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Why Your Website’s Design Matters

First impressions are important. Whether interviewing for a job, meeting with a client, or giving a presentation, this common sense conclusion seems to be ingrained in most of us. When the stakes are either not as high, or not as personal, this is often forgotten or misunderstood (wearing nice fall clothes before going for a hike, for example). When it comes to appearance, it doesn’t work to look good if the visual impression doesn’t match the context. This should also be kept in mind when designing a website.

In an age where people use search engines to research a company or organization before making any plans or decisions, the appearance and feel of a website is important. In fact, your website is often the first impression that your potential customers will see. How it looks, and how it makes them feel when they use it each give a conscious or subconscious impression about your brand. Does the design feel clean and fresh? Artistic and alive? Down to earth and practical? How should it feel in order to accurately represent your brand? How should it look to make your clients feel that you really understand them?

Know Thyself

First, revisit your brand’s identity. What is your mission? What are your values? What are you selling? Who are you selling it to? Is there a cultural or sub-cultural context? These should all be considered when deciding the general aesthetic of your website. Once we have a general idea of how it should feel, it’s time to move into the content we are designing for. Related: Getting started with your content strategy

Know Your Audience

What is your message? What makes your brand unique? What kind of a personality does your brand have? These should be woven together when deciding the information architecture, how content is organized and displayed, of your website. Your website should represent your brand in a way that your intended audience can understand and see themselves reflected back in. That is, your website should be relatable.

Be Crystal Clear

The design should make sense. Navigation should be easy. They should be able to tell right away what action they should take. Shop? Call? Order? Email? Read more? Restrict the available choices, and make them simple. The words and the voice of your content should keep them engaged as they choose from the available actions. The design exists to organize and display the content and calls to action. That is, design is the art of solving problems, not art for art’s sake. In web design, the “problem” we are solving is effectively communicating your brand, and encouraging site visitors to take desired actions.

Be Interesting

The design should be interesting, but modest. Clean designs with photographs and white space make sense to visitors without asking them to interpret very much before getting to the message and calls to action. This respects their time, their energy, and keeps their focus where it belongs: on your content. A little interactive design can go a long way to adding interest without adding clutter.

Be Flexible

The design should be responsive. Today, people do more with their smartphones, and depend on them as a primary means of searching and browsing the web. If your website doesn’t look good on a smartphone’s browser, you are alienating a large, and growing, demographic. It’s 2018. Every new website should be ready for a wide range of screen sizes.

Be Familiar

The design should look and feel like it’s from the same family as other assets related to your brand. I might even argue that this is the single most important point to remember. Have you ever gone to a website only to realize that you were in the wrong place just by how it looked and felt? Did you immediately look for the logo to verify that your instinct was right? You don’t want to give your visitors that false negative instinct when visiting a website. Your brand has a personality, which makes sense. After all, business is personal. Your website’s design should represent this personality.

If I Were To Summarize…

While looks alone probably won’t make your business successful, it can go a long way toward helping your future and existing clients. In a sense, your website is taking the place of an elevator pitch, a casual conversation, or a scheduled private meeting. It is available to anyone with internet access any day or time. Creating content that successfully achieves this is important, and the bare minimum we should do with design is to simply not misrepresent the content. Better still, we can support, and even enhance this same great content with good design.

Industrial designer Dieter Rams famously said that good design is as little design as possible. A similar sounding idea that really gets to the heart of good design for a website is this:

“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”

– Jared Spool

Getting started with your content strategy

At Grey Leaf Media, we take content very seriously. We build beautiful, functional websites, but without valuable content, your marketing effort is only halfway done.

Content is extremely important, but if you’re reading this, you probably already knew that. Content marketing introduces your brand to the world in a very personal way, and it helps to convert visitors into paying customers.

Your content is going to do the heavy lifting for your brand in the digital world. It shows off your brand’s personality, and serves as its introduction to your potential clients. Your content, along with your website, is your digital identity that your current clients can share with potential referrals.

