Introduction to Effective Web Design and Development
Good web design and development is more than just good-looking colors, a smooth layout and fancy elements. It is an art, and at the heart of it all, it aims to deliver an experience that gets the visitor to achieve their goal when they first clicked on the link. For an online clothing store, this goal would be to get the visitor to purchase the item of their choice, at the price of their liking, in the easiest and quickest way possible. For a fitness blog, it could be to educate the visitor about fitness. Colours and layouts do play major roles in web design and development, but they work best when they are chosen and implemented through an effective process.
Top 10 Powerful Steps to Effective Web Design and Development
Ten steps for effective web design and development are as follows.
1. Set your goals
Before you begin the actual web design and development, you need to be clear about the goals of the project. What is your client or organization looking to achieve with this website redesign or new website project? What is the main purpose of this website? Is it to sell some products, generate awareness of the brand, provide a contact point for potential customers, or something else? A website does not have to be restricted to just one either. It could do all of the above and more. These goals have to be clear right from the get-go. Ask your client or your manager about these goals or yourself if this is a project you are undertaking on your own. If the goals are not clear, hold discussions to make them clear and highlight them. A clear direction is necessary before going forward.
A website can have artistic elements, but it is not an art piece in itself. It is a portal and an interface with a set of functions. This function could be to entertain, educate, sell, inform or provide access to services. Whatever be the service, the web site’s design should focus on meeting this. Goals are especially important if you are doing a redesign of a website. You need to ask and know why the redesign is being done. Is it to increase the site’s efficiency, or to correct certain errors or bring it closer to the client’s goals?
The goal of a website plays a big role in how it is designed. For instance, the website for any news publication would be minimalist, with the interface solely aimed at delivering news content. In contrast, a web design and development studio’s goal would be to dazzle the visitor with its design and creativity. You can expect a lot of visuals, imagery and strong colours.
2. Know your target audience
Your audience is a big consideration when determining the look and function of your website. After all, the website is for them and not just for your or your clients. Every element in an audience demographics can influence the design, including age, gender, technical competency and profession. For example, a website for real estate agents would be very different from that aimed at young video game players. Usability would be much more important if your target audience is older and less technically savvy. Apart from the general aesthetic, the target audience you focus on will also determine smaller details like the font sizes and colour palette.
When you define your target audience, you need to determine their:
- Age range
- Marital status
- Income level
- Education level
3. Centre your web design and development on your brand image
A common mistake among web design and development is to just implement the latest design trends without a cohesive image at the centre. These design trends are popular because they work, but that does not mean that they are right for every occasion. Just look at an element as simple as colour. Not every colour works well, no matter what the trend of the season. Instead, it is better to think about the goals of your website and the kind of emotion you are trying to elicit from visitors. Your website’s design should be centred on the character and personality of the brand it is trying to convey. Every website has a brand, even if there is no product or service being sold. Decide what that is and work around that brand image to create a lasting, cohesive impact on your visitors.
4. Follow a goal-based strategy
Now that you have determined the goals, target audience and brand image of your website, you have all the elements around which you can build your website. Your design decisions should be in sync with your strategy. For instance, if the main goal of your website is to add more subscribers to your service, you could do three things to make a difference:
- Create a clear and concise snippet about your service on your landing page so that visitors are immediately clear about your website function
- Use contrast and colour for your registration link or button to stand out and easy to spot by your visitors
- Make the registration process as simple as possible by removing all optional and unnecessary elements; people can be easily put off by a long-form
Of course, there are more ways to achieve your goal, and goals do vary from one website to another. The strategy, however, remains the same. You have to focus and shape all design elements for meeting your goals, satisfying your target audience, and projecting a clear and appropriate brand image. The aesthetic of your website has to best suit the sensibilities of your target audience.
If the focus is on entertainment, choose lots of imagery and colour for a vivid experience. If the focus of web design and development is delivering information, then web design for readability and usability, and keep the colours and imagery to a minimum as they can distract from the content. If the focus is on products, use large diagrams and imagery for presenting the functions of your products. If it is a service, you could provide a tour and use descriptive examples of the benefits of your service. A video can work great to make visitors understand how your service or product works.
