To be great at anything, we need to first understand what is expected of us, and second, to routinely exceed those expectations. Building great websites is no different.
I decided to put together a list of six things I believe every web designer should be actively aware of as they build online brands. By actively aware, I’m saying the designer understands the principles and requirements of each, and builds accordingly.
I’m not suggesting that every web designer needs to be a be a master of each area. I believe in focus, and in becoming the very best we can in one or two areas. But we should certainly understand what is required to deliver in each area. For example, a copywriter who understands what an e-marketer (think SEO, PPC, etc.) needs, will write better content. And a web designer (visual) who understands the work of a web developer (functional) will produce better layouts and concepts.
I believe the points that follow are the six areas every web professional should consider when performing their jobs.
It’s not a static web anymore. People expect to interact with your brand online. Our responsibility in this area is two fold:
- Making sure customers can interact with your websites in ways that help them accomplish their purposes.
- Making sure our websites interact with customers, and gather data, in a way that helps meet company goals.
This is the “draw” websites have on customers to interact with the brands. What is it that makes people want to be there and do the things you want them to do? What areas help with appeal? Here are a few:
- Graphic design and layout
- Subject matter
Appeal requires us to learn what the brand and the customer have in common, and then emphasise that commonality in everything we do.
This comes down to over-delivering on promises. You could argue that any fulfilled promise delivers value, but I think people see value the same way it is marketed at McDonalds: bang for their buck. People don’t go back to McDonald’s Value Menu because they think they are getting a buck’s worth of hamburger. They go back because it feels like a steal, even if just in time-savings. The same principle applies to our web content.
A good way to over-deliver on our websites’ promises is to take a lesson from Steve Jobs, and after we have met expectations, always add “one more thing.”
If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody’s there...nobody cares. That's the hard truth. Ensuring a website’s content is getting in front of the right people at the right times is crucial to a site's success. Our clients will only be happy with the site for as long as they can see it fulfilling their business purposes. Here are some ways sites gain exposure:
- SEO. This simply means helping search engines to find your content and deliver it to the appropriate users.
- Social Media involvement. Find where customers hang-out, and bring value to that setting.
- Content exchange. Curate and contribute content with brands your customers trust.
5. CTA (Call-to-action)
If you never ask for the sale, it will be a fluke when you ever get one. A good call-to-action lets the customer know exactly what you want them to do and why they should do it. These should never be obscurely located (or sized) on a website. Visitors are not offended by them. In fact, they look for them. Calls-to-action help people understand the terms of the relationship between themselves and your brand. Visitors are only offended when a call-to-action lies about those terms.
Traditionally, this has referred to making our sites accessible to people with disabilities, but with the constant waves of new devices and ways to access the internet, the audience we need to think about has grown drastically to include all of us in one moment or another. Making our sites' information available and usable in the myriad ways our customers would seek it is a crucial task in web design. Some ways we build accessibility are:
- Responsive (adaptive) design
- Proper, semantic use of HTML elements and attributes (especially for users with disabilities)
- Keeping code up-to-date
- Responding to customer feedback
That's a lot to shoulder
I should state, as at the beginning of this post, that though we should be concerned about each of these areas, tackling them alone is not usually the best way to go. Personally, I believe a great web professional is going to be well-rounded in their knowledge, but highly concentrated in their skills and effort. It's a good plan to be great at a few things, but then rely on others who are great for the rest.
I know I didn't go into a lot of detail on each point. I wasn't trying to write a book, but instead to just touch on the different responsibilities we shoulder when we build for the web. There's really no escaping them. We can't take care of appeal, and neglect exposure, for example. Not if we want to do right by our clients.
And, by the way, it's not just our clients we need to do right by. It's that person looking back from the mirror. It can be tempting to just make a quick buck, and not concern ourselves with the rest. But we miss out on the greater rewards when we give in to those kind of notions. Because really, there's nothing more satisfying than knowing our efforts bring value to those we serve.