Designing a Great Looking Website
Have you ever visited a website that, the minute it opened, you said “Wow!” or “I like this site!”? I actually do this every time I visit a good looking website.
Have you ever visited a website that, the minute it opened, you said “Wow!” or “I like this site!”? I actually do this every time I visit a good looking website. My reaction is immediate and it sets the tone for my visit. I actually say it out loud every time – “What a great site”. And don’t be mistaken – this reaction is the first qualifier in terms of the website achieving its missions and purposes…
But you’re a Geek – do “Normal” people react this way?
Yes, they do! Thye may not react verbally like I do – or they might not tell their design colleagues about the site like I do – but they do get the “Warm and Fuzzies” – which is exactly the first reaction you are seeking. Most general statistics indicate that you have between 0-30 seconds for a visit to look at your site and to start drilling into a particular area of your site (or leave).
In that very short period of time an opinion is formed and that opinion is final. The actual decision of whether you like the look of the site is actually a 3 second process. If I don’t like the look of a site – I may see if their content is strong and I have easy access to information or service I am looking for. I don’t the give the site very much time to get me to where I want to go!
How can a website know what each user wants?
The purpose of your website should clearly identify your target demographics. The key word here is target. Designing a website that caters to “everyone” is not necessarily a good design concept. You want to specifically focus on the people your business wants to do business with – potential customers and existing clients. You want to be specific.
Websites emulate your business (or they should) – so ask yourself what is the target demographic that your business is pursuing. You generally will set up your website to pursue that same target type.
So Let’s Talk About the Design
Our first role as a design company is to establish the purpose of a client’s website and then focus on the two key areas identified above (Establishing Prospects & Selling and Serving Existing Clients). The home page is very much about selling (and linking quickly and easily to important sales info and client tools).
Our primary focus is about the new visitor coming to the site. We want our new visitor to like our look (a la, “Hey, I like this website”…). When a client or repeat visitor comes back to the site, the navigation of the site is really the most important thing. Once a client or visitor starts using a specific area of your site, they are really focused on performance and how the site serves them. The selling focus of the home page has less impact and tends to reinforce brand.
Now let’s find some designs that we like!
Once we have established the mission of the site and have a good understanding of the client’s business model, we start looking for industry (or similar) sites that our client likes or has identified as effective. This is challenging, as sometimes you will spend quite a bit of time finding that look. But it is a tremendous method in terms of design starting point and reference. If a web designer simply creates design samples without some diligent research up front they can easily end up with “I Don’t Like it” from the client – or worse, the client accepts the design and later down the track realizes the design does not reflect their company and is not satisfactory.
When we designed a website for my brother (Tim Beare of Beare Tennis) – our Design Director Vicki Payne designed samples for the final site look. At this stage we had not started developing the website. We must finalize the design “look” before we commence the website development. In web design, cost is based on time and materials (systems) – so building a website to show a client before they have approved a final design is costly and VERY VERY inefficient.
Designer Notes Help Clarify Design
In our design with Beare Tennis Services, here were the design notes we had established before we commenced developing the design:
Beare Tennis Services wants to create an online website that would assist in their marketing efforts and help attract new pupils for both private and group lessons. A main content aim of the website was to also clarify information that is quite often asked in a phone call inquiry in reference to lessons. The design samples should include some great action shots of proprietor Tim Beare teaching at the Knoxfield Tennis Club.
Adding to the design should be the cute Beare logo (which was first designed for Beare Tennis Services in 1988). Then key information should include lesson formats, prices, direction, and FAQ combining to provide both marketing and sales with good detailed information to help the decision-making of a prospect lesson. Random tennis tips will help provide some good learning information while showcasing Tim’s expertise.
And Now For The Design Samples…
Now that we have established the purpose of the website, the outcomes that the client is looking for with their website, and the website designs that client (or BeareWare) has identified as good designs and industry related we are ready to design samples for a final design selection…
Vicki has designed 7 sample designs for Tim to review and pick a final design from. Here is the index that we used with Tim for review each design. Click on the designs to see the actual full design. Vicki’s samples are to scale with our standard website size so the client can see exactly what their site will look….
In this particular case Tim decided to select design number three. In some cases a client may at this point pick features from several of the designs, in which case Vicki will then produce one more final design for final approval. It is impossible not to brag about our Vicki, our Design and Development Director, as she is so extremely talented and it really shows in this process. When you are creating sample designs you must understand the limitations and parameters of the actual Web Content Management System. You want to design a great looking site but it must function well. Vicki is simply outstanding at this process. And the results are always very happy clients….
Once the design has been selected then our client’s Web Content Management System is installed, the graphic templates are designed and then the website is developed. The client is completely aware of the site look and from this point we really focus on the client’s web content. (Next week’s blog)
The end result of this process – A Great Looking Website!
Peter Beare – Webmaster
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the last 10 years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still a webmaster and this is “Interview with a Webmaster“.