1. Set a Goal
A website is not an art project, it is a business tool. What are your goals? How will your website most directly influence your business? Define this in a tangible way. For example, if your site derives revenue, then a goal example could be to increase sales by “X”-amount of dollars (or percentage) sold through the site in the coming year.
2. Who Will be Using Your Website?
Never design a site for YOU, always design a site for your user. Know your audience. Not everyone uses the internet in the same way. Some examples of what to determine would be: User age or internet proficiency level (sometimes those are directly related), What internet browsing method will they be using (desktop, iPhone, iPad, etc) or What will they be looking for 1st on your site?
3. Plan of Action
Now that you know what your site goals are and who your user is, how can you move them towards your endpoint in a way that is most pleasing to them? (Note, on a good site the business goals and user goals should be “one”. Example: A clothing store wants to increase site-sales revenue, and the user wants to buy clothes conveniently online.) This is where the strategy, planning, navigation mapping and wireframes come into play. Map out how users will use your site. What language, imagery or directive will guide them in a successful website experience. Less is usually more. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel (unless your user requires this.) Make your website as intuitive as possible. A user who gets what they want will come back!
4. The Last 5%
Once you have finished your website design and development, hitting your goals and moving your user to action, go back and put in another 5%! Trust us. Do it. Vigorously test your site across all platforms and devices. Test it on different users (known as user testing). Comb through absolutely everything. You will find an additional 5% at least that can be improved…then DO IT. It makes all the difference between a good site and a great site.
5. Come Back to Your Goals
How will you track the success of your goals? Do you need to place analytics on your site? (That was a rhetorical question. Yes. Yes you do.) Watch how users are interacting with your pages. Are they following the path that you laid out for them? Why or why not? Fix what isn’t working and try a different approach. This is why ongoing maintenance is so important after a site is launched. Never launch a site and then leave it on it’s own. This is a tool, so work it. Continue to tweak until you hit your goal! That is the definition of a successful website.