Okay, so maybe I'm being extreme and making a blanket statement. But we've all seen them: Beautiful sites that really do little to help the client sell its products or services, full of clever or trendy functionality, cool artwork and photos, and an "elegant" design that's often impossible to read.
Remember, a website is an investment. As an investment, you should expect ROI. Pretty is not a return. More prospects, sales, downloads, newsletter sign-ups etc., drive ROI.
As Steve Jobs once said, "People think it’s [design] this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
Yes, a pretty website can work, but you need to understand you need "more than pretty." Here are seven website elements that have nothing to do with "pretty design," but can help you get the return on your website investment.
1. Don't Make People Think
This is "Krug's First Law of Usability" as found in Steve Krug's excellent book "Don't Make Me Think." It's a rule that works across all design, Web or print. It especially is critical for Web design where people need to find and click to discover more information, purchase, or respond. Make it obvious what you want a viewer to do, discover or buy. As Krug explains:
"... it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory. I should be able to 'get it' — what it is and how to use it — without expending any effort thinking about it."
We've all been to a site that was confusing: We struggled to find what we were looking for, it was impossible to create an order and we just said, "forget it."
2. Be Simple
Be obvious, be clear, be direct and don't be too clever. Remember, "KISS" — keep it simple. The more complex you get, the more you will drive traffic away from your site. Most visitors are not there to enjoy the design. They have a purpose for being on your site, and for you that better be very simple, obvious and clear. Put yourself in the users' seat and review your site as they see it. Have non-design friends review it. Have one of your computer luddite friends review it. If they understand it, you're probably okay.
Many sites do the opposite of selling. They preach. "We are this. We are great at this and that." We, we, we. That's not how you sell on your website. It needs to be you, you, you, focused on the prospect. Sell your benefits, not your features — help prospects answer the questions: "What's in it for me? What problem will it solve for me?" Be simple and clear so they understand the benefits as it fits their needs.
If you're not good at writing "marketing" copy, then hire a good marketing copywriter. Marketing copywriting is not content or article writing. There's a sales methodology to the structure of the copy. Don't invest in a beautiful website and then have weak selling copy.
4. Design for Mobile
According to comSCORE, smartphones and tablets combined accounted for 60 percent of all online traffic by mid-2014, up from 50 percent just in 2013. Google's search algorithm change in April gives even more weight to mobile-friendly pages. Put simply, your site must to be mobile friendly: Either a responsive site that adjusts to the screen it's viewed on or a separate mobile site that fits smartphones.
If you are not sure if your site is mobile-friendly, you can go here and test it: Mobile-Friendly Test
Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.