So you have a business or are in the midst of building one, and you are ready for the world to find you.
The next step seems to be clear: build a website.
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
But before you take the plunge to build a website, there are few tips to keep in mind when you develop your site.
Last week I attended an event by Orange Hive, a community dedicated to bridging the worlds of start ups and design by organizing sessions centered on various topics of design issues encountered by start-ups. Upcoming startups that were in the midst of designing their websites showcased their work to the audience. Mentors, other designers and entrepreneurs then critiqued them.
The following 3 tips is the aggregated summary of tips based on this session but they can be applied to anyone who is keen to build or revamp their websites for their business.
1. Why do you need this website?
Purpose is key! Ask yourself, ‘Why does my website even exist? What can viewers accomplish here?’ Is the purpose of your website to educate users about your service? Is it for them to make purchases?
The purpose of your website will determine the content that you will work on putting up, the layout of the site that can best display this content, and most importantly the actions the users will be expected to do once they are on the website.This means that you need to prioritize content and the user’s point of view. You need to be able to reach out to target users, across regions, regardless of the devices they work on and serve your content in most efficient way possible.
When considering what content needs to be shared with the consumers, keep in mind the business’s branding strategy as well; The voice of the content is as important as the information being conveyed.
Remember,a website is not just a platform for you to showcase your products. It should be part of a bigger business strategy and should be inline with your branding strategy.
2. The user’s experience
The user’s point of view and their experience of using the site and its content is what is ultimately important. If the message of your website is not conveyed or if the experience of using the site is too tedious, you are likely to lose your potential customers.
Take “Homie” for example,a website that allows people to search for roommates and put up rooms for rent. When a volunteer was asked to navigate the website and describe the experience, it was both entertaining and a great learning experience. It turns out that she had assumed that the page she was on was about people looking for room mates to share the apartment when in fact, it was the very opposite; the page had been about people seeking apartments to move into.
This is why it is very crucial that you ‘test’ out your website as you are building it with friends or strangers who may not be familiar with you are building. If they are able to navigate the site and describe to you correctly what it is that they are doing, you have passed the user experience litmus test.
3. Simplistic Design
You need to keep abreast of the trends in the designs of the layout of sites. As users we are intuitively tuned to what is the latest trends in terms of layout even if we are not consciously aware that we are categorizing websites in our mind as ‘old fashioned’ or ‘hip’. This could determine if your potential clients come back to your site or if they would recommend it to someone else.
Compare the following:
Lessonsgowhere: Marketplace for lessons in Singapore
Skillshare: Marketplace for lessons
“Lessonsgowhere” has a cluttered interface with lots of call to action buttons placed everywhere. Even without a design background, my first impression of the site had been that it was too old school, something I would have seen on the web a few years ago.
“Skillshare” on a similar vine also allows users to learn from experts online. But the interface is completely different. It is clean, fresh, and has only one button for users to click on, making it clear what they need to do next.
This is a good example of design and content in sync with one another making the user experience a breeze.
The rising trend for website design is simplicity. One page layout is increasing in popularity and with ready made templates on sites like strikingly.com becoming easier to use with it’s clear and simple interface. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily make it the design of choice for every single business. The design of each website should aim to convey the content of the site in an easy to understand manner.
Besides layout of the site, consider what colours best represent your brand and how they can be used together with the layout to enhance your customer’s user experience. “Lessonsgowhere” uses more than 3 colours in their site, and the embedded buttons is not obvious enough with the dark green on neon green background. “Skillshare” uses a bright orange colour, often associated with energy, against a white background making the go to action button very clear for users.
Now these 3 tips are not the only views to keep in mind when you are building the site, but they would be considered the core principles that you should consider when you are doing yours. A website is not an island on its own, its part of the bigger archipelago, which consists of your business and brand strategy. How does your website align with your products and services? Some websites which are really good at tying in to core values and products include our ever favourite Apple, Virgin Groups and Ralph Lauren.
PS: Check out the ‘Orange Hive’ group on facebook if you are keen in learning more about design and how you can strategically harness its power for your business. Orange Hive is organized at Blk71 in Singapore, a joint initiative by NUS Enterprise, MDA and Singtel Innov8 to aggregate a cluster of entrepreneurs for the purpose of creating a collaborative and synergistic community
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