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Within the last 5 years a surge in communication tools and applications via our smart phones, laptops, and ipads has enabled us to gather, post, and retrieve information from anywhere. As a society, we’ve become dependent on instant information, along with the popularity of expressing ourselves through social media outlets. The same must now apply to our Websites. It is no longer the norm for websites to be user-friendly, informative, and impressionable. Websites need to respond to a market-driven society with social media being integrated into our sites. Retrieving instant information is empowering, and individuals are quick to make decisions based on their needs and personal preferences. Thus the easier it is to connect to you, the better positioned your business or organization will be.
So What Makes An Impressionable Website?
1) short, concise information that is simple, easy to read and find
2) photos that tell a story——at a glance viewers can determine if they like what they see and want to know more
3) color, style, layout, and format play a big role in making a user stay or leave
4) being connected through social media impresses upon viewers this website is socially in-touch with new methods of communication
5) simplicity, less clicks enables viewers to search more easily for information
A Need For Change
Initially I planned to update my Website ( current site ) and after much thought, I felt a redesign was overdue. At the onset of this task, I sent out a survey to a small group of people to get some feedback on my site’s current style and format. I received some great responds, which included:
• unsure about colors on different pages
• content was easy to read and follow
• showed a variety of work
• noticed an inactive link
When I started thinking about the redesign, I knew the new website had to be focused on some objectives:
• Add social media resources to the site to become more inclusive with social mainstream
• Condense content for today’s fast-paced viewers
• Focus my services on some specific target markets
• Update portfolio using photographic images instead of silhouette images
• Link all pages to my brand colors throughout the site
• Keep site simple
• Add more white space to the design
The Design Outcome
The redesign (new site under development) took into account many marketing objectives. For instance, I wanted to add a slide show to the homepage to highlight more of my work. For a long time I held off using the slide show feature because viewers needed to regularly update their browsers just to see it; for me it wasn’t an ideal way to show my work. But through advanced technology, I don’t need to be as concerned about this issue anymore. So adding a slide show became a new element to the site. I added photographic images of my portfolio giving it a nice clean look. I reduced the content significantly and included additional information within the site should a viewer seek further information. And I kept the links simple for easy navigation with the option to expand the links at a later date.
Ten Tips For A Stronger Website
Here is an overview of what I learned and some ideas you can implement.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan. When I started the redesign for my own site, I envisioned the design in my head. So I figured, as a designer I’ll just recreate the idea. Wrong, wrong, wrong Jeannine! Unlike the planning I do for my own clients, I did not do it for myself. My thoughts changed direction several times, and ironing out small details weren’t foreseen ahead of time. Without a visual plan my site was without a map. I learned I needed to be as diligent with myself in creating a plan and writing it down as I do with my own clients.
2. Use Skilled Professionals. If you take tasks on yourself, remember to use the resources of skilled professionals when necessary, they can help navigate a project’s direction. I will admit, I was ambitious. I decided to take an existing slide show and manipulate the programming code myself. While I’m not a programmer, it certainly took some trail and error to get the slide show to work. But in my case, I purposely took on this task because I wanted to learn. I find that if I challenge myself and learn from first-hand experiences, I can later pass my skills onto my client’s projects.
3. Keep Content And Website As Simple As Possible. Content is important and today viewers don’t stay on websites too long, unless their looking for something specific. Therefore, keeping text short and simple is ideal. With that being said, not every website can adapt to keeping content short. For example, college websites serve a vast community of people, and often need to keep their content organized and prominent. In my case, cutting content was a goal because I choose to use visual imagery as the focal point of the site. But ideally, try and keep text to a minimal.
4. Visual Is Better. Since viewers look at web pages less then a minute, it’s ideal to include more visuals. This can be achieved in any number of ways. For example, adding graphic testimonials provides a visual in place of straight text. Share photos of events or community participation for interest. Add captions to every image for clarity. On my new site, I wanted my work to be shown photographically and added a slide show to rotate through the images. Then I sprinkled testimonials throughout the site.
5. Capitalize On Your Services. Tell your prospects how you’ve helped other businesses. Case studies are a great way to demonstrate your skills showing before and after results. No matter your profession, find clever ways to add some interest (use visuals if you have to) but show how your product or service can benefit others. I choose to make my case studies a prominent part of my navigation because most people read them.
6. Know When To Start Over. No matter what task you embark on, know when to cut your losses. Chart out a time frame for completion and if you’re not succeeding, figure out why. For me, I worked on a bad file for a long time before I discovered it was not going to work. Sometimes a bad file is just a bad file—start a new one.
7. Take Breaks To Refocus And Ensure Your On The Right Path. Ask for feedback when needed. Weigh the comments received and act accordingly based on your goals and objectives. It doesn’t hurt to walk away from a task from time to time to refocus.
8. Increase Search Engine Listings. Add social media to your site. Social media is in and won’t be going away anytime soon. Therefore, anyway you can add social media to your site will enable you to rank higher in search engines. Here’s something important about social media; it needs regular attention. Adding a social link to your site just to have one, is OK but interactive is better. When I’m asked this question, I respond by saying take on what you can manage. As alternative, follow a blog and post comments. The more you post the more people get to know your business and find you on the web.
9. Update Your Website Frequently. Why? this enables search engines to continue to find new content on your site. Most of the time websites are put up and forgotten. It’s important to keep some form of content current. One way I chose to do this is add a “wibiya” bar to my homepage. Therefore, when I write on my blog site it will ping search engines to regularly update my listings in Google. You can use this bar too by going to the link, signing up for an account, and adding what you’d like to your bar. Then copy the code generated and paste it into your website (it may require a little technical knowledge but not much). The link is http://wibiya.com. Or another version is called Meebo http://www.meebo.com.
10. Keep Viewers In Mind. Write and pick your content with your viewers in mind. Think more about what your viewers want to see. Posting photos without captioning them misses the opportunity to explain how you might have delivered a service or developed a product that solved a problem. Everything you post should be relevant. And one other tip, shoot photos with plain background if possible. It makes the photo look cleaner and gets rid of distracting background items like electrical cords.
A Market Driven Website
In summary, your website should be marketing smart. Everything you include on your site should add value. From the words you use, to the photos and captions you post. Include some form of social media, and on the homepage add a line or two about the products or services you offer. Ask for feedback and listen. One very important point, your website should reflect what you can do for your clients, avoid telling viewers too much about yourself, but how you can help them. Case studies are great ways to enhance your site. Try using one or several of the ten tips above. Every business or organization needs to take a more active role in marketing themselves. Having a web presences is a start, but it must work hand-in-hand with several communication and networking methods to generate the leads you want. A marketing smart website is just one way to help you reach your ideal clients.
Now I just need to launch my new site.
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