It's easy for the web site of your dreams to turn into a nightmare. But it doesn't have to be. You can get the design you want once you understand the key components of a site design or webpage design.
Obviously, the place you don't want to go for your web design is a print designer or a traditional marketing firm. Instead, find a web designer who understands not just how to make pretty pictures, but who also understands the user experience and search engine optimization (SEO).
A website that's beautiful and functional? Crazy, I know.
How to Get the Design You Want in Five Words or Less!
Once you've hired your web designer, your first instinct might be to find lots of websites to show the designer what you want, right? No, stop!
Let me share a secret with you: no one knows why they like anything. Really, they don't. I know you think you know, but unless you've attended hours of art class where they teach you how to do this, or you were just born aesthetically gifted, you don't.
In 11 years of doing this, almost no one has been able to really articulate why they like something. So many times early in my career I would mimic a site, only to find out that they really only liked one element (e.g., the little red boxes in the corner).
Because people usually don't have the ability to discern why they are drawn to a certain aesthetic, you don't need to go out and find pretty websites. Really, it isn't as helpful as you think. It will stifle the creativity of your designer and you'll probably realize that you only liked the little red boxes anyway.
Also, even if you and your team agree on which sites you like, it won't be for the same reasons, which will tie up the creative process. I can almost guarantee it.
So, if you can't pick out websites to show the designer, what can you do? Easy. Pick out five adjectives that describe your site and then tell your designer any colors you hate. Colors you know, that if they show on the site, it will make your skin crawl and your run for cover. Then give it to your designer.
Yep, that's the secret. Five adjectives and the colors you hate.
The better web designers will probably hit your look first design out. Plus they will secretly thank you for giving them the creativity to do what they do best rather than tying their hands by forcing them to design your site to look like something it shouldn't be in the first place.
OK, Let's go Design, Right? Wait! What About Your Users?
Before the designer starts any design, you should sit down with them and work out your site structure and home page pathing. If the design is a redesign, then sit down and work out just your home page pathing.
Design isn't just about look and feel, but user experience. Part of why we hire a web designer is their ability to help create user experience and develop proper site pathing and architecture off the home page.
Your home page is the entrance to your site conversions or site pathing. Whatever your site goals are, the home page is where users take their first step. The web designer's job is to make the first step clear and direct. Then to help get users to that goal or conversion before they even realize they're there.
It all starts at the home page. This can't be done without proper planning and input. While it can be done after the outer design is complete, it must be done before the site design is implemented.
So Now we Must be Ready, Right? Wait. What About Your SEO?
Next, it's time to talk SEO. While your pathing is part of your SEO, there is more to it than that.
Make sure your designer is either an SEO or sits down with your SEO team and knows where things need to go, how to lighten page weight, and the best way to design the site for your SEO goals. This will be crucial to your site success and can't be overlooked.
Here are some of the most important elements to go over with your designer:
- Where are your page elements placed?
- Are your most important SEO elements placed properly and in text format?
- Is this going to be a local site where you need your address and number to be present?
- Have you made sure to make places for content on your homepage?
- What about text to code ratios?
- What about page speed?
- Have you minimized your graphic load?
Wow, I had no Idea! Web Design is Kind of Complicated
It's crucial to find a web designer who knows all these things, or who is at least informed enough to work with your consultants to make sure all these necessary parts of your site are added to your site design. Site design affects all aspects of your site success. Without proper implementation of your site design, your site won't convert properly, rank competitively, or be well received by users.
However, it's more than that. Every item you place on your page affects the design itself. Every item -- text, buttons, graphics, addresses, logos, footers, navigations, etc. -- is all part of what eventually becomes your site design. So you do all this not only for your site, but for your site design.
Too often, these items are added late, destroying what was a beautiful and functional design because the elements can't easily be made to harmonize with the whole.
So don't just tell your web designer to "go design something." Sit down with them and plan it out. Make sure you know what's going where and why. Then let them do what they do best!
In the end, you'll be much happier, and so will your designer!
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!