From a small business or personal branding perspective you want to have your website be the best digital handshake it can be. It is your first impression. Yes, three years ago your current website was snazzy, cool and hip. However you can’t tell me you didn’t learn a few tricks of the trade since then. So it is time to roll up your sleeves and dust off your website.
The BIG Picture!
Take a snapshot of your current site. Do you have an understanding of your current user? If not, who would you like visiting your site?
Answer the who, what, why, where, and how questions of your site.
Having a website is great. Fantastic! I applaud you. However you need to have a vision for the future. What would make your site ideal to give visitors the best positive experience?
Don’t know where to start? Seek inspiration. Take 10-15 minutes a day to visit websites inside and outside your current field. Keeping a detailed list of elements on sites you like and don’t like is very helpful. Also consider taking screen-shots of sites and bookmarking them. Being able to have specific idea osf the ideal will help create the ultimate vision. Plus, details help those who are doing the design work and development.
Think LONG term; think five even 5 years down the road. What are you expectations of traffic? How about maintenance time? Will you have a larger staff? Will users expect your site to have updated content?
Take time to walk through your ideas with the most important perspective in mind: the user. Thinking scalable, being specific and making sure to keep your users in mind will set you up for long term success.
Code for the user and they will come. Personally, the Tiffany Store is gorgeous–fantastic! Yet, there is a very specific reason why I would walk in there: to become bankrupt. Where do I spend most of my consumer shopping hours? Costco. The whole experience of Costco is what keeps me coming back.
Thinking from a Costco vs. Tiffany’s standpoint can make sense depending on what kind of site you are creating. For a portfolio site, think Tiffany’s. Wow users with an impressive skill set maybe with glamour or modern, simple sophistication. Yet, for most websites that serve a large, general public audience you want to think more like Costco.
I love this soap box: DO NOT design a website without understanding your audience.
Your website or your representations on sites like Twitter is a lot like giving a presentation to a room full of people. If you are going to give a presentation of your business or brand, what would you focus on? Why? Who would it benefit? Who are you trying to reach?
Consider those with slow internet speeds and accessibly concerns. Is your website going to be available for mobile browsers? How about a text only version?
A usable site is a functional and well loved site.
“Focusing on usability, a better website can be built.”- 5 Ways Web Design Focuses on Usability
What to know more about your current users? Ask them. Take Twitter to the road and ask for feedback.
Invest your time in understanding the users and how that can be translated into a successful website design. Convey the message that you understand the users’ needs by providing a site experience that is easy, convenient, resourceful and fun.
Designing the Site
No easy task indeed! If you are hiring a designers and/or developers, you might find yourself overwhelmed with information. This is where you bring out your research notes, screen shots and sit down over a cup of Joe and talk things through.
Before you head off hiring someone, you should break the site redesign down into phases or small projects. Keep in mind that the main goal of your site is to give a strong handshake and encourage engagement with your visitors.
“Whether it’s your portfolio, a blog, a marketing web site, or a collection of games, we all want to attract visitors to our website and to ensure that they have a pleasant experience.
Usability measures the level of a user’s experience and can be characterized by how easily a given task can be completed; whether it’s done with prior knowledge, or by having the user learn a new way to interact.” 10 Tips To Create A More Usable Website
Then it is time to ramp up marketing efforts. After doing a little cleaning, maybe a little redesign, adding “nice to haves” to your project list and considering usability, you are ready to pump the advertising up.
Let’s keep this high level. Grab your personal or business brand name on every major social network out there; Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, LinkedIn and more. Snag these accounts as soon as possible so you don’t have to get into a mud wrestling match over a person representing your brand name poorly.
Next, utilize your community. Get feedback about products and find opportunities through your buddy ol’pals. Then try out free services like posting on Craigslist and updating your Google Local account. Add yourself or claim your business on Yelp, CitySearch and other sites that offer reviews.
If you’re reading this and don’t have a Twitter account, get on it! Sign up for Twitter now!
Participate on industry forums. Leave comments on industry related blogs. Drive qualified traffic to your website.
These steps are basic, however, you will find that building with the basics creates a strong foundation. You will have invested the right amount of time to get the most out of your redesigning investment.
Happy Spring Website Cleaning!