by guest blogger Debbie Levitt, CEO of As Was
You’re setting up a website. You can start with a free template or out-of-the-box design or layout. Well, you could, but could you be hurting your business by choosing something so plain?
Key elements to keep in mind
There are two main elements to consider for your website design. One is the layout and the experience of using your website. This addresses things like is it easy to use? Are the links, buttons, menus, and other choices obvious and easy to figure out? Is the most important information high on the page while the least important information is lower?
The other element to consider is your branding and marketing. Who is your company? What do you sell and to whom? Why are you better than your competitors? Why should I buy from you? Will I remember your website or your company name?
Don’t forget the “thumb test”
To put this into perspective, let’s think about some famous websites. Google. The layout’s pretty good. You hit it and you know how to use it. Google is trying to show you the best info high on the page. Now how about Google’s design and branding? Well, there isn’t much. It’s a white website with an ocean of words. There is no mood or personality. Take what I call the “thumb test.” If you cover the logo at the top of the page, could you be sure you’re looking at Google search results rather than Bing or Yahoo search results? So in a sense, Google has a site that’s relatively easy and intuitive to use, but doesn’t really stand out with any kind of design or company image.
Some famous companies have websites that we might look at and say, “It’s clean and simple.” Most interestingly, when I show these sites to my seminar audiences, and ask them to describe their gut reaction to it, people yell out words like, “cold,” “plain,” and “bland.” This means that copying these famous but plain websites may not work for your particular business or how you may want to project your company mood and image. Good, clean layouts are still important. But who said we can’t dress these up a bit with custom and professional design?
Who’s doing branding and design right?
Then who’s doing it right? I actually find it hard to find websites where I think they’ve done a great job with branding and design. So many websites fail my “thumb test;” cover the logo, and it could be anybody’s site.
I always come back to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industryas a site that has a fresh and interesting look. They didn’t sacrifice mood and personality, nor did they sacrifice the layout or organization of their information. Additionally, the background is made up of exhibits at the museum, so it ties the experience of being at the museum to being on their website. You can see something similar on Vikings.com.
For more examples of how design can really change the mood and personality of a site, hit the web and compare some competitors. Look at NorthFace, REI, Moosejaw, and Columbia Sportswear. Think about the impression you have of each company and their products from how they laid out and designed their sites.
Stand out from the crowd
The important thing is to stand out in your industry by defining your mood, personality, and brand, and then making sure your design projects that. We’ll continue this in the next blog post when we look at how to decide what your company’s mood and personality are. After that, we’ll look at how to capture your company’s personality in your website design
From time to time we’ll feature highlights from industry resources and we’re happy to introduce Debbie Levitt, CEO of As Was. She’s a great resource when it comes to ecommerce website design and the user experience (UX). We’ve asked her to write a series of articles for us and first up is the power of website design.
In 1995, Debbie Levitt founded As Was as a full-service website design and development company. She has been working with eCommerce and online sellers for nearly 15 years, and is an expert in UX/UI, branding, and marketing.