Web Design is More Than Pretty Pictures
The ever changing and specialized needs of a website make it essential to use an agency, or at least a strong internal team to get the job done correctly. Strategy is the key to getting the website defined – to understanding your company and your audience. Design brings the strategy – the wireframe – to life. It adds the personality, the branding directives, and finally the look and feel of your company into the picture.
There needs to be a basic understanding of human interaction science and strategy in order to develop the information architecture (IA) and user interface (UI) necessary before the site goes to design. Then designers, beyond making something that looks good, must understand the psychology involved in color and shape to make the site effectively engage a user, subtly pushing them toward the information they want and the conversion you seek. This notion is what pushed graphic artists from mere Web designers to user experience architects (UXA). If a Web designer or lesser company provides you with initial look and feel designs before they present you with any strategy documents and wireframes (basic black and white blueprints for the site’s layout without any layer of design): run, run away.
The combination of design and information architecture is what will endear a site to you. If it is simple to navigate and easy on the eyes, or downright engaging, it will surely create a good user experience (UX) and be memorable. But if you frustrate users with a poor layout and garish design, you may never see them again.
One of those $19.99-get-one-free products you see on TV, the InStyler hair tool, recently made a change to their Web strategy through an optimized landing page and saw incredible results. To augment their infomercials, they included a pay-per-click campaign to reach people on the Web who may not have seen the commercial. The problem: the landing page on the website spoke to people who they incorrectly assumed had seen the commercial and wanted to purchase online. InStyler was only averaging 10 sales a day, because users were confused and didn’t convert.
A California interactive agency realized that people were visiting the site based on the ad, not TV, and were confused about the product and purchase. They created a page specifically for the PPC campaign that gave a little more copy about the product and how it works, while emphasizing the benefit and the price. Instead of referencing the commercial, they highlighted testimonials from leaders like Glamour magazine and made a cleaner, more prominent purchase form. The result: sales rose from 10 a day to 100, and up to nearly 300 within two months. This was accomplished by a savvy agency that recognized the audience, what they were looking for, and designed something that worked for them, thus garnering more conversions, or sales, of the InStyler.
Your “guy that does websites” may be an adequate coder – he knows how to make a site work, but he may not be trained in the science of user experience. Sites created entirely by people with high technical skills (I’m looking at you, IT guys) are obviously lacking the emotional touch of good design. Some sites may be designed by great graphic designers, but if they are all about flashy looks and don’t know how to combine human interaction with your information and their design skills, your website can truly suffer. An agency offers a balance of these skills.
Part 4 of this series will discuss the website production and programming phase.
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