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The Essential Elements of Website Design
MF: What advice do you offer clients who want a website built but haven’t done any preparation before approaching a design firm?
MS: The best advice I can give is to find a design team that understands how to communicate what’s unique and compelling about you through a website. There’s a big difference between people who call themselves web designers and those that not only understand great design principles but also are expert at communicating what’s special about your company and getting your website visitors to take the next step with you.
So, assuming you’re sitting in front of the right website design team, you need to come prepared to answer questions about how you conduct business, what’s different about you in comparison to competitors, and where you’re headed with your company.
You’ll also need to help your design vendor discover what your primary conversion element should be. That is, if you had one action you’d like a website visitor to complete over all others, what would it be? A phone call, a short form filled out, a click on a “buy it now” button?
Other issues of color, style preference, and content structure are going to come up as well so it’s a great idea to have some likes and dislikes ready to share.
MS: With the latest crop of browsers released it’s getting easier to create designs that are interactive but don’t rely on Flash. Also, there’s been a strong push to finally kill off Internet Explorer 6 for good. That’s great for design and the internet in general. I amazed that we still run into clients that are using that antiquated browser because of old enterprise software that hasn’t been modernized.
The tools and skills most in demand these days haven’t changed much in recent years. We rely heavily on Photoshop, Coda, and good ol’ fashioned elbow grease. The best websites are hand coded over efficient CMS frameworks. We build our custom small business websites over our own Content Management System that has been designed to be easy to use and versatile.
But when we are hunting for new design talent we’re looking for designers that have excellent portfolios, years of experience, and can design efficiently and beautifully from a two to three page interview conducted by one of our client specialists.
A designer that has a mind for business and marketing in general really helps to create sites that not only look great but result in more conversions and better positioning. I would say that our designers aren’t just good at building nice looking websites, they’re great at designing layouts that convert.
So, all you aspiring web designers out there, pretty pages are great but learn how to design for conversion. (And then give me a call, I’d like to talk to you!)
We also provide interactive tools to our customers that help them optimize their on-site content and point them to some of the most valuable inbound link possibilities based on their primary keywords they’ve identified. This is an add on service but it can save hundreds of dollars per month over the cost of a dedicated SEO professional.
MS: Our experience has been that there’s a move towards clean, uncluttered design that gets the point across quickly. Businesses are coming to understand that they have mere moments to engage their site visitor and need to make sure that their site accomplishes two things quickly: 1. Here is what we can do for you and 2. Here’s how to take the next step with us. We call this the Value Proposition and the Call To Action (CTA).
Also, good integration with social networks and an email service platform like MailChimp is really important to customers once they understand what these tools can do for a business.
MS: Because of HTML5, CSS3, and advanced scripting languages, web developers are increasingly designing very interactive and illustrative websites that are still SEO friendly. Anything that helps create an emotional connection and tells and story is going to engage the web visitor longer. Combining this with good copy writing and a clear call-to-action can lead to an above average outcome for the website as a marketing and communication tool.
MS: A custom website design can be the equivalent of a billboard in the desert without good positioning, a Call-To-Action, and some basic marketing. It is extremely important that you marry great design and an easy-to-use content management system with saying the right things and asking for the right action from the right traffic.
For example, a recent dance studio client had an outdated website they’d been using for 10 years. They required a makeover and needed to rethink how they were communicating who they were to their prospective customers. We quickly determined that they specialized in dance instruction for kids ages 2 - 16, that their studio didn’t do competitive dance, and they’re instruction packages came with so uncommon additional value. So when we created their design and helped them with their copy and Call-To-Action it was focused around who they were and what they did best.
Since we launched their new site they have had great success generating new leads for their free “test” class offering opt-in and they’re getting more of the right kinds of students.
MF: Is there anything that makes Rocketship different from the thousands of other website design companies?
MS: Yes! We have discovered that a great designer can do a better job designing a website from scratch in five hours than a mediocre designer can do in a week or a month. As a matter of fact, one of our designers recently won an Emmy for his design work!
Because great designers can work quickly to create beautiful, clean, and effective designs we can charge less than our competition does for the same product. We simply have to feed our designers 2 to 3 websites per week to replace what they would have made charging more per site.
We also have a very efficient process that allows us to deliver these affordable custom website designs from start to finish in 7 -10 business days instead of the typical 6 - 8 weeks process common for custom website development.
Mark Sandeno is a co-founder of Rocketship Custom Website Design and has been involved in helping small businesses connect with their customers and look great in the process for over a decade. Learn more at www.GetRocketship.com.