Written by Brian Cray on March 5th, 2009
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—
Specific—Avoid vague like the plague. Be clear to the people involved in building your Website and the people using it so everyone is on the same page to create a solid brand presence.
Here are examples of specific goals:
- Blogs—Inform American college students aged 18-25 about the personal finances
- Insurance—Obtain leads for agents to personally contact
- E-Commerce—Sell green consumer products through contracted agents
With a specific purpose in mind you can put measurements in place.
Measureable—How will you gauge the success of your Website? You will spend your time and money to launch a Website and you'll need a way to show it was all worth it.
Here are examples of measureable goals:
- Blogs—Grow subscriber count by 20% monthly
- Insurance—Influence 25% of visitors to submit for a quote online
- E-Commerce—Attain a $5 return per visitor
Realistic—Have you ever heard someone say "I know it sounds to good to be true, but it's true and it will be BIG!" I have, and it never amounts to anything. If it's too good to be true, then it probably is. Don't expect your blog will be Mashable overnight or your e-commerce site an Amazon killer. You allowed to have a vision, but set attainable goals please. Don't set yourself up for failure, set yourself up for success.
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:
Blogs—Grow subscriber count by 20% monthly
- Add clearly visible subscribe links
- Encourage new visitors to subscribe
- Encourage subscriptions at the end of each article
- Create quality content that appeals specific industries
- Encourage readers to become fans at Technorati
- Write articles on a clear and regular schedule
Insurance—Influence 25% of visitors to submit for a quote online
- Add a link to a free quote at the end of every product page
- Advertise free quotes online in direct mail
- Add a link to a free quote as part of the top level menu that stands apart from standard navigation
E-Commerce—Attain a $5 return per visitor
- Add related products to each product details page
- Offer discounts on low-selling products
- Upsell higher quality products
- Feature highest selling products on homepage
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.
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:
- Behaviors—How do they use yours and other Websites?
- Demographics—Who are they?
- Geographics—Where are they in the World?
- Psychographics—What do they believe? More importantly, what drives them to act?
- Purpose—What is their goal?
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:
- Subscribers who come from RSS readers to comment on your article (opportunity for pingbacks/comments and social bookmarks)
- New readers who found your article on a search engine (opportunity for subscribers)
- Shoppers looking for the best quote (opportunity for new customer)
- Policy–holders looking for insurance information (opportunity to cross–sell)
- Current customers looking to check shipping (opportunity for customer feedback)
- Shoppers browsing music (opportunity for purchase)
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:
- You send out a massive direct mail with a special offer for your new coffee bean. The direct mail piece refers them to a page on your Website that talks solely about the coffee bean and the special deal with a clear purchase process.
- You run a TV ad that promotes the environmental–awareness of your products. The TV ad directs them to a special page with a sweepstakes to win a hybrid car in exchange for information that you can use for an upcoming product launch.
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!