Tag Archives for " web design "

7 website design BNBranding

As long as first impressions matter, website design will matter.

BNBranding logoThere was a group discussion on LinkedIn recently that started with this statement: “Website design doesn’t really matter. It’s a waste of money.”

It’s nonsense, of course, but that headline served its purpose by provoking quite a debate… Graphic designers and advertising people in one camp, web programmers and entrepreneurs in the other, arguing their respective positions.

The paint-by-numbers group believes web design doesn’t really matter at all.

Design aesthetics, they say, should always take a back seat to functionality, speed, SEO rankings,  “traffic-building strategies” and ease of use.  Besides, why spend money on design when there are so many free design templates and WordPress themes to choose from?

website design doesn't really matter BNBrandingJust fill in the blanks and you’re good to go.

Anything that deviates from their narrow definition of “good UX” doesn’t see the light of day.

A lot of talented programmers who don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies fit into this category.

They can build reasonably good sites with lots of technical bells and whistles. Their sites function fairly well, but there’s something definitely missing. They feel forced. Unnatural.

color outside the lines BN Branding

 

The other group likes to color outside the lines.

This side argues that you absolutely have to make a great first impression, so you should make sure the site is well-polished, on-brand, and visually differentiated before you spend a dime driving traffic to it.

Every website design is a blank canvas, with masterpiece potential.

As a traditionally trained advertising guy, I side more with this crowd. As “creatives” we’re trained to break the rules. Attention-getting ideas and exceptional execution are absolute requirements, so we loathe templates. We’re also taught to polish every last detail before we deliver the work to a client.

This mentality of pride and craftsmanship was beaten into me from my earliest days in high school graphic arts class, and it applies directly to web design for several reasons:

  1. Because people are drawn to ideas presented in unexpected ways. Way more than they’re drawn to companies or products.
  2. Because details affect conversion rates. It’s been proven time and time again. Crappy looking ecommerce sites don’t perform as well as nice looking ones. Shopify has boatloads of data on that.
  3. Because differentiation matters. And if you just paint by numbers, your site will look like every other site.

But I also understand the other side of the argument… In the entrepreneurial world, as in software development, “lean”  and “iterate” are the buzzwords. Their mentality is, “just get something up! We’ll add to it and fix it later.”

That’s a tough one for writers and graphic artists who always want to do great work. But as a CEO friend once said, “it’s not great work if it’s not done.”

 

 

So what we need is a high-bred approach to web design that combines the craftsmanship of old-school advertising with the rapid “lean development” that entrepreneurs favor.

We need to get web designs done quickly, AND really well. Quick and polished, not quick and dirty. Because first impressions will always matter.

If you just fill in the blanks of another WordPress theme and insert your Instagram feed, your site’s going to fall flat on many different levels.

If you choose to cut corners and get it up quickly with cookie cutter design templates, you better be ready to circle back around quite soon to do the fine tuning.

One comment in that LinkedIn discussion was, “I cannot think of a time when website design affected my decision to keep looking at a site.”

Yeah, right. That’s crazy talk from someone who thinks everyone goes through life making decisions in an orderly, logical fashion. Like Spock.

Website Design BN BrandingI guarantee you, that person is affected by design EVERY time. He just doesn’t know it, and would never admit it.

Of course he “can’t think of a time,” because great web design works on a subconscious level that computer programmers don’t understand, nor acknowledge.

It’s an instantaneous, subconscious judgment that leads to spontaneous click of the mouse. There’s absolutely nothing logical about.

Before you know you’ve made a decision, you just stay and linger. Or you click on something. Or leave. You don’t know why. You just do.

The latest brain research shows that humans can initiate a response to stimuli before the neocortex can even interpret the stimuli. In other words, we act before we think.

So the first impression is critically important, and that hinges on design and spot-on messaging.

Poor website design leads to confusion, and nothing drives people away faster than confusion. If the immediate, split-second impression is a little off, they’re outta there. Plenty of beautiful websites don’t convert worth a hoot because of confusion.

Poor website design leads to all sorts of problems.

On the other hand, good design leads to clarity, and understanding at a glance, which is the litmus test for sticky websites.

Instantaneous recognition of relevance.

I think part of the problem with this discussion is a limited definition of “website design.”

When it comes to websites, design is not just the aesthetic elements, as in traditional graphic design, but also the site planning, messaging, and user experience.

It’s a holistic approach to web development that I like to call Conversion Branding.  It’s a well-coordinated team effort between a copywriter who knows persuasion architecture, a talented graphic designer, a technically proficient programmer, and a trusting, intelligent client.

