When designing or doing a significant re-design of your website or other online properties, missteps that potentially damage your digital performance abound, meaning you fail to capitalize on the opportunities presented or even face poor returns on your investment.
Poor design may damage your digital performance
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that design awards aren’t your goal (unless you position yourself as a designer). Instead, your goal is to optimize performance and reach your goals. Design is simply a vehicle for attracting visitors (lead generation) then moving them closer until they finally take actions that support your digital performance, such as making a purchase, subscribing to your list, or creating an account. We call this lead nurturing and that process revolves around crafting content designed for each stage in the customer journey, then delivering that content to the right people at the right time.
Achieving your marketing goals relies on a combination of what you say, how you say it, and making your content visually appealing across all your digital (and offline) communications.
It doesn’t matter if visitors come through a Google Search, through social media, or by referral, visitors must find an inviting landing page with easy navigation tools to move around the website as fits their needs.
Visitors want a lot of things when visiting your website, including support, search, information, etc, but loading the landing page with big blocks of text or random images, doesn’t work. Instead, visitors choose to leave your site if they don’t see what they want in just a few seconds. You want visitors to stay on your website, visiting multiple pages. Not only does this help with SEO, it means you offer customized journeys that allow visitors to navigate through your website in a way that works for their needs.
Major designs involve a multitude of decisions, each working in tandem to deliver positive results. Avoiding design mistakes is just as important as making the right design decisions, and the two pursuits usually go hand in hand. However, when designing websites for your online audience, it’s true that you can both overthink and underthink your strategy, which can damage your digital performance.
Even firms that produce massive profits for their firms, such as Amazon, don’t always present the best, cleanest, and most streamlined websites. Sometimes, a website is too slick, or for large and successful initiatives, the website may retain a few flaws. For instance, downtime and denial of service problems shut down the site when too many users search at the same time, such as on Prime Day. From the standpoint of Amazon suppliers, massive problems exist with the review system, which routinely removes valid reviews while allowing negative reviews from competitors and other fraudulent reviews to remain.
What is website design?
Hence, website design involves more than the pretty pictures and text used to create the site. It involves functionality, as a core concept for buyers, vendors, and employees working on the backend of the website.
Web design is a public-facing effort, showing the taste, practicality, forward-thinking, and also competent nature of your entire business. A business’s web platform may look sleek and well presented, but, if it lacks security or doesn’t provide the functionality desired by users, there’s a hole in the proverbial water bucket that leaks profits and leads to unhappy customers.
So, how does a firm develop a website and other social properties that maximize profits? That’s the question and finding the right answer is critical because the more web design mistakes you avoid, the less damage your digital performance faces. For that reason, we collected some of the following advice to help avoid digital design pitfalls.
Design features that damage your digital performance
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the poor design features that may damage your digital performance. Rather, we’ve collected the design failures that figure most prominently in poor digital performance.
Busy landing pages
A clean, inviting landing page is imperative as it gives visitors a first look at your brand. Remember being told the importance of your appearance since others form an impression of you in the first seconds after meeting? It’s the same for your website.
For an example of an overly busy landing page, head to nearly any sales page on Amazon, and see just how many hyperlinks, offers, deals, services, and payment plan options they offer. It can be dizzying to start for a first-time visitor, although repeat customers may be immune to the negative effects, since the “above the fold” content shown prominently on most devices, is more streamlined and less busy. Hence frequent visitors are likely nonplused by the over-stimulation of a sales page, new visitors likely find it impossible to process the many challenges to their cognitive processing and leave.
Consider the amount of information on your homepage and the organization of that information, which also impacts cognitive load. Head on over to my homepage to see how my organizational structure groups like elements together, allowing visitors to easily scroll past information that’s not interesting to them. If you find your traffic heatmap shows that certain areas are virtually unused, don’t be afraid to prune the information. Use heatmaps and other tools to clean up any landing page you feel needs improvement.
Web design that requires too much engagement
Users have their own motivations for visiting your website and interfering with their ability to satisfy their goals, replacing them with goals that satisfy your own needs, is a recipe that may damage your digital performance.
