1. Develop a branding guide.Developing your brand doesn’t just end with finalizing your logo. Spend time developing the voice, tone, style, personality, and characteristics you want your brand to embody. If you relay these consistently across your site, products, and communications, you’ll appear more confident and trustworthy.
- Think about the feeling you want your brand to convey and how you want users to feel when they visit your site. Jot these down and refer to them frequently when designing your site. Later, you can ask friends and colleagues for feedback, and compare their real experience to your ideal plan.
- Learn about color theory and create a style guide that outlines the specifics of everything from the font used on your site to logo dimensions and specifications and color palettes. You can also use an interactive tool such as Adobe Kuler to create your own custom brand colors.
- Create a copywriting guide that reviews words and language to use (and those to avoid). Refer to the branding words you wrote down earlier. Do they complement one another? Many should be synonyms, and the language in your copywriting guidelines should reflect the emotions you want to evoke in your visitors.
- Add guidelines to selecting images. Will you use your own photos, or those from a stock photo library such as Shutterstock or Getty Images? Establish these guidelines now so that when your business expands and you bring on new team members, you’ll be prepared to delegate responsibilities like these with ease.
Creating brand standards like these can position your company as larger than you really are. Your brand and website are a direct representation of your products and services, so when you invest in this initial, but important step, it shows. Be sure to check out how to build a business brand for more information.
2. Choose a template.
Website templates are an efficient use of resources when you’re building your site. Thankfully, there are thousands of templates available on the web that are affordable and easy to integrate. This can alleviate a considerable amount of manual effort spent building one from scratch. You may not know what kind of design you want, so it’s a good idea to spend some time reviewing designs that appeal to you, and take note of what they have in common. Maintain consistency with the colors and font of your brand as we mentioned above. Many templates are designed according to industry or the type of content you want to highlight on your site—photography, retail products, news, video content, or hospitality, for instance.
Also, this article on web design tips offers great advice into selecting a template, utilizing the space on a page, and choosing details such as a font.
3. Test your content.
If you have a few different ideas or variations for a piece of content on your site—let’s say the color of a call to action button—test each version to see which generates more response from users. A/B testing can offer incredible insights into user preferences, and you can incorporate takeaways into future design decisions.
You can use Google Analytics, or a site like Optimizely, which offers affordable A/B testing software, too. Which Test Won is a fun, interactive site worth checking out, too. The site reviews an A/B test for a different company each week, and users vote on which version they think won. They then share details of the test, results, and offer takeaways. The results are often surprising, and confirm the benefits of testing your content.
4. Conduct surveys.
Gather website feedback directly from visitors through an intercept survey tool such as Foresee or Qualtrics. While you should be giving your customers the opportunity to provide feedback on your products and services through comments, forums, and email, intercept surveys provide the opportunity to convey their experience using your site. You’ve probably seen them on corporate sites before as a light box that appears on the site during your visit, asking if you’d like to participate in a survey.
You can pose general questions to visitors about their experience on the site, create custom questions to dive a little deeper, and ask some that require an open-ended response, too. Since it’s anonymous, users may feel more comfortable voicing frustrations, explaining their satisfaction levels, and suggesting areas for improvement. Results are compiled into a customer satisfaction score, and analytical tools will help you review the strengths and weaknesses of your site. It’s an incredibly helpful way to receive feedback from the ones that matter most—your customers.
5. Update accordingly.
Generally speaking, design has an expiration date. Web design goes through trends the same way that hairstyles and fashions do—and can appear dated and out of style if you don’t update it from time to time. Don’t be afraid to rebrand, make changes to your site, and adjust the presentation of your products. Just make sure that any changes you make are thoroughly integrated across all of your marketing channels and communicated to your audience. Also, approach design and branding updates with focus and thought, instead of just on a whim.
If you admire a colleagues or industry professionals website, reach out to them for a quick discussion. They may have some useful web design tips, or could provide candid, high-level feedback about your website.
I always love checking out new websites. Please share yours in the comments section below, so I can have a look!
Adrienne is a web marketer and freelance writer in San Francisco with a focus on content marketing and earned media. She loves the internet, every single animal on Planet Earth, sticking her nose in books, and running in the park. Catch her if you can.