The Definitive Guide to Great Web Design, part 1

“What makes a website design great?”

On the surface, this probably seems like a trick question.

After all, no two websites are alike, so how can we quantify what makes a particular website design “great” versus another? Even two websites with similar purposes can look completely different, yet still offer a great design experience.

The answer is deceptively simple:

A great website design is one that makes it easy for people to accomplish what they came to your site to do.

Great web design is the process of creating a website that guides visitors along a clear path, so they can find what they want without getting bogged down, confused, or frustrated. For samples of great web design, visit our portfolio. To learn more about our process and services, visit our website design section.

A Recipe for Web Design Greatness: Begin at the End

Why do people come to your website? What do they hope to do while they are there? What do YOU want them to do while they are there?

The answers to these questions (and others which we will get to in a moment) will define the structure and design of your website.

For example, if you own a law firm, your ultimate goal is to attract new clients. However, there are likely other “supporting” goals that lead up to, or increase the likelihood of getting those clients such as:

  • Filling out an information request form
  • Downloading information about your services
  • Calling to set up an initial consultation

Breaking it down even further, turning that initial contact into a client relationship requires many separate steps, which you likely already know as a sales funnel or conversion funnel. Great websites make this funnel as easy to navigate as possible.

Some questions to think about when evaluating your web design:

  • “How easy is it for my website visitors to find the information they are looking for?”
  • “How easy is it for my website visitors to get answers to specific questions they may have?”
  • “How easy is it for my website visitors to get in touch with me through the site?
  • “How easy is it for me to follow up with website visitors who want more information?”

Any hiccups in the design (or redesign) of your website’s sales funnel pages could lead to a substantial drop in conversions, even if the new site “looks better” than the old one.

In short:

  • Plan your web design around the goals of your site.
  • Don’t let the design of your website get in the way of functionality.

Is It Really a Goal?

A good analytics suite will let you measure just about anything on your site. However, just because you can measure it, that doesn’t mean it’s a viable goal for your business. You are probably already familiar with the SMART principles of goal-setting, and they can be readily applied to your website’s goals as well:

  • Specific – Have you named a particular action that you want the visitor to take? This means going beyond page views and into measurable actions like downloading files, filling out forms, or completing specific actions that indicate interest or purchase intent.
  • Measurable – Have you come up with a way to reliably measure the actions you want your website visitors to take? Accurate measurement is the only way to know if your redesign is helping your company reach its goals.
  • Assignable – Have you decided on who will be responsible for communicating the goals and objectives to your web design team? A single point of contact will make the process more efficient, even if you are ultimately making decisions about the design in a committee.
  • Realistic – Are your goals in line with past successes you’ve seen on the site? Are they in line with results seen by others in your industry? Look to your past data to inform the potential for improvement in the future. If you aren’t already tracking goals on your website, now is the time to start.
  • Time-Related – Do you have a timetable for completion of the website redesign? Endless review cycles will bog down progress and waste both time and resources. Resolve to come to an agreement on the most challenging aspects of the design, and to test any alternate suggestions to see which performs best.

Once you’ve verified that your goals meet the SMART criteria, you’re ready to take the next step in planning a great website redesign.

In Great Web Design part 2, we’ll discuss how understanding your customers’ point of view can lead to big insights in designs that improve conversions and grow engagement.

What are the biggest problems you want your next redesign to address? Let us know.

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