During a recent staff meeting, Jeff, our Head Hahncho, shared a business opportunity that had come to the firm. It was the chance to purchase a website. He pulled up the site on our conference room monitor. While I won’t divulge the company name, I can tell you there was a collective, audible gasp. It took us a mere three seconds to be shocked, overwhelmed and repulsed by the hodgepodge of color, clip art and bouncy thingies. Website design FAIL.
Being in the communications business, we help our clients create and maintain websites that promote their products and express their brands. Part of our job is to know current design trends, so we spend a lot of time looking at sites. Even two decades into the Internet era, we are still stunned by obnoxious design choices we encounter. Sites so poorly designed, it takes less than three seconds to lose all interest in their content.
Examples of these three-second rule breakers are:
• Using every color that comes with your computer. Especially neon.
• Spinning clip art that has nothing to do with anything.
• Loud music and loud graphics that shouldn’t coexist.
• Some are just inexplicable.
It’s unlikely that your site employs any of these world-class design disasters, but almost any site can be improved. If your current site design is more than three years old, is disconnected from your brand, is difficult to navigate or has been left behind by the sites of your competitors, it’s time for an upgrade.
The following six steps are essential when building an effective website and should be carefully examined throughout the redesign process.
1) Assessment. Use site analytics and/or user feedback to determine what has been working for your site and what hasn’t. Keep only what works.
2) Site Architecture. Develop a basic outline of how your site will work. Show where every page lives and how they all link to one another. Think of a flow chart.
3) Design. Stay within your brand standards and don’t let design distract from your content. Design with your users in mind.
4) Content. Plan to add new, expert content to your site regularly. Become a resource for your industry and build a following.
5) Usability. Users should be able to navigate through the site easily and quickly to find what they are looking for. Make every piece of information intuitive for the user to find.
6) Search Engine Optimization. Consider how your website is going to compete in browser searches and either hire an SEO consultant to plan your search strategy or research how to design your own.
Your web site is your virtual front door. Don’t let weak design derail the first impressions of your visitors. Be sure to eliminate any three-second rule violations, but also look for ways for design to work with, not against, your content.