The quest for a great website. We design a lot of websites, and each one of them is different, so I get asked this question a lot. I give the same answer every time; a straightforward solution — only one thing, actually — but it remains something very hard for people to accept.
I don’t mean to sound reductive. There are a lot of parts to a great website, including layout, colors, typography, photos, logo, fast hosting, mobile readiness, and search engine optimization.
However, I believe there is one rule that holds a special place above them all:
DESIGN YOUR WEBSITE TO APPEAL TO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.
Sounds easy, and maybe obvious, but it is often the hardest thing for a client to accept.
A website should be designed to win new business, not to win awards. Because awards are stupid (nsfw).
A website should be designed to appeal to the things your target audience likes, not necessarily the things that you like.
A website should deliver the things your target audience wants, not necessarily the things you think are essential.
A website should be designed to accomplish a specific thing, and all decisions should support that effort.
A Great Website Delivers Results
Every market is different, but every website is attempting to do the same thing: create and keep customers. Your customer might be a member, or a patient, or a student, or another business. It doesn’t matter; generating new customers and keeping existing customers is what a website does for you.
So it only makes sense to customize your website specifically to what your prospective customers are interested in.
And this is where a professional can help.
A Great Website Happens through Collaboration
You, the client, know your customers, know all about them. Often, you know when you speak to them for the first time if this person will buy (or subscribe, enroll, etc.).
A professional designer knows how to appeal to them.
Through the practiced use of the elements listed above — layout, colors, typography, etc. — a professional designer knows how to entice the right people to engage with you through your website.
The combination of your knowledge of your customers, and a professional designer leveraging years (decades?) of experience on the best ways to appeal to those customers, is the equation to creating a great website.
The Hard Part
A simple as this seems when you read it, actually making it happen is often the hard part. Many times a business owner will conflate their design preferences with what their customers might prefer. The owner of a business has a favorite color; but if that color is the absolute wrong color to appeal to their target audience, it should not be used. Conversely, if the best color to appeal to their target audience is a color that the business owner hates, the color should still play a prominent role in the design of the website.
Colors matter. Fonts matter. Layout matters. All of these things are subconsciously processed by a visitor as soon as they arrive at your website. They form the basis for how much, or how little, a visitor will engage with you through your website.
Ultimately, it does not matter what you, the business owner likes or even what the designer likes. What matters is what your customers like, and your ability as the business owner to explain that to your designer, and the designer’s ability to incorporate that into a website.
This is not easy. Sometimes it feels “wrong” when your website evolves into something that doesn’t completely appeal to you, but if you know that it will appeal to your customers, then it is “right”.
A Great Website, Built with Trust, Creates Trust
You have to trust your instincts, and you have to trust the professional designer you hired. You have to bring the part you are an expert on — your customers — and trust the designer with the part they are an expert on — designing for your customers.
Ultimately, if you and your designer establish strong trust, you will end up with a website that gives your customers, and prospective customer, cause to trust you.
And THAT makes a great website.