6 Things That are More Important Than Your Website’s Design

Over the years, having built many websites for many clients, and fixed many non-performing websites. Many of those were stunning-looking designs.

But here’s the thing: Building a website that “looks cool” is not enough. To make it worse, many, many web designers out there have no idea how a website is supposed to work.

Not to mention, of course, that all they do is to make it look pretty.

You know, like a beautiful sports car without brakes or indicators. Allow me to explain…

6 things that can tank your beautifully designed website:

1. The user experience.

website design, more important factors, lisech, marketing strategy, consultingIn their quest to come up with more and more “innovative” designs, web designers tend to – more and more – think outside the box. Unfortunately, the people who have to use the website are still in the box…

They expect to find some things in easy-to-find places. They expect to find a link to your home page somewhere towards the top left of any page on your site. They expect to find a link to a contact form somewhere towards the top right of each page. They expect things to be laid out in a way they understand and feel comfortable with.

A few years ago we saw a beautiful website created for a doctor who practiced alternative medicine. It was stunning to look at. But once you clicked away from the home page, it was impossible to find it again (aside from using the “back” button in the browser). The contact page’s link was tiny, hidden in the footer.

Another website had the contact page listed as a sub-menu item for the about page. Without hovering over the about page menu link, you would never know where to find the contact page.

If your visitor cannot find what they are looking for – both in terms of navigation and information – they are gone. Lost to a competitor.

Solution: State your main value proposition right at the top, just after the site title. Ideally it should be a short sentence, followed by a short description for some context.

2. The sequence in which you present your information.

There are websites with a load of generic, abstract content, sprinkled with beautiful, studio-quality pictures. But…

Does it really tell the visitor what they want to know?

Think logically. What does a new visitor to your website want to know?

a. Can you help them?

Do your visitors know – instinctively – that they are in the right place? If they already know about your brand (referred by a friend), then they may be willing to click around a bit. But if they got there by themselves…

If you don’t communicate your value proposition clearly as soon as they land on your site, well…

There are many other websites they can visit. You have but a few seconds before they click away – and you have to grab their attention during those few precious seconds.

b. What can you do for them?

Is your home page full of “filler content” written for search engines, or does it actually state what you do?

Solution:

If the visitor gets to this point, their next step is to make sure that you can do for them exactly what they need. So they need to know what you offer. However, on the home page it is best to not throw all of the details at them at once. If need be, link to a services or products page/shop/catalog.

Ideally, you need to have three short sections stating either your main offers, or summaries and links to more details on internal pages.

But between those three blocks, you need to let the visitor know that you can in fact help them, even if they have to visit an inner page to confirm it.

After that, they would want to confirm that you can be trusted, so at that point it makes sense to offer a few testimonials.

Following that, you can share more info about your company and what it is you do.

And finally, unless you sell products directly on the website, have a contact form embedded at the bottom of the home page.

Side note: Most of the people on the internet currently use their phones to find information. Be careful not to offer chunks of information (or pages that contain too much text) that are hard to consume on mobile. And don’t do long paragraphs. They won’t be read by many people.

3. What does it look like on mobile or tablets?

While some websites out there still do not resize/reshape their layouts when presented on smaller screens, most of them do. But…

What does it look like? Is the heading font size reduced proportionally to make it look right, or does each heading take up two screen scrolls? Is it easy to navigate your menus, or do you have so many items on the menu that the visitor has to scroll just to get through the navigation menu?

Do you have graphics or photos on the page that are wide, but low in height? When displayed on a phone, the image could become so small it could seem irrelevant.

And let’s not get started on the number of websites that look great on desktop, look ok on mobile, but which look absolutely horrible on tablets.

Solution: When the website is being designed, ensure that it doesn’t look odd, or is difficult to read – on mobile or tablets. And that everything displays as it should – no page elements being hidden behind something else, or being too close to something else, and no endless open spaces between elements.

While it is not always possible to get the layout perfect on a tablet, you can at least ensure that it is easy to read.

4. Search engine – and social media – optimization

Most web designers won’t even pay attention to any of this. It is somebody else’s department. Of course, most website owners only find that out afterwards – when they see they are not getting any visitors from Google at all.

Also, does the text on your pages contain the words that people would search for when they need to find someone like you?

And for social media, most web designers will include links to your social media pages, and usually include sharing links as well. But…

What does it look like when any page from your website is shared on social media? Is it just a text post, or does it grab the first image from the page, which may or may not display correctly?

Solution: There are a number of things that can be done to ensure that your website is seen by Google, and that it is deemed relevant when someone searches for what you have to offer. Before you commission a website, ensure that those steps will be implemented. Ideally, pay someone to write the content of the site before you get someone to build it.

As for social media optimization, ensure that the designer will have Open Graph tags in place (it is in the source code of your website – not visible to visitors – but it tells social networks which image to use for sharing. So let someone create an image of the right dimensions for that specific task. It is set up along with the search engine optimization.

5. Page load speed.

This one is of cardinal importance. And so many web designers get this wrong. The fact that most people have high speed fiber internet nowadays doesn’t mean that the hosting company can deliver the page at that speed. Not to mention that, on mobile, the delivery speed depends on the connection speed between the phone and the network, which might not always be optimal.

So many designers want to use high quality images, add video, and add scripting to create sliders or page elements that slide into place as you scroll down to them.

While they look beautiful, you have to note the realities:

a. If your website doesn’t fully open in three seconds or less, most people will leave.

b. Because of this trend, Google considers a slow website as a poor user experience, and will send fewer visitors your way if your website loads too slowly.

Solution: Ensure that images offer the best balance between size (in kb) and quality. And if your site is built on WordPress or some other content management system, or even on Shopify, tell your designer to keep plugins to a minimum. Every added plugin is one more thing that has to run using the same computing capability assigned to the website, and too many of them slow you down.

Also, things like header sliders and moving elements on the page slow it down. If you want to do fancy stuff, and/or use high quality images that are substantial in size, you will need to deliver your website using a content delivery network – something like AWS (Amazon Web Services).

6. The platform your website was built on.

First off, if your website was built using a specialized software like Dreamweaver or even GoHighLevel, you will need access to the same software if you need to make any changes. If you choose to leave the person who built your website for whatever reason, it means that you will need to get someone who uses the same tool set that the original designer used.

It also means that if your website has to be redesigned after a few years, it would mean that it had to be rebuilt from scratch. So all of the work that went into search engine optimization and social media optimization will have to be done from scratch. That could prove expensive.

The solution: Get someone who works with WordPress. It is by far the most common website platform, and it is easy to find people who can work on it – whether you just need to change one or two things, or do a complete redesign.

In addition to that, you can redesign the site without messing up all of the search engine- and social media optimization.

Also, the way that WordPress works, anyone with basic knowledge can make small changes to your website without messing it up.

NOTE: The WordPress platform is continuously evolving. New updates – mostly for security purposes, but often also for improved functionality – are released regularly, for the WordPress core, plugins and themes (WordPress speak for templates). You will need to have these updated regularly, and have new backups made every time. It doesn’t take long.

In conclusion

Fact: Most visitors nowadays use mobile phones to search the web. And on mobile, how fancy a website looks doesn’t carry as much weight as it does on desktop.

Yes, you still need to be sure it is easy to read and navigate, and you need to have some picture and colors to keep it from coming across as just a wall of black on white text.

But what matters is more of a matter of practically than it is a matter of appearance.

So why focus all of your attention – and your money – on that?

The smart move is to spend time and money on, is this:
Does each page simply explain what the next step will be?