Less is more.
Let’s start with that.
Burn it into your brain, then, let’s discuss the why we spent over 2,000 words emphasizing the importance of focusing on your website content, and developing a strong positioning statement with powerful messaging. By going through these steps and understanding the concepts, you gain the advantage of being able to define a crystal clear massage to share with new visitors.
That’s first… then, the fun part: let’s make it all pretty!
Everything in moderation. This is usually solid life advice no matter what you are talking about - and it stands true in website design & development as well. Since we have a crystal clear message to share with your new visitors (and Google) we want to make it attractive, to create a professional atmosphere around your business online - but to do so in a way that the design doesn’t get in the way of the message.
The only thing worse than bad design, is great design with no clear message - not having anything to say. This is a sure sign of someone who skipped over the initial steps and thought that good design would save their lack of a thoughtful, useful business offering.
I know this doesn’t work from experience… meaning, I too fell into the trap of “here is a half baked idea that might work, so now I’ll spend 90% of my time on how it looks as opposed to what I’m offering.”
The result? I failed. Miserably.
Plenty of businesses thrive with crappy websites if they offer a great product or service. The opposite is not true.
*Note: said businesses with crappy websites and good products could drastically increase their profits with a powerful online experience… so make sure to mention that to them ;)
Let’s take it a step further and look at sites that live on a platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, WordPress or any other system that has a robust app ecosystem full of developers making little plugins or add-ons for basic stores and sites.
One of the biggest mistakes I see Shopify store owners make is relying on gimmicky apps that add spinning prize wheels, pop-up messages about what “Billy from FL just bought”, and other annoyances instead of focusing on their content, positioning and messaging - the true foundation of a strong online store.
It all comes down to substance, son.
Focus on your message, your business, your services, your product, your CONTENT. Create a strong foundation and use it as a guiding light. If you don’t, you’ll just be flying blind.
Focus on content, not tricks.
Focus on content, not Facebook ads.
Focus on content, not SEO.
Focus on content, not apps and add-ons.
Focus on content, not gimmicks.
Focus on content, not YouTube courses where some guy “helped his buddy sell 200,000 units of this funny little eraser shaped like a doggy and now he’s sharing his secrets for just $99.99”.
The web space is full of these stories of instant riches. Sure, some are true - and they are anomalies. Viral videos are aberrations. These things are great mysteries - and if you don’t want to believe that, just look at the billions of dollars that major corporations spend on their advertising trying to create the next overnight success. They follow all the rules, they hit all the key points - but only a fraction of a fraction actually go viral or experience the instant success we read about.
Don’t get discouraged by this - learn from it! Once your content is solid and you know for a fact that it resonates with your audience - then you will be in a position of strength and be able to select a secondary target or goal, like: improving SEO, Facebook ads, experimenting with add-ons and apps, etc.
Plan to grow a real business. Arm yourself with knowledge and forge ahead with a clear understanding of the reality - building a successful website is possible, and completely worth the time and effort - but it is damn hard work!
Your design helps serve your content. It helps deliver it - and with that said… here are a few delivery pointers to keep top of mind:
Understand your audience and tailor your content before you even start to think about design. Speak to them directly.
Above all else: KEEP IT SIMPLE! Design for ease of use - for the user.
Sketch a few thoughts on paper. Define what a “successful” layout is to you.
Embrace white space and use it strategically.
Be mindful of color and use it strategically.
Be mindful of typography and use it strategically.
Observe trends, but don’t obsess - rethink the established and do what serves your audience best.
Create strong Calls to Action (CTAs) to help customers find the content that is relevant - the content you have curated just for them.
Have a professional review your code and make sure it is clean, semantic and SEO optimized, then review the site speed to ensure fast load times.
Validate future design changes using testing & reporting tools.
Great design should serve the message, the content, your business - but above all else, great design should serve your users.
An easy way to remember this is to think about pasta: great design is to your message what pasta is to alfredo sauce - it’s a carrier. It’s a delivery system. By themselves these things are not effective (or delicious), but paired with one another they can become powerful marketing tools… or tasty meals.
Pass the garlic bread and let’s get to work!
🍻 Cheers, - AJ
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