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Be Proud of Your Website!

While other great designers have created cool posters, beautiful book covers, and powerful logos, Milton Glaser has actually lifted this age he inhabits. Because of his integrity and his vision, he has enabled us all to walk on higher ground, and it is that for which we should be especially grateful.

–Milton Glaser, How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer (public library)

Create a digital experience your users will love

When creating a website, the first thing we tend to do is to search for the things we love and the references we have collected over time.  At that moment, we seem to have a clear vision of what we want our website to look like, and what elements we want to include in it.  However, next comes the moment of truth.  We open our computer and search for all those amazing tools that our friends talk about all the time and we find ourselves lost (after many hours) in a mess of open tabs and infinite notes on the best tools, environments and approaches.

This is the perfect moment to sit back and remember the vision we had before asking cyberspace how our website should exist.  (tweet this) I recommend that you step away from the computer for a while so that you can define the items that can be put together in a website that works best for your audience, and serves you and your business in the best way possible.

Planning

This might seem like you’re pushing your deadline further, but planning is the best way to start and the best way to avoid getting lost in all those technological options out there.  This is the foundation of your site. Sure, you can always edit as you go, but its better to follow a plan from the beginning, so you can at least envision what the final outlook might be. This will create room for experimentation so that your digital experience can be memorable to your users.

Everything you plan will benefit your business and serve your audience.

Every item we add to our website and brand image should mean something. Think of what works best to showcase you and/or your business online and what will help your next visitor get to know you and your offerings better. Develop a simple narrative that allows your audience to find their way through your site, share your products, bookmark your website and be in touch with you with a few clicks.  Avoid shiny features that might distract your visitor from your main goal, and avoid using visual elements that won’t serve your business well; for example, if you don’t have high-resolution images to use as the background for your website or as a full page-width banner, don’t force yourself into creating them. Instead, work with what you can create and will reflect best to your customer.

Your website, a digital hub for your brand and business, is a great place to make yourself available to customers (think social media). However, if you don’t plan to update or use social media very often, think about which service will work best for you (something that won’t make you look like you’ve abandoned your business, but keeps your presence online), and work with that one.

A website to be proud of is not only based upon look & feel, but also about how easy it is to update, how friendly it is to customize and how inspired you are to be present and update it as often as possible.

Brand it

Brand awareness and recognition are some of the most important aspects of any business.  Why? Because it’s is how your audience will find you, like you and follow you. This is how you gain loyal customers and brand reputation.  A branded website is where anyone from anywhere in the world can find you and get to know you better.  This is where your images have been placed along the lines of your visual brand guidelines and where your copy goes along with your brand proposition and goals. Together, they create a complete brand experience.

What works for others, might not work for you

Researching the competition is a human trait (so is admiring and loving a particular website). However, when we try to combine both to make a hybrid business website, the results tend to not be so great.  Most successful websites have different reasons why they’re successful and why people return to them.  Most websites have been done in a way to best serve the content, the products, the customer service or a combination that works best for that particular service.  You can identify the elements you really like about a particular site, combined with what your customer will expect to find plus your plan of what you want them to do once they land there.  You can think of how a particular feature can work for you once you customize it to your own products and for your audience.

The idea here is to help you see that some great features that other sites have, might not work for you (at least right now), and can distract you and send away confused site visitors.  If in doubt, go back to the plan and analyze why you want to add a particular feature, or even better, try to identify how and why it has been used in other websites. 

Great Experience +  Great Copy & Brand = Happy Audience (and you!)

All the parts work together.  Every single page that is in your website should be consistent, not only with the brand, but also with the message and the experience provided in the homepage.  Many times we find a great website with an engaging homepage, but once we start browsing it, the effect goes away and we end up with something more similar to a word processor document than an experience.

The same thing happens with copy and graphics.  Being consistent is easy once we define our brand guidelines and editorial voice. The hard part is sticking with it no matter what, and letting your audience know what to expect so that they’re not surprised with Google Search images, vague copy or confusing navigation. 

Don’t let tech trends define your look and feel

Technology moves at a very fast pace, and with each new finding there’s a new platform or application du jour that we all want to jump in and try.  This is great if you can find a way to make your transition seamless to your audience, and easy for you to maintain and keep track of.  How many times do websites end up broken (completely non-functioning) because of the implementation of the latest hot platform?  Your brand can’t assume the risk of a broken site, a non-functioning navigation bar or a confusing new mobile interface just because you need to be up-to-speed with the technology world. 

Same thing goes for design and visuals.  There are trends, great implementations of these trends, then are groups of trend followers that end up looking just like everyone else out there- hard to find in a world of “same-ness.”

Whatever comes through your technology inbox, take it one step at a time, analyze if it really works for you, and what steps you need to take to transition without major hiccups and with absolute satisfaction.

Be in charge

This is where technology has done something great for all of us, giving us the control over our websites.  Full control.

Use a Content Management System (CMS) of your preference to update and control your website. Even if you don’t do it personally, you will have access to it and will be able to give access to anyone in your team who you’d like in charge of updating it.  CMS are great for customizing a website, updating content and are supported by a great community of developers and educators that will help you find your way around and answer any question you might have.

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