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Guidelines for highly effective Websites

Strategy, strategy, strategy

Be strategic when you decide to launch (or redesign) a Website. Don't just throw something together or you'll end up with what you started—nothing. Always start with a purpose—the most compelling reason for your Website to exist. It must be compelling or you'll die a silent and painful death on the Internet.

An effective Website has goals branching from its purpose that are—

Conversion–oriented

Okay you've set goals to fulfill a purpose. How will you achieve those goals? Effective Websites are designed like a funnel—people come for many reasons and need guided to specific actions. Those actions should lead to or be a conversion process that fulfills your strategic goals.

Here are examples of how to fulfill strategic goals through conversion:

Design as a call to action

As I've said before, Website users have the attention–span of goldfish. As soon as they complete their task, they want to know what to do next. It is up to us to provide them with a next step and to not leave them with nothing to do. If you leave your users with no clear next step what do you think they will do? With a simple mouse click they'll leave your site forever. Lost opportunity.

Every design element should be thought of as a call to action. Navigation calls upon the user to find what they want or to explore the site. Headlines call upon the user to read the copy. Your copy should lead to a call to action, such as encouraging feedback or asking for a donation. Any design element that does not engage the user is clutter. Eliminate it.

Personas

Visitors to a site can often be grouped into an encompassing profile based on common behaviors and goals. A persona is simply a defined profile of a likely user to your Website. A persona can include:

Once you have a set of two profiles that encompass the majority of your visitors, design your Website so that people who fit these profiles can complete their tasks as easy as possible.

Here are a few loosely defined example personas:

Landing pages

Landing pages are pages custom designed to fit the needs of a visitor to increase conversions. Landing pages often have a special URL to which visitors who fit the profile are directed. Because of the extra resources involved in creating landing pages, they are typically reserved for circumstances associated with already high conversion rates and high dollar values.

Here are example circumstances that warrant a landing page:

That's all for now

I hope you enjoyed this extensive article that I think of as the intersection of marketing and Website design. To read similar insights read my other entries and subscribe to my blog. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!