Google is often the first place that people search when they need something, but not all websites are created equal. Over many years of working with businesses on their online presence, I’ve learnt how to create a website that will delight your target audience and make them want to stick around.
Any business will tell you what they sell and how to buy it, but few companies will tell you WHY they’re in business. And when you’re juggling staff, accounts, suppliers, and inventory, it can be easy to lose sight of your story, or why you went into business in the first place. Maybe what drives you is making sure people’s financials are in top shape so that they can provide for their families now and in the future. Maybe you want to change the world, one yoga class at a time.
A successful organisation knows exactly what they love about their business. What’s more, they know that audience alignment comes when people’s personal values fit with their business brand. This means that, the first step in your website project is to understand your company’s mission, vision, values and aspirations, and how you’re going to communicate these effectively and authentically. Skilfully weaving these factors through your copy and imagery with simple, elegant design will help your customers to feel your passion and speak to them powerfully.
The next focus when developing a website should be your users. Dedicating the time to understanding what your audience needs means that their loyalty will quickly follow. When your audience lands on your website, therefore, they need to relate to what you’re offering and feel compelled to stay and learn more. You can achieve this by aligning simplicity in the user experience with your brand and the simple, elegant way that you tell your story. Remember, your copy might be clear and powerful, but a website that is a nightmare to navigate will undermine your audience’s confidence.
Designing a straightforward user experience is about considering how you want them to move through your website. This means you need to develop a hierarchy of design elements that will guide your audience through what they see first, second, third, and so on. It’s vital to rank these elements based on your business objectives so that you know what to prioritise. For example, if you’re changing the world through yoga, then you might put your passion for yoga on your website’s front page so the audience sees it first. Your next design elements in the hierarchy would be providing clear links to your studio’s timetable, location, pricing, about and contact information.
User experience is also about making your website easy to read. Using white space and, clean design on your site improves legibility and drives your audience’s focus. No-one likes clutter, so embrace the space and give your design elements room to breathe. You also need to consider how the user will reach your website, because this will also impact your website’s design. For instance, the combined number of mobile and tablet users surpasses desktop users on average and the upwards trend is continuing. Analytics can reveal insights into existing user behaviours, but what if you’re starting from scratch? Again, a user-centred approach that considers how your website content translates to a hand-held device is paramount to ensure you’re not devaluing your brand.
Using these guiding principles can help you achieve a website that balances user needs and aesthetics. It will also add depth to your brand and make your web presence not an eye-sore, but a site for sore eyes.
Raz O'Connor is the Creative Director of Ronnoco, a Newcastle-based creative design studio specialising in brand identity, web design and graphic design. He is driven by a passion for user and audience-centric design and helping businesses connect and engage with their audience through a balance of strategy, content and aesthetics.
Raz was born and bred in North London and relocated to Newcastle with his Novacastrian partner Jodi in 2010. His experience extends across local and global brands, from emerging new businesses to household names.