the developer stops working with the company and someone else needs to take it over.
It is important that the website is built using HTML5 – meaning it is built with modern programming standards and a totally responsive (mobile-friendly website) design.
A website development project with poor project management is a year-long project waiting to happen. Break the project into chunks and make sure each portion is managed to completion.
Launching a New Website
A few steps we see missed a lot, which can improve the new website:
- If this website replaces another one, be sure that the links from the old site now point to the correct places on your new site
- Submit the website to Google Search console
- Create a content strategy and keep adding to your website (Google loves this.)
Things to Avoid and Common Pitfalls
- Sending visitors away from the website and over to a Facebook page or other social media site. Or worse, sending visitors to other websites altogether. (Traffic should flow to a website, not away from it.)
- Not including calls to action on the pages of a site or within the blog template.
- Forgetting to link to your products and services pages within the blog.
- Making a contact form that is too vanilla – express some interest and get some real information about the prospect.
- Not testing the site on both mobile and desktop – this happens far too often.
- Using fonts that are too thin and hard to read.
- Letting perfect become the enemy of good enough – yes we want perfect, yet we don’t want indecision to cripple us.
- Going deeper than everything in this article prior to implementing everything in this article. Start here, get it all done and then go out and learn deeper tactics and tools, these are the basics you need to succeed!
We offer a website analysis service to those serious about increasing results from their digital marketing efforts.