Many people don’t know this, but when my team and I work on a website design for a client, there is a lot that goes on in the background, ‘behind the curtain’ or so to speak. Most people don’t know how much consideration, back and forth, brainstorming and toil goes into bringing forth the first design draft before the client ever sees it. When we start, we aim to learn A LOT about the client’s business. I don’t just want to know what the client likes (though that is important), but I also want to know about the company’s competitors and customers. And most of all, I want to know what the main goal of this website is going to be. Will it be to get more people to book a consultation? To click to buy something? To find a product among hundreds they may be looking for? To read and share content? And how is the client going to use this site? Where is this company going, and how is it planning to grow over the next couple years? All of these things make a difference in how we make website design decisions.
When looking at our portfolio, the thing to notice with the different website designs that my team has been able to make is that we:
We go through a discovery process with my clients that brings out the brand qualities, competitive differentiators, target market profiles and top goals of the site. So while one person may not have liked the design one of our sites, that website still shows our competence in delivering an up-to-date design based on current design standards that also ‘hits the mark’ in meeting THAT company’s individual need to display their brand visually.
On the sstwireless.com site for example, the client wrote in their discovery questionnaire that they wanted to convey strongly they improve safety and are a technology company. They also showed me sites they liked that used a lot of imagery. Based on this, we used the colour orange, which is a safety colour, and used a font that looked very ‘techy.’ We also used a lot of images to carry the ‘weight’ of the design, because that’s what the client liked. This client had no revision requests at all – we just hit the mark on the first try (actually this happens a lot with us, because we are so thorough in asking questions before we start design).
On the other hand, with rebeccasehn.com this took a totally different approach. This was a child portrait photographer that wanted to show the whimsical nature of childhood as part of her brand. So there are a lot of story-telling visuals here that you would see in old story books. There are also a lot of paper-looking backgrounds to make you reminisce on the past, like as if you found a box of old photos or postcards in your attic that gave you nice memories, which is what a photographer’s service does. I was only responsible for back end development on this site, but I work with this designer closely to produce websites that match the brands of the companies we work with and cater to the audiences that will be the ones using and viewing the sites we make the most.
If that action is to learn more about the company, we can display the important ‘selling’ pages more prominently. I call these ‘cornerstone pages.’ If you see on this site for example, executivesuite.ca, we highlighted on the home page the three main types of services they offer. But that still was not as important to the client as showing the location and interior of the office space, which is the main thing that makes people want to rent office space from this company. It is the biggest ‘deal breaker,’ or so to speak, so the address and photos needed to be prominent.
On jadeworldtrading.com we wanted to display the products in a visually appealing way to attract consumers but we also wanted wholesale clients, who already know the company, to find their login access easily. This client also wanted to get away from the image that jade jewelry is just for tourists (you know those souvenir shops in Gastown, Vancouver that all carry this type of jewelry). She wanted to make the site look ‘trendy and hip’ and to bring a fresh feel to the type of product she is selling. So we purposely tried to go ‘vintage’ in the design with washed-out borders on photos, paper-looking boxes, and so on, because that’s what the client wanted.
We also consider things like the age of the website viewers. For one site we’ve worked on, the audience is much older; they are seniors that need to order vitamins. Before beginning design, my website designer did not only ask the client what they liked, but also read on articles about how seniors use the web and found out that they don’t like to scroll, and will get confused if there is too much info on the page. Our main consideration has to be the customer – the people who will actually be using the site. We care about them more than our likes and dislikes (though sometimes our clients won’t let us care about them to the degree we want to design for them). So in this case she used big text to make sure the older web visitors could read the words well, and she also simplified the site tremendously. She eliminated a lot of text and just helped people take the one action we wanted them to take, which was to find a product based on their health condition. So instead of getting a list of products where customers have to think about what to do next or read all the details, now they will only have to click on one of five health conditions. Based on that one click, they are taken to the product they need. On the sides they can watch a video from a health coach, which means less reading for them.
This involves a few things: partially it is content and design related, but also it has to do with the site visibility on search engines. My background was in SEO so when I build sites, they have that in their coding foundation and design considerations. SEO is an on-going thing to invest in, but the rewards are great. Many times when I take on an SEO client whose site I didn’t build, there is usually always some aspect of the site that needs to be re-developed so that it will be conducive to SEO, even if it’s built in WordPress. This is because many developers don’t know SEO and how their coding can affect a site’s ranking. I try to avoid these problems from the start.
So in short, we don’t ‘guess’ at what we think looks good to US when making a website design. We really delve into what our client needs and apply research-driven tactics to the site to make it work well for the users, which are the customers, the most important people in this brainstorming process!