Building a successful website is not just something that is desirable, it is more-often-than-not critical for the success of your business. That’s why it’s so important to understand the different intellectual elements that will help to create a website that speaks to your clients, engages them in your story, and ultimately drives them to take the next step.
As a successful design and digital agency, the team at Herd have years of experience planning, architecting, designing and building successful websites for many different sized clients, spread across numerous sectors. This experience has allowed us to understand the importance of key pieces of information within a project – those things that not only add value to the finished site but can also be the crucial factor that makes the website a success.
Whether you plan on undertaking a new website project yourselves or using a specialist agency, we believe it’s vital to consider the following points:
A website must have a clearly defined purpose. That sounds straightforward right? But you’d be surprised by the number of companies that simply ‘want a new website’. We think it’s critical to clearly define what you want the website to achieve – increase enquiries, provide new information, sell your product, grow a membership scheme?
By understanding the purpose of the website you set a quantifiable direction for the project, you can create goals and objectives, and you can ensure the rest of your business is structured around supporting the things you want your website to achieve.
Your new website is not for you – it’s for your audience, your customers, your users. You need to completely understand what drives your audience to get involved with you. Most people generally act to make their lives better. Are they ultimately using your services, products or offering to save themselves time? To make more money? To help them achieve in the workplace? You need to identify these motivations if you’re going to be able to successfully communicate with them. Furthermore it’s vital to consider how they’ve heard of you, how should they find your website – by googling the topic? By a referral from an existing user or customer? You need to think about how much they know about you when they first hit your website.
Hopefully, by this time, you have solid understanding of the purpose of the website, who your audiences are and what they want to achieve. It’s now time to create some key messages that will speak to them and encourage them to take the desired action. These don’t need to be (and most likely shouldn’t be) sales pitches about your products – it’s usually much better to talk about how you can help, what you believe in and why you do what you do. You need your audience to trust you and believe in you if you want to drive genuine engagement.
A few specific examples aside, a website IS its content. Content isn’t a thing you add at the end – it’s the core, the point and the purpose of a site. You’d be surprised how often people forget this. It’s not uncommon for people to spend months debating the relative merits of a particular shade of purple or whether boxes should have rounded corners and then copy and paste vast chunks of unconsidered text into their site just before it’s due to go live. For your site to work well, the content has to be great. For your site to be awesome, the structure, design and functionality AND the content need to be thought of as a whole.
There are many ways you can structure the content on your website. This should be a scientific process driven by the purpose of the website and the goals of your audience. As an example you might have a few different services that are tailored to slightly different segments of your audience. You’re then faced with a decision to segment your content based on audience type or by product, a decision that could hugely impact the success of your website. However, if you’ve done your ground work and have a solid understanding of the audiences it should be clear to you how they’d prefer to engage with your content. Do not make assumptions here and certainly don’t structure content around who will be updating the site or how your teams are structured in the office! Yes – it happens….
Making something look nice is a good first step – but there is SO much more to authentically good design than simply looking good. Your design has to communicate. It has to express your company personality and it has to speak to your audience. Consider it a visual approach to your key messages. Your design needs to complement your messaging and personality, it needs to signpost and visually prioritise appropriate content, and most importantly it needs to bring everything together to build trust.
Whilst it’s possible to do all this yourselves, a good agency can tease out all this information, do the heavy thinking and the great design and development work necessary to create a successful website for you. We believe finding the right agency can exponentially increase the success of a project.
Website projects do not need to be stressful – creating your new site should be a fun and engaging process where we can all learn from one another and produce fantastic results. For a period of time your agency will become your partner – you may even begin to look at them as colleagues and that’s great. When true collaboration happens you’ll get the best results 🙂
If you take away one thing from this, remember your website is not for you, it’s for your users. You might not like pink bananas, but if your audience do, give them pink bananas.