There is a lot of content out there, and most of it sounds exactly the same. Look at your competitors’ websites. Go ahead, go to their website, and check out their message.

 

It’s OK, I’ll wait. …

 

Now, you have probably noticed some similarities in their messages and what they are offering. Their approach to content and marketing is probably similar as well. Now, I want you to close those web pages and completely ignore your competitors. Seriously.

Together, we are going to do marketing differently. Your image is going to reflect your brand, and appeal to your clients. It can be easy to fall into the trap of copying your competitors when starting out. Their message might be great and effective for them, but it’s not your brand’s message. The problem is that if you don’t stand out and establish your own style, your message will get lost in the mix of competitors and advertisers.

This is why developing your content strategy is so important. Your content strategy will include all of your written words, descriptions, and images that portray your brand and carry it forward. For this post, we are going to focus specifically on blog posts to attract and keep your client base.

Getting Started With Good Content

Before you start writing, you need to brainstorm your topics. I don’t mean just writing down what comes to mind, although you should do that as well. You want topics that specifically target your audience. Your audience is your target customer base, and not everyone who reads your article will fit into that group. This is a crucial point to understand before you get started. Not everyone is your customer. Most people don’t want what you have to offer, but your target customers do. You want to attract the people who are excited about your product or service, not just anyone with access to a web browser. Your customers are actual people with real wants and needs, so it is important that you really figure out what they want.

Research Your Audience

What are your customer’s needs and wants? What is so unique about your brand that makes you able to meet those needs and wants?

If you’re not sure, ask your customers what it is that they want. People are usually willing to share, if you take the time to ask. If you have an email list, you can send them a quick survey or questionnaire.

If that’s not a possibility, browse or participate in forums related to your topic. Read the comments section of popular blog posts to see what questions or concerns are being raised there. Spend time with your customers in person, and ask the questions. You don’t need a focus group to go talk to your target audience. Ask people these questions at the gym, the coffee shop, at church, at sporting events, at conventions, or anywhere your customers might be. Build relationships and listen to their wants and needs.

This might seem like a lot of work to just get started, but trust me – the more time you spend understanding and perfecting your message, the more cohesive your content marketing plan will be. Do not try to skip or rush over this step. It will save you time and frustration in the future. Content marketing is not about getting the most page views per visit or the most traffic; it is about helping your ideal customer find you.

Help Your Audience

Now, while your competitors are targeting anyone and everyone, you are ready to start your targeted content marketing campaign. You now know what your customers want and need, and you know how your product or service can meet that need. You are not writing an advertisement with each article, you are providing valuable content that your ideal customer wants. You’re helping them learn that working with you or buying your product is a benefit to you both. Use this information to start creating your blog posts.

Your posts should be able to do some very important things:

  1. Answer your customer’s questions,
  2. Highlight your brand, and
  3. Show off your expertise.

Keeping those three points in mind, organize your notes into a list, and prioritize, and write down, your topics. At this point you should have a long list of topic ideas. Once you have your list finalized, decide how often you want to publish a new post. We recommend a weekly posting schedule, if you can manage it. Quality content will always win out over frequent and sloppy content, so don’t worry if you can only post once or twice a month when you are just getting started.

Organize Your Publishing Schedule

Now, you’re ready to set up your editorial calendar. Your editorial calendar is where all of your important publishing information will be listed for each of your topics. You can create your own calendar, or you can choose from the various options available online. For each of your topics, list your temporary title, some potential keywords, your writing and publishing dates, and how you will share your content. You can add more complexity and detail to each topic once you get more familiar with using your calendar. Your editorial calendar is going to help you stay on track with your marketing plan. It will also help you keep track of your keywords and your working headline while you’re conducting keyword research to optimize your post. We’ll discuss how to set up your editorial calendar and SEO optimization in later posts.

For now, stick to the plan. You will not see an immense amount of growth overnight, but, when done correctly, you will reap the benefits of your content for years to come.