Web Design Best Practices

Businesses can spend countless hours on web development only to see little to no real improvement. While their site’s design may look nice, important metrics like ROI, conversion rates, and traffic don’t always measure up.

These brand new websites fail to take important factors into account. When you undergo a generic “redesign,” your site only improves on the surface level. For genuine growth, your web design process must address deeper-level concerns such as company strategy, performance goals, and user experience.

Is it Really Time for a Website Redesign?

Before you commit to a redesign project, take time for a thorough evaluation of your current site. It’s easy to look at the surface and recognize that a.) your site looks outdated or b.) your site seems good enough. However, to determine whether or not it’s time for a website redesign, consider website performance metrics, current web design standards, and brand-website alignment.

Aesthetics

Maybe your website really does look outdated and you know it. Aesthetic reasons for a website redesign include:

  • Outdated design
  • Hard to look at or read
  • Doesn’t match current brand materials

Metrics

A failure to achieve your intended metrics is another reason to redesign your site. Updating your website could help solve:

  • Low ROI
  • Low conversion rates
  • Insufficient lead generation
  • High bounce rate
  • Low ranking SEO

New Standards

Design standards continue to change, especially as new technologies rise and fall. You should consider a redesign if your site is:

  • Not mobile responsive
  • Unappealing in site previews & social media shares
  • Too slow to load

Brand Alignment

Finally, you should update your website to keep up with changes to your brand. Some changes may be easy to implement, while others will require a more extensive redesign. Plan to revise your site if:

  • Your brand has recently shifted focus
  • You offer different products/services
  • Your target audience has changed or you’ve added a new audience

Even if your website doesn’t need drastic changes, there’s a good reason you should consider regular updates and minor redesigns.

The Benefits of Growth-Driven Design

Today many web designers approach web design and development from a growth mindset. Rather than viewing a redesign as a single large-scale project, growth-driven design treats websites as ongoing projects.

The speed of technological advancements often renders websites incomplete or out-of-date even if they were recently redesigned. The idea of a “finished” website is no longer realistic. As soon as you publish your site, it starts to decline. Compare it to purchasing a new car. A vehicle may be new in the lot, but as soon as your tires hit the road, its value begins to decline.

Instead of in-depth, time-consuming website redesigns, modern developers recommend smaller updates every one-and-a-half to two years. Frequent design edits shorten the launch period for your website and require fewer resources. You’ll also see benefits in SEO, as search engine algorithms value frequently updated websites over static ones.

How to Develop a Website Strategy

You’re ready to work on web design and you understand the value of growth-driven design. Now it’s time for a crucial step: strategy.

A website strategy should always come before any design changes. For every proposed change, you should be able to field the question “why?” with an answer that goes back to strategy. Developing a strategy can sound like an intimidating and time-consuming process, but in the end, a strategy is only a plan to meet your goals.  

Set Goals

When establishing a website strategy, start with your goals. What do you hope to achieve with this website? Common website goals include:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Establish industry authority
  • Educate or inform consumers
  • Generate leads

Based on your goals, you may develop a website packed with valuable content for users to consume free of charge. Or you may place greater emphasis on your products and services, filling your site with targeted CTAs and landing pages.

Know Your Audience

Before you begin marketing, producing content, or even structuring your website, learn about your audience. Develop buyer personas that cover demographics, interests, and pain points. Today businesses have learned that putting your audience first leads to the best results.

User-Centered Design

A modern trend in web design has been to shift focus to the user and their needs. While the concepts of user-centered design may seem obvious, many companies have only been concerned with presenting the information they deem most important.

User-centered design flips the focus to site visitors and how they experience the site. While optimizing your website for users can require research and testing, the result is a clean, accessible design with easy navigation. Above all, users need to be able to access the information they’re seeking as quickly and easily as possible.   

Why Website User Experience is Key

User experience or UX is one of the most important considerations in web development. UX leads to greater web traffic, higher conversion rates, and brand loyalty. But poor UX may have even longer lasting effects.

According to an Akamai study, users who have had a negative experience at a shop are 79 percent less likely to buy from the same site. User experience also applies to site performance. Forty-seven percent of internet users expect a web page to load within two seconds or less and 40 percent are unwilling to wait more than three seconds.

Keep Your Site Responsive

Users aren’t just accessing your site on desktop anymore. Mobile internet browsing already surpassed desktop browsing rates by 51.2 percent in 2016. Any web redesign must consider mobile and tablet users.

A mobile-responsive website ensures that your site content remains accessible no matter the format and sizing. Websites displayed on mobile devices have significantly less screen space. Working with a designer, you can ensure your content automatically “responds” or scales up or down according to the device and screen size.

Set Up a Selling Structure

After goal-setting and audience research, the next step in your web design strategy is how you choose to sell. Whether or not you run an e-commerce site, your website is selling something. That may range from your brand name to your expertise and trustworthiness. All websites need a clear conversion path directing your visitors to your site’s purpose.

What’s Your Website Conversion Path?

A website conversion path turns new visitors into leads and leads into customers. You need to have a variety of content on your website for each stage of the buyer’s journey, so users can move from one stage to another without being asked for too much, too soon.

