Your company website needs a refresh. Or maybe your startup doesn’t have a website.

It’s easier than ever to get started, but cookie-cutter templates aren’t going to grow your business for you. 

How do you decide which features to focus on? What messaging to use? What style and tone of imagery?

Read on to learn five things you need to know.

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1. LANGUAGE SHOULD DRIVE THE DESIGN

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? 

Websites are still a text-based medium, focused on logical presentation of information.

If you can’t explain your value proposition in clear language, then no amount of pretty imagery will convert your customers.

Focus on a call-to-action (CTA) that your customer should understand, and clearly explain the benefits.

Good: “The easiest way to refinance your home. Get a quote from 10 lenders in five minutes. Get started now.”

Bad: “The #1 marketplace for shopping for home equity loans. Check rates, chat with a broker, learn about best practices in the industry, and find a home equity coach. Enter your first name, last name, and email address to start your application.”

Most visitors to your website will decide within 10 seconds whether or not to bail. Don't overwhelm them with the full scope of your business model. Focus on the essential CTA that they need to understand in order to continue down the path. 

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2. IGNORE YOUR FEELINGS

Everybody's got an opinion about a shade of blue, or what constitutes a "friendly" design. People throw around the term "look and feel" as if we can all agree on what that means. Forget about it.

Instead, start with a statement about how the tone of the site supports the business: 

Good: "Our site helps people to find individual health insurance plans. It needs to be uncluttered, with legible type, easy-to-understand iconography, and a clear flow through the sign up process and to a directory page of listings."

Bad: "We saw a clothing site that had a really cool full-page animation, so we'd like to use that. Also, our CEO's favorite colors are turquoise and yellow, so we need to incorporate those." 

Once you have a coherent tone statement, then we can start evaluating design choices based upon rational arguments, not feelings.

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3. HAVE A GOAL

If your only goal is to apply a fresh coat of paint, so be it. But how much time and money do you spend on it?

On the other hand, if your goal is to increase revenue by 10%, then you have a much more clear idea about what a new design is worth.

A good web design should be driven by some kind of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you target and track. Some examples:

  • Bounce Rate
  • Lead Conversion Rate
  • Traffic / Traffic Sources

Google Analytics can help you measure your current KPIs and set new ones.

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4. PLAN TO CHANGE

We're not creating a brochure. We're creating a dynamic website.

It's easy to build a modular design and test it on the fly, and yet many people overlook this crucial step.

Not sure about that headline? Concerned about that image on your homepage? Let the data help you make the decision.

Sub-divide your traffic and serve up 3-4 different versions and go with the winner, based upon your KPIs.

Taking it one step further, design a page that is based on modules. See what happens when you move the email sign up button to the top of your page. See what happens when you put your two big CTAs next to each other.

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5. EMBRACE MOBILE

It's official: the majority of web surfing happens on phones and tablets.

And yet so many sites are not built with responsive design— which means they become unusable on mobile devices.  

Your site shouldn't just look pretty on mobile. It should actually work.

That complicated search results page with eight columns isn't going to be legible on an iPhone. Same goes for that walkthrough video with the itty bitty screenshots.

You'll need to work with a talented designer who can create alternate layouts for these mobile devices.  

Go take a look at Kayak.com on your desktop. Try searching for a flight. 

Now hop over to your smartphone and do the same. It's a completely different experience, optimized for people squinting at a tiny screen, using nothing but a thumb to enter data.

Here are some things to keep in mind when designing for mobile:

  • Use responsive, liquid layouts
  • Consolidate navigation
  • Simplify forms and optimize for touch-based interface

Does your website translate well to the mobile platforms? It should.

YOU MADE IT THIS FAR...

... And now you know that effective web design can be broken down into easily understood principles.

There are many more ideas to explore, and a good designer can help you make important decisions about imagery, type, interaction design, and usability.

If you're looking for help with your web design project, drop us a line.

At Belmondo Studios, we partner with brands and entrepreneurs to deliver great websites that do great business. We'd like to hear what you're working on.

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