The Dimensions of a Successful Website (Part 2 of 4): Design

Welcome to the second of a 4-part series that will focus on the dimensions of a successful website.  Today I’ll be addressing the topic of design, but, before I do, I’d like to thank all of my readers for their comments, emails and phone calls over the last few weeks.  I never thought that only a month into creating my blog I would have more than 2,000 views and several dozen emails and calls.  I am truly blessed to be able to help so many wonderful businesses take their success to the next level!  It’s a privilege to make a difference one valuable customer at a time.

Before I get into the topic I’d like to re-iterate what I consider to be a successful website.  To me, a successful site is one that accomplishes all of the following goals consistently on an ongoing basis.

  • Revenue generated by the website (directly or indirectly) exceeds the expenses of operating the website.
  • Positive cashflow (revenue minus expense) is growing year over year at least 15% (please note: this doesn’t sound like a lot but due to the power of compounding, your profits will triple over 9 years at this rate)
  • Your customer base is consistently growing and you have a way to communicate with and solicit repeat business

* Please note: I do realize that not all websites are in existence to earn additional revenues and some websites may be created solely for the purpose of reducing expenses (e.g. online technical support, online help, etc.).  The criteria of this type of website is essentially the same, however, its goals are reached by reducing expenses as opposed to increasing revenues.

Once any of these goals are no longer being successfully accomplished, it’s time for a refresh; your website has either aged too much and is no longer current or competitive with other companies in your industry.  Remember, just because your site is doing fantastic for you today, it can all change overnight when one of your competitors takes charge of their Internet presence and revamps it entirely!

Before getting into discussing the importance of design, I’ll re-iterate the four main dimensions that I intend to address during my four-part series:

  • Design
    Graphical elements that make up the design of the website, reflecting the image of your business to your leads and clients.

Okay let’s cut to the chase, what’s design?   Simply put, it’s a creative process, most often involving a client and designer(s), which focuses on creating a presentation to convey specific message(s) to target audience(s).

I’ve chosen to talk about design second within this series because it’s an aspect that the majority of business owners do not understand its true value.  After having been involved in literally hundreds of design projects to date, I can honestly say that I’ve experienced an entire spectrum of different types of customers.  Some customers don’t care at all about the graphical design aspect of their project and some care so incredibly about it that you would be willing to wager it was life or death!  I had one client actually fly halfway around the globe to sit down in person with me and select their colors and specific shades of every single visual element!  As painful as it was, I ensured that I was paid hourly for this painful process, so I happily obliged to the 3.5 days of torture.  Want to know the worst thing?  After they flew back home, they doubted their selections, reviewed it with their friends and tried to make every one of them happy which resulted in yet another 2 days of torture.  That was years ago and I’ve since healed, cleverly hiding the wounds deep within my Photoshop software.  Thank goodness for technology!

So then, what are the most important aspects of graphic design?  Instead of addressing what’s important and following a number of guidelines or rules without understanding why, let’s address why it’s important which will in turn reveal what’s important.

1. Remember how our brains work

There’s nothing more important to our brains than trying to find the meaning of anything.  In doing so our brains best receive and assess information by organizing it.  If a brain cannot find organization, it usually gets overwhelmed.  The best designers know this and for this reason they avoid creating designs that are disorganized, too busy and overwhelming.

Summary: Ensure that your design is organized and well thought out.  It must compliment your brand and the messages that you are trying to communicate.

2. Remember how our eyes move

In our culture, we’re trained from the moment we start reading to scan from left to right, starting from the top left of the page and working down to the bottom right.  We develop a rhythm and our eyes move swiftly from the end of one line to the beginning of the next.  Take a look at Facebook, they’ve performed in-depth eye-tracking studies on their website on a regular basis so that they can continue to tweak and maximize the return on investment for their advertisers and in turn their own revenue.  They understand how vital this is… a well organized design can sell 500%+ more products and services than a disorganized one!

Eye Tracking Study of Facebook.com

Eye Tracking Study of Facebook.com

Many designers have tried to create visual effects that look really cool, only to work their way back to an earlier concept that is simpler once they’ve received feedback from their visitors.

Simply put, your goal is to make life easier for your visitors and disrupting their natural eye movement will cause strain and in turn cause confusion.  Most times this would result in your worst nightmare… your visitor will simply choose a competitors’ product or service over yours simply because their site is easier to use.

Summary: Don’t use too much flashy or visual effects (even if you’re making a website for a bar or nightclub, it still must be within reason).  Remember how most websites are navigated and stick to the standards as much as possible.  Visitors do not like websites that feel like a learning experience, it’s best not to lose half of your leads on this basis alone.