Examples of circumventing visitor goals with your own include pop-ups that block information with ads or subscription requests, chatbots asking to provide assistance, or requirements for registration before you have a chance to determine whether the site is useful.
For instance, box meals are popular with busy consumers, often in small households. Yet, most box websites require registration before a visitor gets a chance to see menu options. Many consumers have definite taste preferences and foods they avoid. By hiding menus behind registration requirements, these websites actually reduce sales when picky visitors leave before discovering the breadth of menu options that would satisfy their tastes and dietary restrictions.
Companies using these websites prioritize adding subscribers to their list for endless email marketing efforts designed to tempt back visitors over actually selling their subscriptions.
Instead, save subscription requests or advertising for after the visit, which allows visitors to determine whether they want to engage with your brand.
Put your best foot forward
A perfectly designed landing page has lots of white space and information necessary to promote the brand is “above the fold”. Excess information is hidden from the landing page with clear navigational tools like menus and hyperlinks to ensure visitors have all the information they want and need.
However, a website that lists its legally required notice for collecting cookies that blocks content rather than being hidden near the bottom of the screen invites visitors to leave.
Another feature to avoid on your landing pages is an auto-playing video promoting your service or product. Many visitors don’t want to take the time to view your video until they know more about you and, with more folks working from home, the sound in the video interferes with their efforts to multi-task. Other visitors, like me, prefer to see written text over a video since the text is scannable and reduces the time necessary to glean the information desired. Instead, set all videos as click-to-play (especially important on low-bandwidth devices such as mobile phones). This action also improves page load time.
When designing your digital properties, think like a visitor and design to address their needs, blending in options to satisfying your own in ways that don’t interfere with the visitor.
Amateur web design
Getting your web design right is essential and it’s important to rely on professional web design services unless you’re an expert. Sure, it’s easy to use a website like Squarespace or Wix with drag and drop templates but there are differences visitors can readily see on the resulting websites–they look unprofessional. Websites created on these sites suffer from extreme limitations, keeping you from crafting a professional-looking website that optimizes the customer journey. They also have crappy SEO, which limits your ability to attract organic search traffic and poor security.
When you find out more regarding professional web design services, such as RMS connect, you understand that professionals provide a nearly unlimited number of design options (something to satisfy every customer’s needs), strong security protocols, good SEO (limited only by the quality of content created after design), and expertise to develop clean, functional websites. Short on cash, don’t try to do it yourself unless you take the time to learn how. Instead, check out sites like Fiverr and 99Designs for low-cost design options.
While copying the crowd isn’t always to best metric for business success, web design is often best when you standardize certain features and make them natural for visitors, such as a shopping cart. For instance, if you use a third-party provider for payment processing or shopping carts, users don’t fully understand how they work, and many distrust them. Hence, saving a little money by using these unknown integrations doesn’t pay off in the long run. Most websites in 2020 integrate a secure means for applying card information, a PayPal integration, or even cryptocurrency payment instructions depending on your target market’s technical ability.
Additionally, it’s important to note what features or integrations visitors might see as artificial. It may be that you have a rolling ticker that shows faux product purchases from false users in a similar area to your visitor, such as ‘John just bought our tier 3 package!’ In an attempt to seem more legitimate and ‘live,’ you’re easily spotted as someone trying to gain engagement through any approach, and that, in itself, raises alarm bells even if your business is completely legitimate. For this reason, use verified, known, and worthwhile integrations.
One of the most essential elements of good design is consistency across platforms, pages, and offline marketing efforts. For this reason, good design starts with a style sheet that lays out elements of your design such as:
- colors employed saved as hexcolors
- major fonts used
- essential elements such as a logo and product images
- digital and print guidelines directing placement of style elements
- the brand story including elements such as mission and tagline
Once you developed your style guide, you need a process to ensure all content matches the style elements to ensure you produce consistent content across platforms. Beyond the guide, consistent product descriptions, pricing, images, and offers support your digital marketing efforts.
With this advice, we hope your web design decisions can avoid harming your successful online approach. If you have comments or additional questions, simply add them in the comments below. Similarly, if you have ideas for future posts, add them to the comments section.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.