Website Design 101 : Design by Example

October 25th, 2007 · No Comments · Category: Design

de young museumWhat is website design? It’s not just how a website looks, I can tell you that much…and more. Website design is design in the truest sense of the word: “organization or structure of formal elements in a work.” Website design is like architecture. It’s not enough to look good, because otherwise the building will fall apart and injure people, right? Not that bad web design can cause fatal accidents (I hope), but it can and does leave a nasty taste in your mouth, perhaps blind you and cause you to run screaming the other way…or you can just hit the back button. Anyway, your website like your building has to be sound in structure, it has to be easy to “walk through” and it has to have purpose. A good website like a a great piece of architecture has a structure and navigation that serves the purpose. You know, form follows function. So, before building your fabulous website, ask yourself, “what’s the purpose of my site?”

Let’s say the purpose of your site is to promote your bra fitting service. Your what? I know, I know. Just go along with me. Bra fitting is a niche market, so you got one up on most businesses already. And, you have the opportunity and the obligation to promote your arse off in a unique sort of way. The purpose of your site specifically is to bring customers to your business, where you also happen to sell mid to high end bras and undies for women in, let’s say San Francisco Bay Area, who are at least 25 and at most 45 and who are of all shapes and sizes, not just the skinny minnies.

So, you already know bra fitting might be a hard sell, but you know it’s a market that’s untapped and needs to be filled ’cause so many women wear bras that are not supportive, cheap and wear out quickly…like a bad boyfriend. Or bras that are expensive, don’t last too long, and never really fit right…like a useless boyfriend. I jest…sort of. Anyway, you have a lot of written material about the importance and benefits of a well fitting bra from a lot of research you found and some you paid handsomely for and you want to put it to good use. Well, the web was made for whitepapers and freebies. Well, not really, but the web supports them well.

You’re not a web designer or even artistically inclined so you have no idea where to begin in transferring your research material onto your website in a way your potential clients will respond positively. You’re smart enough to know that you shouldn’t just upload PDFs onto a website hoping people will read it ’cause you point them to it. So, you hire a website designer or company and a web copywriter.

bra fittingA good website designer will brake it down for you like this: Your purpose is to inform your clients about the genuine and amazing benefits to their posture, attractiveness and pocket books that you bra fitting service will provide. Your purpose is to get your clients to visit your physical location or at the very least, call you ASAP to schedule a free fitting. Your purpose is also to get your clients to tell their friends, family members and associates about this amazing service with amazing benefits. So, here’s what you need: a home page with a concise summary outlining with punchy language what you’re “selling” and how it benefits your clients; an about page telling your potential clients why and how you’re an expert on this service; a service page describing the service in detail but in short punch paragraphs and lots of visuals…preferably humorous considering the inherently awkward service you’re providing; a contact page with your email, phone number, business hours and business address, and a contact form; and finally a separate page with a hand full of the research articles you’ve found and bought broken down in chunks and available to read in a blog format along with the option to print these forms out as PDFs.

In addition, a good website designer will make sure all your web pages have “contact us”, “call us” or something to that effect in big bold type or a graphic, which leads you to the contact page. Also, since your bra fitting service is free, big bold “FREE Fitting”, “FREE Service” or something like that is everywhere to be seen. People like free stuff. I love free stuff, even if it’s a little awkward and as long as it benefits me, ’cause let’s face it, selling to a client’s got nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. What they want, what they need, what they can get out of the deal.

So, you’ve got your structure and you know what pages you will include. Now you can decide the look, the fun bit! Like I mentioned, this is a unique business providing an awkward service, so I think humor would be appreciated. As a website designer, I already imagine a website with a simple, playful theme and perhaps vibrant or fun neutral colors. Design is relative, but I can’t imagine this site being just black and white with no color and no flavor. If your company is unique, make your website unique, but not so unique it’s off putting. The goal in choosing the look of your website is that it fits your goal, your message and entices your potential clients. It speaks to them as much as it reflects your business. Also, I’d suggest, as a website designer and a visual person in general, lots of pictures, but don’t go crazy. Just make them appropriate, useful and amusing.

Now the navigation (information architecture, if you will). Your home page is first (of course) then, wherever and however you decided to place your navigation bar, I’d suggest “service” page, “info/research/blog” page, “about” page and then “contact” page. This is the sequence I imagine your clients will follow in navigating through your site. There are many opinions on navigation sequencing, so whatever makes sense to you and your website designer is fine.

link loveFinally, link loving. Make sure the links to all your main pages (the navigation bar) is visible on all pages. There’s nothing more frustrating to a web visitor than trying to find a certain page, but the link is buried on some other page they’re not on. Also, like I mentioned before, you want the contact page link on every page, but not just in the main navigation but perhaps in the footer as well, and perhaps somewhere in the body of the pages where appropriate. In addition, if your web copy (writing) mentions another page in passing, link it so your web visitor can go straight to it. More specifically, link those pages (like the contact page and perhaps the services pages) that are most important into converting your visitors into clients. I.e., “not only does a well fitted bra save you money ’cause you’re more likely to buy the right one fewer times, it also gives ‘the girls’ that extra support they need preventing back pain and promoting healthier breasts overall.” The underline words would be links.

Though there is more to having an effective web presence, a well structured and attractive website with easy navigation and relevant content, it’s a damn good start and the only place to start, frankly. Hope this proves helpful.

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