5. Offer clear value to visitors
Now you know what your target audience is, but how do you that they want what you offer. You need to have a clear and concise unique selling proposition or value proposition, which is basically a promise to customers that they will get value from your brand that is different from competitors. Make sure that you communicate this value proposition right from the get-go. Make it clear to them why you are better than the competition. Give them a reason to stay. When you think about your target audience, answer these questions:
- What are their problems?
- How can you solve these problems?
- Will you save them money and/or time?
- How can you improve their lives?
- Why would they choose you over the competition?
6. Encourage sharing of the content
You have your target audience and your value proposition, and they know why it would be best for them to choose you over your competitors. But you should also offer content and other elements that make them want to share it with others. Good content should draw in an audience, offer solutions to problems and leave them wanting to learn more and share it with others. This generates interest in your brand and website and brings in more valuable visitors. After all, word-of-mouth is the best kind of marketing.
7. User experience
User experience is a key term today and for good reasons. It is important to have a great-looking website to sell good products and services, but you also need to design a website that feels good to the visitor with every visit. This can prompt them to interact with your brand more often. There are lots of factors that go into a good user experience. For one, web design and development has to be intuitive. Visitors should be able to easily navigate the site and find what they want in the fewest clicks possible. Also, clutter should be avoided at all costs. Clutter has been a major challenge in web design and development since its inception and remains so today. Remember to use white space for making it easier to read texts and avoid adding too many things to one page.
8. Quality and audience engagement
Quality is very important when it comes to web design and development. The last thing you want people to think when they visit your website is that it looks amateurish and incomplete. Take your time when you build your website, and focus on every element. Do not omit even the small details. The website has to be consistent in theme and accurately reflect your business goals.
A good quality website is fun to visit, but how do you keep your target audience engaged once they like reading and sharing content and interacting with your website? The best way to achieve this is through the regular addition of new and equally engaging content. Find out the challenges faced by your target audience and write content that provides something of value to them.
You can also engage your audience through an opt-in email subscription. Email is direct, targeted and highly personal. Collect email addresses and communicate consistently and regularly. You can set up an email campaign for the RSS Feed to your blog.
9. Measure the results
Once the website has been deployed, it is time to measure how well it works. Until you test the performance of your website, you will not know whether it has effectively met your goals. The measurement criteria should be determined based on your website goals. If one of the goals was to increase subscriptions, the number of sign-ups should be a key performance indicator. The number of RSS feed subscribers should also be a key indicator. If encouraging user involvement was the goal, the number of forum posts or comments should be a key factor. User feedback on your website design can also be a great way to check if your website is serving your target audience well. However, this largely depends on whether your target audience likes to be engaged about such topics. Also, remember that not all user feedback is effective. Sometimes people have different wants and tastes, and you cannot satisfy all of them. The best thing to do with user feedback is to identify patterns and common issues and deal with these issues instead.
There are lots of ways to measure website metrics, but the important thing is that they should be connected to your key goals. Use the data to see if you are going in the right direction and to determine what changes you can make in the design going forward.
10. Keep making changes
This brings up a key characteristic of web design and development: it never ends. The version of the website you publish is not final. In fact, you should never think of there being a final version. You can make improvements to it, and websites are designed to keep changing with time. This does not just mean changing to meet the latest design trends but also includes changes to improve the efficiency of the website, speed up navigation, or fix mistakes. Keep working on gradual updates and improvements to the website to make it more efficient and effective. Identify problem areas using the results of your measurements. For instance, your bounce rate may be too high, a key web page may not be getting enough visits, or your visitors may be finding it difficult to navigate to certain points of your website.
As you can see, it is not exactly complicated, but there are a few things to look at and focus on. Moreover, it is an art form, and it takes quite a bit of skill and knowledge to fit all the puzzle pieces together and make a website worthy of your business. In fact, it has to be seamless that you never notice it in the first place. You just feel the impact of it, and the results speak for themselves.