Design Matters

Interactive marketing design isn’t just about fancy pictures and cool looking web pages.

Design is as much an art as it is a science.

When done correctly, design isn’t noticed, it’s consumed. Good design feels natural and unencumbered. People often choose design over function, remember how the first iPhone couldn’t copy/paste yet took the world by storm? Because the iPhone was unique, intuitive and just plain cool, people flocked to using a phone that was technically inferior to its competitors. But who cared!

The Art of Perception

Developing a company brand takes a long time. Starting from day one, customers must make sure that the client knows what they are in for. Big companies spend millions of dollars on branding initiatives all year-long. The way a customer “feels” about the brand and the culture that ensues is what causes people to spend $5 for a cup of coffee or pay $120 for a pair of shoes. Branding goes beyond just the product or the service. In today’s world of social media, small mistakes can escalate into very large problems because people are not afraid to tell others. So although mistakes may happen, how company response to those mistakes will in effect shape its overall branding.

A lot of the branding exercise is dependent upon consistency. Consistent use of the logo, key phrase, messaging, tone, processes, etc. Over time, just like watering a tree, the branding will take effect and become an entity itself, driving sales and profitability for years to come.

Who Are You Selling To?

Knowing who your customer is will save companies more money and result in a better return on investment than any other exercise. We’ve all heard tales about how the customers who take up the most amount of our time are the least profitable ones. The reason is that customer should NOT have been a customer to begin with. Selling for selling sake CAN generate revenue. But, there is a difference between revenue and profitability.

Doing a simple, yet effective exercise identifying your target ideal customer will enable you to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by prospects kicking tires, asking questions and who will never buy from you… ever…

The Art of Organization

Typically, in the form of an “org chart,” a sitemap is a very high-level flowchart of the website’s content. Many times companies rush into developing a website without proper planning. Although someone may have the content organized in their head,  many times that image does not translate correctly or contain all the information necessary.  But using a simple sitemap,  a company can save lots of time and money and make sure the content is accounted for.

Just like any project is organized from the ground up, websites are no different. A sitemap is an easy exercise that identifies what content will go where. Organizing your content into logical buckets makes telling your story that much easier. Good organization speaks volumes about what kind of company you are, how you go about things and, ultimately, how well you can be trusted to deliver what you present. Most people don’t want to do business with a disorganized company and the resulting frustration that may occur. By taking the time up front to organize your content using a sitemap, a website will be much more effective and be a more powerful marketing tool.

Getting the Framework Down First

The next evolution of a sitemap is what it’s called a wireframe. A wireframe is a simple sketch of what a website will look like.  Wireframes quickly take inventory of the page content and gives a visual sense of how the content layout will go. Wireframes do not use any graphics or actual text. Simple graphics represent where the various text blocks, images, sliders and calls-to-action go.

Many companies rush into web development without creating a wireframe only to find that they forget entire blocks of content.  By taking the time upfront and creating a wireframe, a company can save valuable time from having to edit finished designs after the fact. Even if the wireframe has 2-3 elements, it’s very useful to have a wireframe because the exercise of creating one will force you to think if there is anything else needed on the page.

Where’s the Beef?

Creating the menus and navigation of a website are fairly simple. However, many companies use industry jargon that the end-user may or may not understand and place content in areas that are not logical for the end-user. With navigation being all about user experience, making it easy for a user to find what they are looking for browse the website and get back to where they want to go will make a huge difference impact on the website’s overall success. We believe that less is more. By grouping items into larger “buckets,” patterns emerge and make creating navigation menus easy.

Presentation Goes a Long Way!

The actual page layout of the website is probably the most important part of the design process.  The content formatting makes a big difference in the overall user experience.  The page layout includes the company messaging, the calls to action,  and presents the products and services in a way that the web visitor can understand and appreciate.  If a visitor cannot determine what the website is about, they will leave. Known as bounce rate, when a visitor comes to your site and can’t figure out what’s going on or doesn’t know what to do next, they “bounce.” The page layout has more to do with the actual sales funnel then it does present text and images. Good page layout will establish credibility, build rapport and entice the visitor to explore the website further.

Although there are no steadfast rules about where certain content needs to go, it is a good idea to follow best practices and deliver the information to the end-user in a familiar format. Some of those ideas include having a call to action that is above the fold, intuitive navigation, and a clear mission statement or value proposition statement. Other suggestions include keeping the navigation either along the top of the page or along the left side of the page. Striving for uniqueness, some companies will put their navigation in non-typical locations, which may confuse the end-users causing them to simply leave the site because they can’t figure it out and they don’t want to feel foolish.

Styles Guide Us

The internet is a visual space.  By using the visually appealing colors, fonts, and images,  the website can quickly establish credibility and entice the visitor to explore the site. Some companies spend thousands of dollars researching which color palette or fonts to use given their target market. For example, companies who are targeting the male audience tend to use more masculine colors.  Whereas companies targeting women or children may use completely different colors, fonts, and images.  Consistently using the established style guide (colors, fonts, etc.) across all the pages of the website is important. Having a homepage that looks one way and sub-pages that look completely different will only destroy the company branding and credibility but also confused the visitor.

A good idea for companies is to create what it’s called a “style guide” and use that style guide consistently on the website, business cards, letterhead and other marketing tools including brochures, advertisements and banners.

Responsive Design + BEYOND

Responsive design is a label used to describe how websites will change the formatting of the page to automatically adjust for desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Today, responsive websites are a must-have. Responsive sites allow businesses to have a single website that changes its layout based on what sort of device is viewing it.

However, in many cases, the responsive design page templates are still not ideal for cellphones. We make mobile first pages designed to address most of the issues mobile users are looking for when visiting a website. We create an “app-like” page that has basic information such as:

  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Link to Google maps
  • Hours of operation
  • Company brochure or menu (optional)
  • Link to full version of website