To abuse an overworked metaphor, think of your digital strategy as a building. This building’s foundation is the web site. It holds everything else up and
supports all the other elements. If you prefer to think of your digital strategy as a wheel, think of the web site as the hub, where the spokes radiate out
to include your blog, email marketing campaigns, webinars, eLearning modules, social network elements and everything else.
If this notion makes sense, then you’ll agree that it makes sense to spend some energy putting together a web site that can support all the functions you want and be fairly easy to navigate. While aesthetics are important, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about layouts and graphics. There are literally thousands of templates available in whatever platform you work with that will look great. The trick is to make the site functional, which means useful.
What to Avoid
We have become so accustomed to working on the web that we have no patience with web sites that don’t deliver what we expect. Consumer attention spans have shortened to the point that your homepage, or landing page, may only have 3-5 seconds to persuade the consumer that reading your copy is worth their while. Stunning graphics, pop-up videos and photo galleries may be visually impressive, but if they don’t deliver what the potential customer came to find, you will have wasted a lot of time and money and lost an opportunity (see 17 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website).
Think about some of the sites you visit most frequently. Is the navigation simple? Can you easily find the information you want? Do you know who and how to contact if you need more information or help? Does the content provide you the information you need without taking you on a cyber adventure? Chances are it does, or else you have learned over time how to overcome bad design to get what you need.
Do This First
Before you begin doodling with design ideas, take the time to give some deep thought about what your business does, who it serves, what a customer looks like (we will talk further about developing a customer persona in future posts) and what you want them to do when they arrive at your page. This is not a five-minute exercise. This takes some deep thinking. Drive to be as specific as possible. Consider these high-level examples and then consider how you might make them more specific:
High-level Objective: Help customers better manage their medications
Specific Objective: Provide personalized assistance to Medicare beneficiaries to help them understand what their medications do and why they are taking them and helping them communicate about their meds to their physicians.
More Specific: Providing individualized medication management and compliance services to dual eligible beneficiaries in home and community-based care programs.
So, you may ask, if I limit my objectives to such a narrow definition won’t I be missing a larger potential audience?
Yes, but you are targeting a very specific group of individuals who want exactly what you are offering. Remember, you get no prizes for visitors, only for buyers. The more focused your efforts the more likely you are to attract actual customers.
Next up: Web Site Design Basics: Making Early Choices