Remove any of those people from the equation and the website simply will not come together as you had hoped.

But back to that discussion… Much of the thread was about the importance of “web marketing” vs. “website design.”  In that case, balance is the key.

You don’t want to spend money to drive a lot of traffic to a website that isn’t enticingly relevant and user-friendly.

There’s an old saying in the advertising business: “nothing kills a lousy product faster than great advertising.”

If your website is lousy, driving traffic to it will just speed your demise.

On the other hand, you don’t want to spend too much on design only to be left with no money for SEO efforts and digital advertising that’ll push traffic to the site.

I agree that having something up and online is better than nothing at all. But be careful…  people are pretty unforgiving. If you’re not an iconic brand, one lousy experience and it’s bye-bye. They won’t return for your website 2.0.

There are a few other things you need in order to get a good website up fast:

  1. A well-crafted brand strategy which provides context and perspective.
  2. A detailed website plan that spells out specific objectives, target audiences, paths to conversion and other critical elements of your site.
  3. Exceptionally creative, yet clear, messaging. You gotta get the words right!

If you leave your web site production to the computer nerds, you won’t get the brand strategy, the site plan, the messaging or great design.

Programmers simply follow directions and program the site as it’s presented to them, in the fewest keystrokes possible. That’s why templates are so popular.

And guess what… graphic designers aren’t very good at that strategy and messaging stuff either. I’ve seen designers obsess over the tiniest minutia and then miss the fact that the main headline of the home page is completely unrelated to the business at hand.

It’s a very pretty mess.

So we’re back to that idea of balance and a four-person team. Website design absolutely does matter. But so does Functionality. Messaging. Conversion. Authenticity. SEO. Photography. And copywriting — don’t forget that.

For some reason, most business owners seem to think they can write web copy, even though they’d never dream of writing their own print ads or TV spots. Suffice it to say, most business owners don’t have the training or the craftsmanship needed to produce a good website. Unfortunately, neither do programmers. Neither do designers. You need the whole team.

Together you might just find a great website design that also produces spectacular results.

If you’re thinking of upgrading your web presence, call us. We’ll be happy to talk you through it and design you a website that’s just the right balance of art and commerce.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

2 BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

Website Design & Development – How to make websites work on many levels.

BNBranding logoIt’s been very interesting to witness the progression of website design and development over the last 25 years. Many trends have come and gone, technology has improved, entirely new platforms have been developed and the graphic style continues to evolve.

These days it’s much easier to do it yourself, and that DIY trend seems to be producing a lot of cookie-cutter, template-driven websites that are wearily one dimensional.

The fact is, your site needs to be multi-dimensional and continually evolving. Websites should never really be “done.”

n this age of mobile computing your site needs to function as an on-line calling card, a customer service tool, a lead generation tool, an educational tool and, for many companies, a storefront.

So let’s look at a few of the most critical levels of website performance…

The good, old-fashioned, phonebook level.

Back in caveman days (before the internet) there was only one way to find businesses; the phonebook.

Business owners had a choice… they could opt for the inexpensive listing in their respective category, or they could buy an ad. But you couldn’t NOT be in the phone book.

The same can be said for Google.

Today, your “Google My Business”  listing is the modern equivalent of a straight listing in the yellow pages. You can’t afford to ignore it.

I can’t stress that enough… More and more, people just do a quick, local Google search and skip your website altogether. They’re relying only on the info the appears on your little, mini website on Google.

There’s nothing fancy about that. Phonebooks provided only the basics; Company name, hours, location, and of course, the phone number.  It was purely informational. On the most basic level, Google works the same way.

Here’s an example:

Say you’re locked out of your car on a cold night and you’re searching for a locksmith. You’ll probably call the first company that pops up on Google that offers emergency service. So the company that bought the ad is likely to get your business. (Just like the guy who bought the first full page ad in the yellow pages.)

Next in line are the three companies that have listings on Google My Business and show up on the map.

Those four locksmiths get 90% of the emergency calls in my market.

website design & development BN Branding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But here’s a completely different buying scenario:

Six months later you need new locks on the doors of your office. There’s valuable equipment in there,  so you find yourself searching, once again, for a locksmith. But this time you have a dramatically different set of needs and expectations.

Same search terms. Same exact unique visitor. Different context. Different search criteria. Different emotion. Different behavior.

In that case, the locksmith’s website needs to work on another level. What served the purpose in an emergency doesn’t work for a more thoughtful purchase. It requires more than just Google My Business and a basic, informational website.

