What Makes Great Web Design?
How to Build Your Website Design Strategy
The Cycle of Constant Improvement
What Makes Great Web Design?
While eye-catching graphic design is wonderful, good visual design alone will not make your website great. Start by asking yourself: what is the website’s function? What job does it perform for my business?
While the look and feel of your website do reflect your company image, you’re not going to spend all this time and money developing a website just so your online presence looks good.
In the vast majority of cases, what companies want from their web page is to get a lot of site visitors, and to have those visitors turn into customers, either shopping in your online store or contacting your office to make an appointment. What you want from your website is traffic, and more importantly, leads and sales - this is known as “conversion”.
A website’s conversion rate is calculated with a simple formula:
Contacts / Sessions = Conversion Rate
The benchmark is 2%, meaning that on average, a website that gets 1000 individual sessions a month should bring you 20 leads. Less than this, and your website is underperforming - and it makes no difference how good it looks.
What’s Wrong with the Web Design Process?
Web development is as complex as any other major development process: planning is required both in terms of looks and inner structure. Resources must be deployed and managed, timelines and deadlines are indispensable, and there must be a very clear set of quality benchmarks so you know your final product is up to par.
Let’s go over the various requirements for a really effective website design and development, keeping in mind what the real purpose of the website is: bringing in sales, customers, or leads.
The Right Team
Many companies leave the website to the graphic designer, hoping for attractive design elements and an easy to read website. Others make it the IT department’s responsibility, expecting a high-quality user experience, flashy animations, and interaction.
Neither is the right way to go about it.
A business website’s main role is marketing, followed closely by sales, and these teams should be involved in the design and development of the company website. It takes a cross-functional team to create a really effective business website that converts.
The Launch Timeline
Website launches are never on time, and very rarely on budget. If a website is planned as a giant project with a big launch in the end, you will go without a website for months (usually 4-8 months, plus whatever delays happen along the way).
If there are changes to your products, messaging, or even changes in the market and the world (think of COVID and what it did to the economy in a matter of weeks) you will have the choice to redesign everything or just ignore the changes and launch an already outdated website.
The process will be so exhausting for everyone, your website will then stay there, static, without an update for months or even years.
The “traditional” approach to website design is definitely not the one we would recommend - and we have years of experience in digital marketing and know a thing or two about good website design.
Approaching a website design as a design-IT project to be completed as quickly as possible will give you a site that maybe suits your taste, but that never took into account the most important visitors and users - your customers. If you remember the website is supposed to be an internet marketing tool to bring you sales and leads, you will understand why it must be built with the customers in mind first and foremost.
How to Build Your Website Design Strategy
Building a good website is not just drag and drop, simple and easy, add some call to action buttons and done! If you want an effective website page that attracts customers and increases business, you must start with clear goals and ideas, and plan carefully before you design a single landing page.
The first thing that needs to change is your mindset regarding a business website design, so let’s dive into that first.
Develop a Growth-Driven Design Mindset
When you think of your website, don’t think of a finished asset that you can just ignore until it’s time to update it again. Think of it as a living project, always evolving, and always focused on growth.
Focus on Real-Time Impact
You don’t need to wait 6 months to launch a full website - you can start with a great landing page and start making money from it much sooner. Prioritize what you can do now vs your dream website, and work in small incremental changes, in a more agile sprint-like process that allows you to start reaping the benefits of a new website quickly, and then keep adding to it.
Continuously Learn and Improve
A huge advantage of working on your website in small, continuous increments is that you can adapt on the go, and use the behavior of your website visitors to inform decisions for the next pages your website builder will tackle.
For example, one time we were helping a client build a website and we took a dive into Google Analytics’s affinity categories report. We discovered that visitors to the website had an affinity for Pets. We used this data to create a “pets of the business” social media campaign that resulted in overall higher engagement and - you guessed it - more leads and sales.
Inform the Other Aspects of the Business
As a marketing endeavor, the design and development of the website can uncover valuable information for the rest of the business. Here’s another anecdote: we were working with a roofing and construction company, and we were watching Google trends and searches on their behalf. There we found that searches for “metal roofs” were increasing month over month. I shared this with the rest of the business, and it started a conversation about an area for possible growth and expansion.
We never tire of saying this: what you learn from your website traffic can guide other aspects of the business.
Define Your Goals
let's talk about conversion rate optimization, or what makes your website earn its keep. Keep in mind that your website has a clear purpose: bringing in business. How much business would you like to bring in? Set goals so you know what to work towards.
Start at the End & Work Backwards
Remember the conversion rate formula we mentioned earlier. How many leads would you like your website to generate each month? 20? Use the 2% conversion rate benchmark and identify how many sessions you would need to get there.
20 / sessions = 2% ► You will need about 1,000 visitors a month to get 20 solid leads
Know Your Channels
Now that you have an idea of how many people you want to see your website, think about how to make it happen. Email marketing? Organic traffic through search engine optimization? Paid ads? Social media?
They will all convert a little differently, so you need to know what you count on now, and how you expect that to change. You don’t need to figure everything out just yet, but be sure you know your website traffic sources, and identify the right person on your team to help you generate and increase that traffic.