3. Remember you’re here to communicate

If you want to keep it simple, this is the only rule you need to follow.  Make sure that you don’t create designs for just for the sake of design.  This doesn’t mean that your website shouldn’t be visually appealing, attractive, consistent and exciting.  Of course it should!  But the visual elements that make up the graphical design of your website must be consistent, relevant and cannot detract the visitor from finding the information they desire.  Remember this and you’re ahead of the majority of your competitors.  It’s far more important to draw your visitor’s attention to your product or service that fulfills their needs than to dazzle them.

When was the last time you walked into an electronics store and the staff attempted to impress you with the awesome lighting or comfortable couches in the studio?  I bet never!  Unless these items are also for sale, the staff won’t even pay any attention to these features and their goal is that you won’t either.  The lighting and couches are carefully added to each presentation in order to delicately compliment the ambiance of the top of the line electronics while ensuring that they do not divert your attention away from the actual products for sale.

Summary: Presentation is critical, so is the art of ensuring that it is complimentary and not distracting.  Don’t design for the sakes of design; but rather design to compliment your products and services.

4. Give up some control to the pros who have been through the above steps a hundred times or they simply won’t be able to help you.

You’ve hired the pros to create a website that will help generate additional revenue for your business.  Of course, you have personal preferences just like everyone else.  Don’t let them get in the way of common sense.  How to say this bluntly? You will not earn more revenues by being anal.  If you think a specific text, font size, shade or color will increase your revenues significantly, you are focusing on the wrong thing.  Of course minor customizations make sense in certain situations, but like anything, there’s such thing as going overboard and luckily those who are guilty of this will recognize it when reading this very sentence and grit their teeth in anger.  All I can say is goosfraba, a word that Eskimos use to calm down their children.  After all I’m Canadian and live in an Igloo, didn’t you know?  How do you know when you’re overboard?  If you find yourself trying to satisfy your personal preferences, you’re off course.  Refocus and regroup, you have a goal to satisfy and it’s not yours, it’s your company’s – treat it as a separate entity because it is.

Summary: If you hire a pro, let them do their job.  Listen and provide your feedback and a pro will always explain the reasons behind their decisions.  Accept the fact that you have personal preferences, but they may not be in line with the majority of the population.  Every pro has a primary goal in mind which is increasing your revenue; if you get in their way then they may not be able to do their job effectively.

Well that’s it for this article, I hope that you’ve enjoyed it and learnt a thing or two about design.  If you have any comments or feedback I’d love to hear from you.  Here’s to continuing your positive momentum.  Take what you’ve learnt and make a difference for your company knowing that you can hear your competitors shaking in their boots from a mile away.  They have a reason to be scared, they are missing one key ingredient… your competitors worst nightmare… N-VisionIT Interactive.

Brent Mondoux
CEO, N-VisionIT Interactive
brent@betterwebsites.ca

Ottawa web design

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7 comments on “The Dimensions of a Successful Website (Part 2 of 4): Design

  1. Pingback: The Dimensions of a Successful Website (Part 1 of 4): Content | Learn the Secrets to Online Success

  2. Another great article with a lot of insightful info! Thank you so very much. I never thought about thinking about it from the perspective of how a person thinks, or sees, or makes decisions. It gives me a whole new perspective to think about why I am doing what I’m doing when I’m making decisions. Wow!

  3. Focal Points, Grouping, Impression, Consistency.

    1. Focal Points – what is the first thing you want the visitor to see when they load your web site?

    2. Grouping – what is the best way to group your content so it reads well in chunks, and then, what is the most logical way to order these groups?

    3. Impression – what is the first impression the visitor feels when they see your site? (ex: dark or light, professional or playful, genuine or untrustworthy, organized or cluttered, cheap or expensive, detailed or empty, etc…)

    4. Consistency – when the visitor goes from one page to the next, how will the visitor recognize that they’re still on your website?

    Also worth mentioning:

    1. studies show that when a visitor enters your website, they will know if it’s worth staying within the first 3 seconds (by the design and impression). If not they will hit the back button;

    2. in terms of website body text, a visitor will read a first paragraph (if it’s short enough) and then will only skim the first 3 to 5 words of the next two paragraphs. Beyond that, no one is reading the content on your website. The author of “Don’t Make Me Think” suggests after you write the body content for your website, take what you wrote and shorten it by 50%. Once there, take that and shorten it by another 50%. The secret is to use lists because: a) they show a definite start and end point; b) are easy to follow, c) are good for grouping similar content, d) don’t require proper grammar.

  4. Pingback: The Dimensions of a Successful Website (Part 3 of 4): Organization | Learn the Secrets to Online Success

  5. Pingback: The Dimensions of a Successful Website (Part 4 of 4): Functionality | Learn the Secrets to Online Success

  6. Pingback: What is a successful website | Kana Solution

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