A typical conversion path begins with free, useful content such as blog posts. These posts attract new visitors who may stay to consume multiple pieces of content at once or come back at a later date.

The next step is a gated content in exchange for the visitor’s contact information. These are typically e-books or extended guides packed with value for your audience. You can direct visitors to this content with CTAs in your regular blog posts and landing pages explaining the value of your offer.

Once a visitor shares their contact information, you have the ability to direct market and specific offers based on interests and browsing behavior.

Tailoring Your Web Design for E-commerce

If you’re redesigning an e-commerce site, there are a few extra considerations to keep in mind to make your website great. Security is one of the most notable differences. While security on any business website is important, the stakes are higher for e-commerce. If you’re asking customers to share their payment information on your site, you need to take measures to secure their trust. Start with an SSL certificate and display the accompanying security seal on your site.

Site speed and load times are equally important. A website that loads too slowly, especially during stages of payment, decreases trust and increases the risk of shopping cart abandonment.

E-commerce sites also need to have easy, understandable payment processes. Ideally, you should offer more than one trusted options such as card payment processing through Stripe and PayPal as an alternative.

Finally, e-commerce sites should place more emphasis on product presentation. Showcase your top products or services with high-resolution images and smart, intuitive design. Avoid overcrowding your site with too much information.

Instead, be selective and highlight a few best-selling or newest items. Then use menus, internal links, and CTAs to direct customers to pages appropriate for their stage of the buyer’s journey.

Best Practices for Planning Your Website Design

After developing a website strategy, it’s time for a plan to execute your project. Consider project management, website builders, content, and content management.

Project Management Options

There are two project management methods for building a website: waterfall and agile. Neither method is objectively better than the other, but each serves different purposes and business types.

Waterfall Method

Waterfall refers to traditional project management methods. The process is linear and highly structured with clear stages completed in order. Each stage should be completed and approved before starting the next step.

The benefit of the waterfall method is predictability and timeliness. With a clear project plan, it’s easy to meet strict deadlines and stay within a limited budget. However, this structure also makes it difficult to adapt to changes or complications that may arise during the project. The waterfall method also places testing at the end of the process, so it may be difficult to gauge the project’s effectiveness until it is completed.

Agile Method

Agile management is a new approach that emphasizes adaptability. These projects move quickly and focus on smaller tasks necessary for the project’s completion. Teams complete requirements as they arise without following a set project plan.

Using agile project management allows for consistent reevaluation to ensure that projects meet their goals and address any unexpected changes along the way. The risks of the agile method are a lack of structure, overly lax timeline, and scope creep making it easy to over budget. Agile also requires a more hands-on approach with frequent feedback.

Both methods work and have been used successfully. Choose a method that best suits your preferred working style, as well as any timeline and budget constraints.

Deciding How to Build Your Website

When it comes to actually building your website, you have two options: DIY and full custom. DIY websites make it easy to get started and are budget-friendly. Custom websites help your business stand out from the crowd and make it easy to accomplish exactly what you need.

Consider how involved you’d like to be with your website development process and how much control you’d like to have over website structure once the process is over. Do you have the time to work closely with a designer to build a custom website? Would you prefer to have a designer help you get started and make your own changes with a DIY builder over time? Or would you rather leverage DIY tools to completely design your own website?

Weigh your options and proceed with the one that aligns best with your brand and business goals. 

Planning for Effective Content

Content marketing is popular because it works. But too many marketers put too much time into producing content and see little return. Instead of focusing on quantity, take time the time to develop a content marketing plan. Content converts when it:

  1. Provides value. Above all, content should offer value to users. Most content either informs, educates or entertains consumers. Consider covering topics that your audience would find helpful, even if the idea doesn’t directly promote your business.
  2. Stays relevant to your audience. Even if you’ve crafted the most comprehensive blog series on vintage cameras, you won’t get far without interest from your audience. Ensure that your topics are relevant to their interests, not your own.

If you’re completely revamping your website or starting a new one, plan to release a few foundational pieces of content when your website goes live, instead of waiting until after your launch. Having a small library of content already present on your site will give you a head start with SEO.

Managing Your Website: Choosing the perfect CMS

Content management systems help you upload and organize content for your website, including web pages, blog posts, and media. Two popular options are WordPress and Hubspot COS.

WordPress is a well-established CMS that powers 28 percent of sites on the Internet today. With a nearly endless library of plugins, you can customize a WordPress site in nearly any way you like. The cost of running a site on WordPress ranges from free to any level you need. Most major plugins offer premium plans that can help you with SEO, email newsletters, and analytics.

HubSpot COS is technically a content organization system, but it lets you manage your content and use a range of inbound marketing tools. HubSpot’s resources come in a bundle, which may be helpful for beginners, but unnecessary for experienced users. The cost of HubSpot COS is also significantly higher, but customized support is always available.

Strong web design gives you a competitive advantage but requires a developed strategy and effective planning to execute. To see results, you’ll need to consider everything from your business goals and intended audiences to the logistics of project management and website builders. If you’re planning a web design project, get started with expert help. Our team at React will help you assess your web design needs and determine if we’re a good fit for you. Call or send us a message today!

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