There are many beliefs about web design that are true: it is a reflection of your business, it tells people what to respect from you. However, there is one common belief about web design we are going to put to bed – that your website is meant to be precisely what YOU want it to be. This is an odd stance for a company that offers web design services – surely the customer is always right? Surely we are not so arrogant as to tell our clients their business? Well, for the second question we are not that arrogant, however, if a client asks for a design based solely on what they want, they are not making a decision based on their business.
At this point, you are probably thoroughly confused and are wondering what my point is. The point I am driving at is actually quite simple – web design is not about what YOU want, it is about what your consumer wants. Everything else about your business has evolved and grown based around giving the consumer something they want that you have, why would you make your website any different?
Know Your Market
There is a quote by Frederick the Great (sometimes misattributed to Sun Tzu) that applies to marketing: “He who defends everything defends nothing.” In the context of marketing, the meaning is simple – if you try to market to everybody, you will be so bland and generic that you will appeal to nobody. Before starting a web design project – whether in house or through an agency such as us – you must understand your market. If you are an auto-parts store, are you trying to appeal to the average consumer looking for simple replacement parts, people trying to restore classic cars, or maybe even someone who wants to customize their vehicle to turn it into a racing machine? Your final design will look very different depending on who you wish to appeal to, and trying to cast a wide net rather than narrow targeting will simply hamper your efforts.
Design for the Journey
Picture your ideal customer for a second, the kind of person you know most frequently comes into your doors. Who this is will vary based on your business, but if you have been operating for a while or did your market research you have a rough idea who this person is. Web design, and marketing in general, demands that we think about the customer’s journey to the front door. Parts of your website must be designed to fit with all stages of the customer journey, from the problem that you can solve, to the specific product or service you after, to intent to buy, your website must offer sections tailored to these individual stages. Marketers often describe a funnel, but poor web design turns that funnel into a strainer. When designing your site, think about these various phases the customer will pass through before buying, and ask what your website can do to push them into the desired direction.
Gather User Feedback
No matter how good you think your design is, and no matter the reputation of the designer you go with, nothing beats user feedback. In fact, feedback should be gathered before you label a design as “finished”. Just as the movie industry uses test audiences to make sure a film is stellar before releasing it to the general public, so should web designers get a sense of what people in their target market think. Once you think you have a good design, sit some people down who are in your target market and get feedback. What you are trying to determine is if there is something they want the website to do that it doesn’t do, if there is something that gets in the way of how THEY (not necessarily you) use the site, and most importantly: would they buy from the site? Be careful when gathering your test audience. If you’re on a limited budget, you may have to resort to people you already know, but if you can afford it, try to get strangers involved. Getting unbiased feedback will go much further than from friends who may tell you they’ll purchase from a website because they know you and trust you (something that would not apply to the average user). They might not realize they are biased in your favor, but this is a concern that will spoil attempts at getting honest feedback from friends and family.
Ultimately, the key takeaway from all of this is to remember that web design is not merely about what you think is good or what you think is best, it is about how the end user feels. We are all unique and have our own tastes, and this is important to remember in web design. Know your audience, know how they get to you, and get their input. From there you will be able to create a design that appeals to them and will net a rapid return on your investment.