Identify Your Personas
Since the main goal of your website is to attract clients and business, you need to know who you are making your website for. This is where marketing personas become super useful.
A marketing persona is not a demographic, as in “20-40 years old, college-educated, female, works in the fashion industry.” A persona really tries to understand the person, their interests, and motivations, so you can cater to them. We have written several pieces about how to craft marketing personas to help you guide your marketing efforts.
A persona goes beyond the demographic: Do they like dogs or cats? What is motivating them? How are they ending up on your website? Do they visit you on a mobile or a computer?
You may have carried out a market research before, trying to find out how much demand there can be for a specific product or service and how popular it could be. User research is very different: it focuses on the people who might buy that product, and through interviews, surveys, and observation it aims to determine those people’s motivations and real pain points.
While market research is vital when developing a new product, user research is the one you need to carry out when designing and developing your website.
Know Your History
You have your goals clear, right? How many leads you want, and how many visitors you need.
You also have a clear idea of who you’re talking to and trying to attract and convert into a customer, via your marketing personas.
Good. Now let’s take stock of where you are right now, so we can plan how to get you from here to there.
Do a Website Audit
A website audit focuses on how well your site is performing for search engines and gives you a list of suggestions for changes you can make to improve your SEO. This is often done using a mix of artificial intelligence and human skill. If you don’t know the first thing about how to read a website audit, you might want to hire an expert to help you understand it and take the necessary actions.
Do a Content Audit
You may be getting a new website, but your old one probably has lots of content. A content audit will list and classify all of your existing content, decide which pieces of content are most valuable, and help you strategize future content creation to fill current gaps.
Do an Analytics Audit
This is a very valuable audit, that will not only guide your website redesign but also may throw valuable information for other areas of your company. Here you will learn about who is visiting your page, where they come from, what content they are viewing, and what actions are they taking. Based on this you can make better decisions regarding the future of your website.
Begin Charting Your Path
At this point, you should have enough information to start planning your website.
Start by listing your main guidelines:
The value proposition for every product or service, as it relates to your personas.
The devices your clients will use to access your website: will it be more phone traffic or laptop traffic? You know this from your analytics.
What information are your customers looking for? Price? Specs? Use cases?
Overall Website Strategy
Here you need to define your website funnel. You know about the sales/marketing funnel, which helps you visualize the process which attracts and converts customers, from the first contact to an eventual sale. Steps in a website funnel can be to sign up for a mailing list, attending a webinar, downloading a guide or an ebook, for example.
Think carefully about your products or services. What do you have to offer? How will you let users know about this offering? There are many options: Blog posts, videos, downloadable materials, mailing lists… if you understand your personas, you will be able to accurately decide what they prefer, and add it to your website funnel.
Page by Page Strategy
Once you have a general strategy and a plan for your funnel, start planning each page. We recommend creating a spreadsheet that lists:
Goal (what action do you want the user to take)
Purpose (how this page fits into your larger website)
Content (value proposition, key evidence that can form a part of this page)
Create a Website Wish List
Remember: you’re not building an entire website in one fell swoop, you are building the most important pages and using them to learn and improve future pages.
This is why it is so important to brainstorm and dream away, and to have a wish list to select your next few projects from. Imagine for a moment that you have all the resources in the world. What would you do to the website?
Prioritize the list of future pages, and don’t forget to adjust your priorities depending on changes in the market or information you glean from your existing pages.
Build the Website
To start, we recommend focusing on the 20% of pages that will bring 80% of the value to your customers (some call this a Launchpad website). This means an effective homepage and perhaps some important product pages, it all depends on what you have found out about your clients’ needs and motivations.
That starting 20% can be built very quickly to give you a working website, to which you will continue to add every month. No months-long project to deliver an outdated website: get started with the basics, and keep working in sprints, adjusting and evolving as you learn more.
A very important part of developing your core website is to have clear goals and quality benchmarks, as well as the tools to analyze how well your site is performing.
The Cycle of Constant Improvement
Once you have launched the core of your website, you’re going to start repeating a cycle of planning and improving for the next 10 months or so.
Plan: from your prioritized wishlist, choose the next few pages to develop, based on your personas and the performance and information gleaned from your existing pages
Build: follow an organized development system, from content and UX to testing and QA.
Learn: gather analytics from old and new pages and take the time to really understand them. What is working? What isn’t? Are clients asking for something different from what you offer? Did a particular blog perform exceptionally well? How can you make the most of it?
Transfer: this is where you share your findings with the rest of your organization, so they can benefit from the information. Maybe you discovered your customers value social proof over authority (or the other way round) - share this with sales and marketing so they can leverage this info to enhance their performance.
How Do You Know What To Focus on First?
The Growth-Driven Design hierarchy is pictured below: all the many aspects consideration, and their relative value. Long story short, focus on traffic first, and conversion second. You need a fair amount of traffic so you can experiment and test your theories to enhance conversion.
Web Design with Bridges is Different
A website redesign does not have to be painful or run over budget. Try the Growth-Driven Design approach - we have been having great results and creating successful websites for our customers for years.
We can build your website for a flat fee, and have your new Launchpad site up and running in as little as 6 weeks, after which we will start a continuous improvement cycle.