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February 3, 2018

A solid website should start with a plan. As aesthetically pleasing as you would like your website to be, you will be headed for failure if you focus just on that because you will have neglected the true purpose of your website.

While lovely design and smart code are certainly important, they are not the be-all-end-all of website design. Instead, what you need to pay attention to is gaining an understanding of the site’s visitors.

Here are some steps to follow to design and build a great website.

Start With a Plan

Without a plan, your site is doomed to failure. While this is not exactly ground-breaking news, having a plan is certainly worth mentioning because many web designers simply fail to take this crucial step. Without a plan, you will not have any research and customer insight to lean on.

For any type of business, a website is the center of all marketing endeavours, both online and off. For many customers, a business’s website is the first and only touch point, making it essential that the site is up to par. Approximately 81% of shoppers do some online browsing before they make a purchase, and 94% of business clients do the same. Considering these stats, it is critical that you understand exactly how to communicate with your target customer.

Define Your Goals

It is essential that measurable goals for the website are set from the get-go. These goals need to be very specific so they can be easily and accurately measured, timely, and realistic. The goals that you set will be your guide for how you design your website, from strategy sessions through to the final product. They will let you find out what was a success and what failed so you can focus on things that will help improve your site.

Create Customer Personas

Your website is the first point of communication with your customers, and as such, it is important to know who these customers are. That is where developing customer personas comes into the picture, which will help improve communication efforts with customers.

A customer persona is basically a profile of a certain individual who represents part of the customer base. A few personas should be created depending on how varied the client’s customer base is. Identify each persona’s specific interests, needs, and challenges, which will allow you to customize content, messages, and landing page for each persona group.

Find Out Where Each Persona is in the Buying Stage

After you have identified who the ideal customer is, you can then address where they are in the buying process as not every person who lands on your client’s site will be ready to buy. One group might be researching their problem and not even be aware of the solutions that may exist. Other groups might be aware of the solutions and will look into feature options. Another group will be the motivated buyer who is actively searching for a retailer who will fulfill their needs.

Each customer goes through their own unique process of awareness, consideration, and decision stages along the spectrum of the buyer’s journey.

Develop Your Content Strategy

After gaining a solid understanding of your client’s customers, you will then be ready to come up with a content strategy. When doing so, be sure to avoid making the following mistakes along the way:

Don’t include random content. Rather, take into consideration all the content pieces that will fulfill the purpose of helping a person go from awareness to making a purchasing decision along the buyer’s journey. Write content so that the customer feels like they are getting valuable information as a result.

Put Your Plan Into Action

You are now ready to build your website after setting up a strategy and gaining a clear understanding of the site’s goals and how to achieve the results desired.

Set up your site plan so that the site’s structure is solidified. This will help you define your web pages and how they interact with each other. Your sitemap will define things such as:

  • All pages on the site
  • Website navigation
  • How each page interacts one another
  • Expected entry points according to each customer persona
  • Expected user interaction for every web page for each customer persona
  • Expected exit point

Each web page should also have a call to action (CTA) to help customers take action.

The Link Between Strategy and Design

All that research will finally lead to the design part. Your site should establish a level of trust with site visitors. Ensure that your branding fits user expectations, which means you should essentially avoid your personal preference.

Your website design should direct customers to the solutions they are looking for, so do not allow your design to overshadow this important function. You must restrict your design to ensure that you’re following best practices for conversion-centered design, and steer clear of any unnecessary design trends that do not add any contextual value to the customer.

The Bottom Line

You are now ready to build a website that will not only be visually attractive but will also fulfill the needs of both your clients and the customers they serve.

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