Web Design: Art or Science?
Websites of Future Past
Ok, bear with me on this one. First, a confession.
I love action movies. It’s an obsession. The dumber, the better. The more explosions, the better. If you’re going to spend $15 to go to the movies, it darned well better have some incredible special effects. You can keep your critically acclaimed dramas. RomComs… pass. Give me a superhero destroying New York though, and I’m hooked!
“But those action movies are all the same!” some might say. “They all follow the same formula and are so predictable.”
Well, yes, that’s true. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Now, the same could be said for website strategies. It doesn’t matter if you are selling awesome wines, giving golf lessons, promoting policy positions, or providing legal services, you have to ask yourself several key questions when devising your website strategy.
First, who is your audience and what do THEY want from your website?
Am I looking for a complicated plot that delves into the soul of mankind? Heck, no! I want mutants fighting zombie aliens in an explosive battle with some humans (that I care about) caught in the crossfire. Pretty simple, right? Actually, it is. Why ARE people coming to your website? Do they want to buy something from you? If so, what’s their trigger point – price, variety, speed of delivery? Or are you a professional services firm that needs to convince your audience that you are, indeed, experts in a particular area and that they should contact you for more information?
Take a look at a site we did for Innovative Pest Management. We know that visitors
- Want to find someone they can trust
- Want to call someone right away
- Want to learn about pests that they might have and whether or not Innovative Pest Management can help them (they can).
We didn’t want to beat around the bush, so we designed specific call-to-action elements right on the homepage to deliver what the visitor wanted. Identify those touch points at the very start of your project and DON’T FORGET THEM. When you stop delivering what your visitor is looking for, guess what? They get up and leave the theater.
Ok, you know what your visitors want from your website, now…
Second, what do you YOU want your visitors to do on your website?
Buy something? Contact you? Download a white paper? Trust you? These are your business goals for the website, and absolutely must be addressed for your website strategy. If I’m making an action movie, I want my audience to tell their friends how awesome the movie was. I want them to buy the action figures and lunchboxes. I want them to beg me for a sequel. I also want them to take note of all of the hard work that went into the movie (you stay to watch those clips after the credits in Marvel movies, right??).
Same thing with a website. Identify those conversion points for your audience and guide them accordingly. Take the Coal Blue website that we created as an example. The team at Coal Blue wants their visitors to learn about the issue, to stay informed, and to take action.
(insert magical special effect sounds here)
Just as important, however, make sure to track your efforts. Place conversion tracking and event tracking on your call-to-action efforts to see how they are working. Want a better conversion rate? Try tweaking your text or adjusting your images. Your website analytics software provides an enormous amount of information about your user activity. Talk to us about setting up specific tracking and dashboards to measure success for you.
Another key question to ask as you establish your website strategy is:
Third, how can I keep this as simple and organized as possible?
This is often the hardest task, but not impossible! Think Inception or Momento or even something like Back to the Future. Keeping your content organized and manageable is a major challenge, but even if you have thousands of pages of content, a strong information architecture is achievable!
Don’t believe us? Check out these infographics that walk you through some complicated movie timelines. http://blog.visual.ly/16-movie-timeline-infographics/
Back to web strategies.
Associations face this dilemma regularly. Another of our clients, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America offers more content than you can shake a light saber at, so at the start of the project, we created an extensive sitemap and traced the logical paths that their various audiences would take in order to find information. We also included intuitive navigation options and a strong search component. Fracturing and segmenting content also helps significantly. If you can segment your audience and then focus on their primary content needs, then the site becomes much more manageable.
Website strategies do, of course, require technology as well, so you have to ask yourself:
Fourth, what are the right technologies for me?
If you’re making an action movie, you’re certainly not going to put flower stickers on Dirty Harry’s Smith and Wesson. That would be blasphemous. Similarly, your website requires the right technologies, particularly when integrating with various backoffice systems. With most websites, a general Content Management System like WordPress is an excellent choice; however, if you are looking to integrate with certain Microsoft projects or types of databases, perhaps a .NET based CMS is the way to go.
Researching and finding the right technologies for your website during the strategy phase of your efforts will save you a ton of time down the road. Consider:
- What systems will integrate with your website?
- What is the skill level of the administrators managing your website?
- How tech savvy is your audience?
- How many (and what kind of) “bells and whistles” are needed to achieve the business goals for your site?
Again, these are not questions to answer after the site is launched. Addressing technology questions during the strategy phase of your project will eliminate major headaches down the road.
Finally, when devising your website strategy,
Don’t forget to determine your superpower.
After all, every good action movie… er…. Website needs a super power. For example, check out the color wheel on Hudson Studio. Pretty cool power for a design company.
Now that you know how to devise the optimal website strategy, take a break and check out the next action movie on the “can’t wait to see” list….
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