Design for Success

What design choices affect website performance, and which move you closer to your goals online?

Clearly Define Your Goals

Gently Guide Your Visitors

So now you have some visitors to your website. Great!

Now what is it that you want them to do? Buy something? Sign up to your newsletter? Like you on Facebook? Link to you? (Hint: you probably want this one.)

We recommend that our clients use "clear and gentle guidance" - in other words, don't be too pushy.

How can you clearly and gently guide and encourage your visitors to perform the actions you want?

Of course you want a successful website. But what does success actually mean to you?

Clearly defined goals are essential if we're going to work effectively to achieve them.

We recommend our clients have at least 3 prioritised goals for each website visitor. For example an online record shop might have goals as follows:

  1. Buy a record at the full price
  2. Buy a record using a promotional voucher
  3. Link in to our website

Strong Calls to Action

For each of the defined goals, a successful business website will have clear paths for visitors to follow and calls to action to encourage them to do so. For example on this website, we want you to sign up for our free 30 day trial.

What you want from your visitors should be so obvious, clear and easy that they do it without thinking.

Design and features that encourage visitors to follow a particular course of action are called 'actionable content'. Clarity in your website objectives helps you to create focused, effective and compelling actionable content throughout your site. Combined with a good understanding of what makes your customers tick, your calls to action can be highly compelling.

Check out our recommendations for ecommerce sites - the same principles can get people to sign up to a newsletter, make an enquiry, 'like' you on Facebook, follow you on twitter, etc.

(Un) User Friendliness

How to Stand Out Online

What does 95% of internet content have in common?

The answer is 'nothing special'. If you're a regular internet user you'll know that the majority of time online is spent sifting through volumes and volumes of information to find exaclty what it is that you really want.

That is exactly what Google excels at and why it is so successful!

The ease of using your website is of course critical to its success. If users find your website tiresome or frustrating, the easiest option for them is to click away. And they'll be unlikely to return.

Website usability is a massive subject and many books / web pages examine it in great detail. We shall not do that here.

Instead, in a rather zen-like fashion, we shall briefly examine user-friendliness by highlighting some examples of user UN-friendliness:

  • You can't find the page you were on 2 minutes ago
  • The photo gallery doesn't work / takes ages to load / goes all jumpy (take your pick)
  • The 'Back' button stops working
  • You click a link... it takes you to an error page
  • You click a link... your computer freezes
  • You click a link... it doesn't do anything
  • You have to go all the way through checkout to find out how much postage is

In our experience, 90% of usability issues stem from features not behaving as intended.  This in turn stems from a simple lack of testing - in different browsers, on different computers, varying internet connection speeds, and so on.

Business Friendliness

Plan on Making on Regular Updates?

If you plan to regularly make use of content management on your website, it's definitely worth trying before you buy.

Awkward is ok if you only have to do it once every six months. If you're adding 100 new products a day it can soon become a total nightmare.

Some websites allow the owner(s) to login and make changes to pages, products, pictures, etc.

If you've ever listed an item on Ebay or posted a comment on a blog / forum, you might get the impression that this is simple, everyday stuff. Yet behind the scenes, 'content management systems' can be doing some very fiddly things to turn your content into valid HTML.

CM systems vary widely - from artfully simple to administrative nightmares.

Some of the most beautiful websites have the ugliest of 'back-ends'. And an ugly back end can mean hours of frustration, tears and lost time.

Your Home Page

A Well Designed Home Page Can:

  • Make a great first impression
  • Grab somebody's attention
  • Encourage them further into the website to look around

With the exception of a few established web giants such as Wikipedia, Ebay and Amazon, a website's home page is probably the most important page on the site. 

Ideally it will communicate the most important facts about your business - who you are, what you offer, and why should they choose you over your competitors?

It should be easy, from the home page, to find whatever it is that you're looking for on the website.

And if you have any calls to action (see above) they should definitely be on there!

This is another massive subject - many people have already covered it in great detail.  Click here to search Google for Effective Home Page Design.

Website Structure

Tips From Google

  • Use your keywords in the URLs of your directories / pages
  • Structure your web directories to reflect the content (e.g. /blog, /news, /products/dresses/green)
  • Use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.

It is now clearly established that the structure of your website plays an important part in the usability and search engine position/ranking of your website.

Directly from the mouth of Uncle Google:

"...a site's URL structure should be as simple as possible. Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).

For example, if you're searching for information about aviation, a URL like wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation will help you decide whether to click that link. A URL like http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=3a5ebc944f41daa6f849f730f1, is much less appealing to users."

Encourage Inbound Links

Link Bait

Link bait is content designed specifically to attract links into your website. The bait you use will depend on your market, industry and style. But the key is to create something that your visitors will BE DYING to share with their friends or colleagues.

Controversial content can attract links in... but use with extreme caution!

Inbound links (other websites linking to yours) are without a doubt, THE most important element of Search Engine Optimisation strategy.

This is so important that we recommend our clients consider this at the very beginning of the design process. It's a snowball effect... the more your business grows, the more beneficial this will become.

Ideally, we're looking to accumulate as many natural links from other websites by including valuable content on our own site.

Natural means that links into our website arise spontaneously, because the information on our website is so unique / interesting / specific that other businesses, website owners and bloggers naturally WANT to link to them

Less is More

It's better to have one well-designed feature on your website, than 10 poor ones. Better to have 3 beautiful photos than 100 home snaps. A single well-written article can be worth more than 50 average ones.

Every time - quality trumps quantity hands down.

  • Genuinely interesting articles / features
  • Top 10 Tips for {insert expertise here}
  • Novel competitions and promotions
  • Beautiful artwork / photography
  • Controversial opinions and articles (be careful)
  • Free ebook / guide

Regular Fresh Content

One Blog - Many Uses

  • Publish company / industry news
  • Promote events, products and services
  • Comment on current affairs
  • Hold polls, votes, competitions and
  • Publish press releases / whitepapers

What information could you publish that would be of genuine interest to your customers?

After encouraging links in, the next most important feature for a successful website is Regular Fresh Content. Why?

  • Can include informal content of interest to your user
  • Opportunity to demonstrate your expertise
  • Regularly provides Uncle Google with something fresh to get his teeth into

Firstly, a latest news / articles / blog section shows that you're current, relevant and on the ball. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and gives Uncle Google something to sink his teeth into.

Blogs are an incredibly versatile feature to have on your site - in fact, some websites are nothing more than a blog! Simple to use and database driven, they allow you to add unlimited, regular, date-stamped content to your website. They also offer you many options for visitor interaction - such as taking part in votes or making comments on your articles.

How F&P Can Help You

At Fresher & Prosper we use our expertise and resources to build success into your website from the start. Thorough research and planning make a firm foundation on which to build an efficient, effective and successful website designed to meet your objectives and delight your visitors.

  • Stragegic planning and development
  • Usability research and testing
  • Content Management Systems that are efficient and easy to use
  • One off / regular content creation - designed to attract links and rank highly in search engines.