5 Benchmarks of a superior website design

This is an important question that a lot of people fail to ask about their current website design. Most people tend towards the web designs that they like…but how do you know if a particular web design is going to actually work.

First you must define what “work” means for your business goals. I recently consulted with a company regarding the purpose and function of their upcoming web design and a simple adjustment in the audience of their site required a completely different style of website. A website geared towards an older audience of professionals would serve only as a place to find a great impression and contact info. We shifted our focus towards younger professionals and presto now you’re heavily involved in creating an information library.

How do you know if your website is up to par? Here are 5 things to look at when measuring your current website’s quality and usefulness.

Does your website communicate well to its particular audience?

Most websites were hand-picked by the professional or professionals providing the service their website describes. At some point in their own research process, they happened upon a site design that communicated a particular sense of quality or an emotional impact and they said to themselves “I like that.”

They went to whichever web professional in charge of building the site with that design and told them to build it or something like it. Alternatively, this might have all occurred with the web professional when browsing other sites they’ve built. There’s nothing wrong with this process…it's how most things are bought. Websites are no different.

There has to be a point at which the professional web designer designs a solution fit for the situation presented and doesn’t just succumb to client dictates. An effective web design aligns with the goals and audience of the business to serve the needs of those visitors.

However, at what point do we consider to whom this site is going to be communicating? If Professional Peter is a male professional, and his website is meant to communicate mostly to female buyers, there is definitely something wrong with the aforementioned process. Pro Pete is simply not qualified to choose a web design. A website to his liking will only communicate to his sense of professionalism and desire to one-up the competition.

A website for mothers has to communicate trust, exceptional quality, and some sort of likability and it can take its time in doing so. A website for men must communicate masculinity, quality and no-nonsense design that gets right to the point. Kids love distractions. A website for kids is really just a well branded distraction. Competitors love competition.

Websites that don’t communicate to the audience for whom they’re building will simply turn their audiences away and fail to sell.

The Blink Test

You have about 2-5 seconds in which you must create a lasting impression to get your potential buyer to give you about 10 more seconds to gauge if you have what they want. Are you up for the challenge?

A blink test is how you test the first impression of your site. Since you’ve been looking at your site for quite a while now, get someone new to look at your site for only 5 seconds; then close the laptop or turn off the screen. Ask them what they saw and how they felt about it. If they express an interest in seeing more, then you’re doing a good job. If they more or less don’t know anything; then your design is ineffective.

A website should clearly communicate its purpose and drive a clear emotional response in the first 5 seconds of viewing it. If your website fails to do this, it will only disinterest your viewer. An uninteresting website is an uninteresting brand (if your first impression is the website).

Its Gotta Be SEO

This test is quite easy and most people already know about it. As a normal person in an incognito browser (Ctrl+Shift+N in Chrome), look up whatever service you provide. Are you on the first page? If you’re not, then you don’t really matter to most people doing fresh searches on Google, people don’t look much past the first page. This only disqualifies you for one particular referral source, but it's not hard for Google to like you. At its core, SEO is a mark of website quality and completeness. As you grow into better SEO, it becomes an indicator of how you conduct business online. However, if you don’t SEO, find someone who does.

Optimizin’ ain’t easy.

When Things Go Wrong (and they always do)

A website is made of a lot of code and things go wrong. People get hacked. Servers go down. Things suddenly update and break plugins. Files go missing because they can’t find their parents (Nemo?).

What do you do when things go wrong?

I recently consulted with a company who’s site was simply hacked. The whole thing went down and started redirecting to bad places. What do you do in those situations. This particular client didn’t have anyone to call simply because “the last web guy” went missing and they were dealing with things by themselves. This is a frustrating situation to say the least. This has happened to me before, I had backups on the server and we just restored to a previous week and life went on. Unfortunately, in that situation I could only suggest moving operations to their Facebook profile online.

The same seems to be true of all things though.
Things won’t go wrong…until they do.

Now do it all again….from your phone.

Mobile users have tipped the scales on the web. Many people will interface with your mobile presence long before they get to a desktop. All the time spent in proofing and perfecting a website is completely lost if you don’t have a mobile web strategy in place. Additionally, the mobile web is completely different ecosystem than what can be found on a computer. People may interact with you from inside an app, from an email link, or even solely on social media. A social media strategy covers all those input mediums and works to convert them into subscribers of your brand.

  • How do I find you on my phone?
  • How well does the blink test work on my device?
  • Does your mobile presence capture and keep my attention?
  • In a world of constantly changing device standards, how do we stay updated and responsive?
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