Fresh from our own website redesign, in this issue, we share what we feel were the most important things to keep in mind throughout the process.

Whether this is your first experience or you are rethinking the entire process, website design can be intimidating. We all know the basics—it should look professional, it should be informative, the navigation should be intuitive.  But what else? As technology evolves and trends change, your website audience becomes increasingly sophisticated. They demand more from the websites they browse.  There can be a great divide, however, between being on the cutting edge and developing a website with longevity (Remember when websites designed entirely in flash were the rage? It didn’t take long to realize that search engines didn’t like that very much). We began our web redesign process last September and, to celebrate its launch (check it out at www.optimalnetworks.com), we wanted to share with you some of what we considered throughout the process.

Below are our top five website tips:

1.  Know Your Audience(s)
This seems simple, right? Marketing 101. But today’s organizations have many audiences to consider. First, your customers, clients or members. If this group is a key audience, you should make sure website features include some exclusive content that is relevant and valuable to them—and not available anywhere else. Secondly, consider whether those who have heard about your organization and will most likely visit your website are cohorts you want to attract. If so, your content should be comprehensive and credibility-building. Next—prospects. Will you be using your website to attract new clients or members?   Will you be using it to build business and increase revenues? If so, you must make sure that your site is easily accessible—that means designing and constructing content that is search engine friendly and keyword optimized. Finally, potential employees. Make sure your site includes applicable information for this group—information that includes job descriptions, openings, and application requirements.

2.  Know the Trinity of Design
There are three basic elements to a site’s design:

  • The graphics—how it looks, what color palette is used, what images and design grids are selected.
  • The architecture—how pages are presented and linked to one another on the site.
  • The programming—taking the design and content and translating those elements into a web environment so that your vision matches the reality.

With more and more web design companies in existence, it is imperative that you find a company that can address the above three elements. And note that a one-stop shop—a company that is proficient in the entire trinity is the most effective way to go.

3.  Consider Usability
Once you’ve identified your audiences, you should know how to speak their languages. And that includes understanding how a visitor to your site would begin to navigate through the pages. Is your site intuitive? Is it easy to find information? Is information organized into categories that make sense? Try having an outsider test this before going live. Sometimes the best suggestions for improving usability can come from those outside the process. In fact, if your budget permits, there are companies out there that conduct comprehensive usability assessments on your website. In our opinion, though, for a normal website, a few objective sources work just as well.

4.  Show Dynamism
So you don’t need fireworks but you do need text, images, a color palette, and a design scheme that catches the visitor’s attention. After all, you want them to stay on the site awhile.  One way to do this is to free yourself from the stock photo syndrome. After all, you can only look at so many handshakes and group shots teeming with carefully orchestrated diversity. We combated this by using photos of our own staff! You can also insert slide shows, choose unusual graphics, add audio and video, etc.

5.  Be Relevant
What is the key to repeat visitors? Relevance. Your goal should be to make your site as relevant as possible to the lives of the visitors. Think about creating your site as a source for other information—a place people will return to for updates, research, etc. You can do this through links that add additional information to the subject matter, the incorporation of blogs, e-newsletter archives, and so on.  It’s okay if these “site as a source” links lead them away from your site (try to set new sites open in new browsers, though).

Last Word
Designing or redesigning a website can seem daunting. There is the writing, the design, and a myriad of additional elements to consider. Take it one step at a time and build a great team—a writer, a designer/programmer, and objective testers. It is work-intensive but the results are well worth the effort.

 

Have questions about the information contained within this article? Want to find out how Optimal can help you with your site? Or, is there a new technology you would like to learn more about? We want to hear from you! Email us at [email protected].

 

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