Ask the Expert: The right design is crucial for your websiteBy ALLISON LEPINE
August 04. 2013 4:24PM
In today's media driven environment it is important to have a company Web presence whether you are a one-person-show or a 5,000-employee corporation. Many consumers now search for their information online before making any decisions. Your website could be the very first impression for a potential buyer. Making a good first impression is crucial. Having a professional looking and functioning website will ensure that your business is taken seriously. A well-designed website can lead to increased notoriety and sales. Better not to have a website than to have one that looks unprofessional and is difficult to navigate.
Don't make the mistake of treating your website as an afterthought. It is an important part of your business and it should be a priority.
Below I have listed some design problems that could steer your consumers away from your website and your business.
• Busy layout
• Complex navigation
• Too much copy
• Copy not thought out
• Not mobile friendly
• Small fonts
• Slow loading content
• Poor look and feel
• Generic stock photography
Below are five steps that can help you to choose the right interface design for your business and avoid some common pitfalls.Step 1: Research and analysis
Walk through your business goals, short and long term. Determine the scale of your site for the present and the future. Know your target audience and design for them. Remember, you are designing for a worldwide audience, not yourself. Come up with user case studies to help visualize how different visitors would navigate your site, this will help you in creating a well planned navigation. Take a look at competitors' sites, evaluate the good parts and learn from mistakes.Step 2: Have a great brand
Make sure you have a brand that is memorable and professional. You could have a nice looking website but a terrible brand presence. The brand "presence" includes your logo, photos, visual presence and even the tone of your copy.Step 3: Content is key
• Your content is what will keep a user at your site. You want to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.
• Make it easy for the consumer to figure out what it is you sell or offer.
• Prioritize your content. Figure out the top 3 or 4 pieces of information that you want to convey.
• Be sure to entertain and engage your user with your content. Think about the experience of calling a customer service hotline. The menu options are endless and useless. Every "option" (click) should get your customer useful information.
• Keep the navigation simple and give your users information with a friendly twist.Step 4: Wireframe and design plan
You wouldn't just start building a house without a blueprint, or start decorating without a plan. Wireframes are a great way to layout the skeleton of your website before finalizing a design. Nailing down a solid wireframe will save time in the design process. Take what you have learned from your research and analysis process with your carefully written copy and great brand to help create a beautiful user interface design. It is important to communicate and give feedback to your design team and to choose a design team that does the same.Step 5: Monitoring and updates
Once your site is launched, implement a program such as Google Analytics to monitor consumer usage. This will help you understand what is working. You should tweak your site frequently. You can manage the site yourself using a CMS such as Wordpress or your design team can manage it for you.
Spending the time and money for a well thought out interface design will more than pay off in the long run.
I look forward to answering your questions and/or responding to your comments at www.unionleader.com/expert or http://abihub.org/ask-the-expert/.
Allison Lepine is a freelance user interface designer located at the abi Innovation Hub in Manchester with over 10 years of industry experience. She's worked with small businesses to large corporations as well as creative teams to help implement beautiful, user-friendly web experiences. She graduated with an A.S. from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla. and studied Fine Arts at the Art Institute of Boston. Website: allisonlepine.com.