If you’re thinking about designing or redesigning your company website, it’s tempting to focus on how it should look to impress your customers. Design is important, but if you concentrate on colour schemes before content you run the risk of creating a great looking site that customers either have no use for or cannot use.
Most business web projects I hear of go something like this:
- We want a fantastic looking website that really impresses our customers.
- Let’s find a web design agency to help us design and build the new site.
- We’ve decided on the design we like from the 3 concepts they presented.
- (Oh – now we’ve got to write the content for each page – that’s hard).
- Finally, our new site is up; people are saying it looks good, but we’re not really seeing the benefit in terms of good leads.
This strategy prioritises form over function, aesthetics over information. It’s an easy trap to fall into. Design agencies can dazzle you with the importance of ‘messaging style’, ‘corporate identity’ and ‘brand personality’. ‘It’s all in the design,’ they say. But this design-led approach fails to consider how and why people buy your services and what customers want from a professional business website.
“With a few exceptions, people visit the web for its utility, not its beauty. Having a visually appealing site is good, of course, but content is golden,” says web usability guru Jakob Nielsen
Before you pick up the phone to a web designer, think very carefully about what you and your customers want from your site; what does it need to say to convince them to buy your services and how should this content be laid out?
Build a ‘wireframe’
A good way to get this clear is to create a ‘wireframe’ for your website. Wireframing is a powerful web planning strategy that helps you construct a successful business website.
“‘Wireframing’ takes its name from the skeletal wire structures that underlie any type of sculpture. Without this foundation, there is no support for the fleshing-out that creates the finished masterpiece.”
Here’s the process:
- First work out what you want to accomplish with your website.
- Ask your customers what they want from their visits to your site.
- Identify what each part of the site needs to do and what it needs to say to respond to your customers’ requirements.
- Build your ‘wireframe’: this is a non-graphical layout of each page of your site. It enables you to organise the content and test the layout before you start building the site.
If you wireframe first, before a single graphic is chosen or line of code written, you have a far greater chance of web success, for you and your customers, and you’ll avoid expensive and time-consuming revisions at a later date.
If you’re thinking about investing in a new business website, place content at the heart of your project. First think what you and your customers want from your site. The colour scheme can wait.
- David Meerman Scott’s no holds barred article ‘Branding is for Cattle’ on his blog www.webinknow.com
- Some agencies get it. See Newfangled’s post: Agencies, don’t lead with design
- See the Wikepedia entry on the Website Wireframe
- My previous article ‘Does your website pass the Customer Test?’ tells you more about what customers are looking for when they visit your site.