When searching for an agency to create a website for your business, it can be challenging knowing which companies create great websites, and which will create you a website that will detract from your brand. There are many different types of website design firms and each have their benefits and draw backs.
If choosing your website design firm is going to be based on the lowest bid, then you will probably not get a best in class website. When choosing a firm I would suggest talking to them about the following items to ensure each will be included in your website design project.
Strategy and Planning
During the planning stage of your best in class website design it’s important to define the strategic approach for the website. Doing the upfront work in this stage will help the remaining stages go smoother and stay on task.
The strategic approach should cover topics such as:
- The website’s purpose
- Goals and Success Factors
- Website management and governance
- Target personas
- Which content management system will be used
When designing a website it is important to dive into your competitive set and learn what strategies they are using to rank in the search results, capture leads, and how they have structured their website. Gaining insights such as these can provide inspiration for your website, and help guide your strategic approach.
Analyzing competitive metrics such as:
- Content assets
- Content strategy
- Design elements
Just remember, never just copy what your competitors are doing, only use that information you gain from the competitive analysis for insights and inspiration. – CEO of Project 320
Information architecture is simply the way your website is structured and organized for the websites intended users. A website’s structure can play a huge role in increasing leads and conversions, helping SEO, and creating clear paths for your website visitors that enhances the website experience and content find-ablity.
When building your information architecture, make sure to follow the following rules:
- Align your website’s structure with your user’s expectations and how they expect to be able to find information
- Include a search function for users to find products or content
- Build your website structure on user input, data, and business requirements, and not on what you think should be done – you are not your user.
The navigation of the website is a clear indicator to both users and search engines what your primary focus is, and what you do best. Overloading a navigation with tons of links can do more harm than good.
When defining your navigation structure use the following rules:
- Define your navigation by first understanding how your users navigate your website. This can be done with exercises such as card sorting.
- Think about the words your users will use and expect, and not on what you think the best SEO keywords are.
- Include only your most important pages – not all pages are important.
- Organize your drop downs into no more than 4 links per section. Adding more than this can confuse and overload the user.
Since 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, and 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, it is no secret that integrating Search Engine Optimization throughout your website’s design process is key to driving traffic from the organic search results.
The biggest determining factor for SEO success during a website design or redesign is how well your SEO team is integrated throughout the process – bringing the SEO team into the project at the end means you’ll probably fail at utilizing this important strategy to its full potential. Bill Ross, CEO of LINCHPIN SEO
Content helps drive conversions, and positions you as an expert in your field. Without valuable content that is easily consumed by your users, ranking, proving your an expert, and building trust with users is almost impossible. The content strategy plans for the creation, publication, amplification, measurement, and governance of your content.
Your website design’s content strategy should include the following elements:
- Inventory Audit
- Page Structure and Scan-ability Strategy
- Building a Content Workflow
- Content Governance
- Content Amplification Strategy
- Content Measurement Strategy
- Content Creation Strategy
Social Proof Strategy
Social proof includes how you prove to website visitors and potential clients that what you say your do, you actually do, and do well. This is usually accomplished by two types of content.
Testimonials should be included throughout the website, and not just segmented on a “testimonials page”. Think of it this way, if you were an eCommerce website, would you take all your product reviews and just put them on one reviews page? Of course not, each product would have it’s reviews on its product page.
Case studies should also be included on relevant pages. For example, we have a client stories on each page, but we also include SEO case studies and our website design projects on each of those services pages.
Ideally, on a best in class website, case studies should tell a story that includes:
- Client information
- Client challenges
- How you solved the challenges
- The results
Analytics And Measurement Strategy
Once your website is live, making sure you can effectively track website visitors and how they are interacting with your website is key to understanding what marketing strategies are working the best for your business, and how you can optimize them further.
Analytics and measurement strategies for best in class websites includes:
- Defining Goals and Conversion Metrics
- Analytics Setup Based On The Goals
- Scorecard Creation
Image Choice And Color Planning
With 65% of senior marketing executives believing that visual assets are core to how their brand story is communicated, and content with relevant images getting 94% more views than content without relevant images, you can’t afford to use poor quality or generic photography on your website.
Tips for choosing images and colors include:
- Use custom images that are a consistent size and quality throughout your website
- Create product images that are high-quality and a consistent size
- Use colors that are logically related
Font Planning and Choice
Nielsen’s eye-tracking study indicated that less than 20% of the content is read on an average web page. In another usability test, Nielsen tested different wording styles for a website. Concise, scannable and objective copywriting resulted in 124% better usability. Having the correct fonts and using them in the correct way, can be the thing that makes or breaks your website’s conversion rate.
Tips for choosing website fonts for a best in class websites include:
- The standard text size should be readable for visitors who don’t know how to adjust their browsers.
- Make sure the fonts are easy to read on various screen resolutions
- Choose fonts that compliment each other
- Use consistent font sizes used for each of the primary elements of your page
- Be consistent with font spacing throughout your website
Conversion Point Integration and Optimization
One of the biggest mistakes owners of websites make is having too many conversion points. Many websites try to do too much, and thus overload or confuse the user – resulting in most users leaving the website. Each page should have a primary and secondary conversion point or goal – set in a hierarchy of value.
For example, a primary conversion point may be a contact us form, and the secondary conversion point may be an email signup form.
Tips for integrating conversion points into your website include:
- Creating a consistent hierarchy for conversions
- Include a primary and secondary call-to-action on every page
- Use a consistent color scheme for buttons and CTA’s
- Include a contact form on each page to make it easy for user to contact you
Is your website’s content accessible to all types of users across all types of devices? Making sure your content can be consumed effectively is key to providing a great user experience.
A few accessibility items for best in class websites are:
- Make the website cross-browser compatible
- Make the website compliant with W3C coding standards and valid HTML/CSS
- Make sure images have Are ‘alt’ tags in place
- Make sure it’s mobile friendly and optimized
- The site needs to load quickly
There are two points at which you should do a QA audit – just before launch and just after launch. Testing your website against many of the above implementation points, as well as testing lead generation forms, and functionality is the final key for launching a great website.
Did your website design firm built you a best in class website? Did they miss many of the key elements for a great website? If you want to dive deeper into each of these website design strategies head to this website design checklist to learn more.