It’s about credibility and differentiation.

 

 

Website design for the first impression level.

The most basic rule of marketing is to make a good impression. Quickly!

If you don’t, your prospects will never make it to conversion. Doesn’t matter if it’s a business card, a Powerpoint presentation, any other tactical marketing tool… the first step to success is making a good impression.

So how do you do that on a website?

Famous Chicago MadMan, Leo Burnett, once said, “Make is simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.”

There you go. That old-school thinking that was used to design yellow pages ads is perfectly relevant for websites today.

Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for web developers who are accustomed to writing code, not copy.

And it’s impossible for business owners who are muddling through a do-it-yourself website… “Choose a color. Insert logo. Put content in this box. Add a stock photo. Proceed to check out!”

The fact is, most small-business websites fail miserably on this basic, 30-second marketing level… They’re not memorable. They’re not fun to read. And there are no differentiating features… they look just like a million other websites built on the exact same design template for the same type of business.

That’s why the bounce rate from home pages is so ridiculously high.  They don’t make a good first impression. In fact, most make no impression at all.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your ads

Website design for the conceptual, branding level.

Pliny The Elder once said, “Human nature craves novelty.”

More recently, marketing guru Seth Godin said, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. Not standing out is the same as being invisible.” The whole premise of his book, Purple Cow, is “if you’re not Distinct, you’ll be Extinct.”

Being distinct is what branding is all about.

Unfortunately, most business owners have no idea what “distinctive” looks like in a website. And web programmers have a hard time disrupting the conventions of their tech-driven business, so you can’t rely on them for design innovation.

The conceptual level of your website revolves around your core brand concept — that one, engaging idea that goes beyond your product and price, and touches on a deeper meaning for your business.

bmw_uou

Brilliant, one-word ad that says it all for BMW.

For example, BMW’s core brand concept is stated very clearly: “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” It’s about engineering, handling and speed. It’s not a brand for soccer moms. The first glance at the BMW website makes that clear.

When communicated consistently, a core brand concept will provide three things: Relevance. Differentiation. And credibility. Every great brand maintains those three keys over time.

Often it’s not an overt statement, it’s a collection of symbolic cues and signals that come together to provide the ultimate take-away for the web user.

It’s the use of iconic, eye-catching images rather than stock photography.

It’s a headline that stops people in their tracks and questions your competitors.

It’s navigation design that’s both intuitive to use, AND distinctly different.

It’s clear, compelling messages each step of the way.

And most importantly, it’s craftsmanship! In the art, the words, and the programming.

When your site is well crafted your conversion rates will dramatically increase. Guaranteed. So rather than just jumping into a quick, do-it-yourself site, stop and think about your brand.

Do you even know what your brand stands for?  What your promise is? Can you communicate your idea in one sentence? Do you really know your market, your customers, your value proposition?

Those are the fundamentals. That’s the homework you need to do before you even start thinking about HTML programming. Because no amount of technological wizardry can compensate for the lack of a clear, single-minded brand idea.

The research or “how-to” level.

BNBranding - too many marketing opportunitiesThe deepest level of engagement in a website is content that educates.

People are hungry for information and quick to examine the details of even the smallest purchases, so give them the meat they need to make an informed decision. Don’t make them go to your competitor’s website for honest insight on the purchase decision they face.

On business-to-business websites this often takes the form of webinars, videos, white papers, videos, articles, blogs and tutorials.

On retail sites it’s third party reviews, product comparisons, user-generated content and the story behind the story of your products or organization.  This is where you site can get very deep and very relevant for serious prospects.

Don’t overlook this deeper level of informative web design. Don’t assume that everyone’s just going to buy right from the product page that they first land on. Many will snoop around and learn more before they click on the “buy” button.

The conversion level.

Of course, the ultimate goal of most websites sites these days is to sell stuff. Which means the definition of a “conversion” isn’t just gathering an email address, it’s sidestepping the middleman and moving product.

In that case, the site isn’t just a marketing tool, it’s an integral part of your entire operation. Therefore, it needs to be integrated with your inventory management system, your POS system and your accounting software. It needs to be a living, breathing operational feature of your selling strategy.

Not only do you have to persuade, motivate and move people to action, you also have to provide a user-friendly shopping experience so people don’t jump over to Amazon and buy your product from some crummy, third-party reseller. So you need website design that’s both “On Brand” and easy to use.

If you want to improve the performance of your website, and transform your ordinary business into a powerful brand, give me a call. 541-815-0075.

More on the importance of branding or on Website design and development

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