Is Your Website Little More Than a Pretty Face?
A beautiful user interface is enough to make just about any site owner happy. After all, solid UI can delight visitors, impress competitors, and make it generally clear that your company has some professional-grade talent behind it.
But is that enough to drive long-term traffic and conversions? No, definitely not.
UI is great, but don’t ignore User Experience, a field dedicated to determining what customers want, then creating a site that fills those needs. So if your extraordinarily attractive site remains an ugly duckling, you may want to try thinking a little differently.
Stick to the Principles of User-Centric Design
User-centric design isn’t a new paradigm, but it’s one that’s been gaining more and more steam in the upper echelons of corporate design.
At heart, it’s a simple principle: design things that people want. Still, you’d be surprised at how hard this can be. Plenty of small-time entrepreneurs or other site owners are perfectly willing to invest money into building a product, then simply hope that it finds a ready market.
Can this work? Sure. Plenty of smart people do it, and create some excellent products that quickly grab customers, but we’ve recently seen far more companies find success with a more careful, measured approach.
User-centric models start with the customer. A mix of savvy market research and existing pain points help businesses find groups of end users with existing desires or frustrations. They then use personas – hypothetical buyers that embody their ideal customers – to guide their eventual designs.
If this sounds absolutely foreign to you, then ask yourself this simple question: “Why would anybody want to use my site?”
Sometimes a website, no matter how attractive it is, simply doesn’t fulfill any existing large-scale needs. At the very least, take some time to research your existing customers for more information on how to tailor your site and market to them more effectively. The needs that exist might surprise you – even truly granular sites can still find big niche audiences.
So let’s say you clear that last hurdle. People clearly want your site, you’re doing a good job matching current desires…but you’re still not seeing traffic.
Time for another question: “Can people find what they need from my site?”
Forms, apps, even basic HTML and CSS can all immediately drive users away if they’re broken or slow. Thoroughly test each and every functionality you want to offer, and you may be surprised to learn that some aren’t working quite as well as you thought.
Even if your site works well on your own devices, that’s no guarantee that it won’t break for others. Only by checking with various browsers – yes, even IE – and, very importantly, checking on mobile devices as well, can you ensure that everything that needs to work, works.
Yet another question: “Can search engines find me?”
You could have the most gorgeous CSS in the world. You could have poetically perfect fonts, wonderful colors, a drop-dead beautiful logo – Google doesn’t care. As long as it’s clean, functional, and doesn’t break any rules, a site’s appearance just isn’t one of the things that it and other search engines take into consideration.
Instead, you’ll have to rely on Search Engine Optimization principles. Some of this lies in the realm of content marketing, which is where you’ll hear about keyword optimization and similar strategies.
Some of it, though, is densely technical and relies on an understanding of the workings of a website. One that I see constantly is a failure to set a preferred domain. Plenty of sites load to both www and non-www domains. Visitors will head to one domain or the other depending on what they’ve searched for, and this split will damage analytics and lead to heavy penalties, dropping your site down search listings.
Web design doesn’t follow the old “if you build it, they will come rules”. Even a legitimately lovely site can have an enormous range of things wrong with it under the skin. Only by carefully optimizing and testing will it develop into a fully-functional, usable, and popular resource.
Img Source: Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/medithit/10363854753