Designs on a growing business: how your website can make or break you

Here, we look at the importance of a web design strategy that bears in mind the importance of aesthetics, functionality, SEO and engagement

How your page looks is the first thing your potential customers will notice when they arrive at your website; as such, the importance of thinking carefully about your web design cannot be understated. Quality web design is how your communicate a brand identity that resonates with visitors and makes them order from you, return for more, and see you as a major player in your space.

But a quality design should not come at the cost of functionality. A pretty site that works badly is just as disappointing for a user as an ugly website that works well. It is important to make sure you invest your money correctly early on rather than trying to take short cuts at this crucial stage.

Every savvy business person knows the value of a good website, but most new company owners see web design as technical, complex, and time consuming and so will usually take the decision to outsource this task. But you don’t always have to throw thousands of pounds at a professional web designer. Some freemium services, for example 99designs, enable businesses to create their professional and dream website on a shoestring.

>See also: Four ways IT investment can drive growth

Whether you take on a web designer or employ less expensive means, make sure you retain complete ownership of your company’s web building process. You want to end up with a beautiful website with the minimal of hassle, as well as saving yourself lots of money and time. If you do have external assistance, you must ensure you communicate what you are trying to achieve in a clear manner. 

Firstly, think about the message your website conveys – is your brand fun, colourful, minimalistic? Understand what your brand is, how it projects itself and how you want visitors to behave while on your page – this will help you select and build the perfect look and feel of your site.

You should remember that online consumers are a fickle and agile bunch. You have to make sure you attract them instantly and that you don’t turn them off before they’ve really got to know you. It’s worth investing in good images; a site like Shutterstock can be worth the subscription. Make sure the images and your designs in general reflect the best things about what you do.

Also, don’t feel the need to fill every last inch with some semi-redundant piece of information. Be concise and leave as much space as is possible so visitors can assimilate the important stuff.

Users expect clearly-headed pages for ease of navigation along with crystal clear descriptions and simple pricing structures. It pays to look at what your larger competitors are doing and not to be hesitant to ‘borrow’ some of their ideas. Also, pay attention to what your rivals are doing, how they’re evolving and how you can steal a march on them. 

>Related: Getting things done – three action models for productivity

Being able to monitor a business’s progress is an integral part of success. Analytics tools such as Google Analytics are easy to install and will help businesses measure performance and monitor site traffic. Understanding how customers are behaving when they’re on the website, how long they are staying on specific pages, which pages that are causing visitors to exit and whether there are traffic surges or dips during specific days of the week or national events will help in improving the website itself and also spending marketing budgets more effectively.

Even with the most aesthetically pleasing design, without discoverability on a search engine it will never be found or viewed. This is SEO and the first of the optimisation processes. The second is mobile and this is one of the main reasons why simplicity is pivotal.

It is being widely predicted that the mobile web will be bigger than desktop internet use by 2015. Having a mobile-optimised version of a business website is no longer an option but a necessity. If a website is responsive, meaning it will render to whatever screen it is being viewed on, then keep in mind in the overall design that many people will be viewing it while on the move. Alternatively a bespoke, mobile-optimised site can be created which visitors using a mobile device will be redirected to. For mobile-optimised sites, make sure the information a mobile user is most likely to want, ie contact number, address, simple product listing or menu, etc are all easily accessible.

Like it or loathe it, social media is beginning to form the backbone of global communication. It is increasingly important to manage these news streams in an effective way. Without a social presence, a business runs the risk of being left behind by their socially-savvy competitors, many of whom have a clear plan to become recognised within their industry through social means. 

Being small is not necessarily a disadvantage in the rapidly expanding online economy, but being unaware is. With considered planning, a watchful eye for detail and an awareness of the power of highly connected consumers, a new business can, like never before, actively and almost instantly compete online.

Further reading on marketing:

The power of images in marketing

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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