Good design starts not with a good image or an attractive color palette, it starts with asking good questions. If you are interested in learning how to work with a web designer (or to do it yourself) to design an effective website, practice the art of “non-design”.
What do I mean by that? Well, especially when it comes to websites, what is most important is not the look of the site. What makes a site effective is how it addresses your customers’ or clients’ needs, pure and simple. Good design serves to support that function but can not replace it.
Traditionally one might think what a designer does is to choose what images or colors resonate with the business whose website they are creating. A lawyer’s site, sharp, serioius and professional. A hair salon,? Chic, fashionable, feminine.
But this might be putting the cart before the horse. Sure you don’t want a confusing or inappropriate look for your business. But the visitor who comes to your site already knows who you are. They didn’t come there by accident. They don’t need colors or graphics to remind them who you are.
Don’t put the cart before the horse
The rough rule of thumb is, the more useful a site is the less anyone cares how it looks. Look at Google and Facebook. Both have “bare bones” and not very attractive interfaces. Who cares what they look like as long as they work. And they do work, very well.
The average site, of course, is not going to be as functional as say, Google. And the look of a site is going to play a large part in establishing a brand or message that might be unfamiliar to most visitors. But putting together a website that looks professional and works the way it should is the easy part. The hard part is creating a website that engages people and gets them excited about learning more.
The way to engage someone is not by trying to catch their eye with cutting edge graphics, bold colors, or fancy design. Nor are you going to impress them with copy that tells how great your product or service is (with phrases like “excellence” or “quality “). Focusing how long you have been in business or how many awards you have won is not going to help either. What you need to do is to understand your visitors and offer them something of real value.
So before you get started with design, ask yourself:
- Who is the audience that I want to engage?
- What are their concerns?
- What are their most frequently asked questions?
- What information do I have to help answer those questions?
- and finally, how can I most effectively address those questions on my website?
Here are some of the most frequently asked type of questions that visitors to a business site have:
- Cost/price questions: How much does it cost? What value do I get for my money?
- Problems/issues questions: What problems or issues might I encounter when using your products or service? How can you address these?
- Vs./Comparison questions: How does you products or services compare to others that are available? Who might they be most effective for?
- Review-based questions: Have your offerings been reviewed? How have you stacked up?
- “Best of” questions: If a client was to choose among your products or services which would best address their needs? You can’t be the best in everything but you can be the best in your area of it.
Once you have generated unique, useful content , then design comes into play to help organized and guide your visitors to the information they seek and to help frame the story of how your products and services may fit into their lives.
When someone first lands on a businesses website, they don’t know or trust that business yet. To build this trust, you need to provide your visitors with valuable, useful information that is focused on the benefits to them as customers. Razzle and dazzle—once the purview of design—doesn’t help. On the web, it is not the sizzle that sells the steak—but a USDA report and recipe guide just might.