The magic answer to great web design is….. there is no magic answer to great web design. “Great” web design is subjective. And the greatest web design in the world doesn’t necessarily mean the greatest conversions. In fact, we have a customer with the most horrible web design in the world (in the opinions of many) that converts exceptionally well and every time anyone tries to change the design conversions drop. Go figure.
There are “best practices” to great web design which probably should be followed such as general layout, color scheme, placement of text and call to action, clean code, page load speed and so forth, but overall, since web design is itself a subjective process there is no single one answer to the perfect website design which will lead to great conversions. What makes one happy probably doesn’t another.
Great website design is a process wherein the best practices of web design are applied to a website over a period of time and the website continuously evolves.
In other words, the true magic answer to great web design, if any, is that the website design is not fixed or set in cement but is rather free floating, ever changing. Not to say that it is elusive, simply that it is in constant motion. I like to say that a website is like a river. If it is in constant motion then it remains vibrant and alive, in a sense, constantly purifying itself. If it is not in motion then it tends to eventually stagnate and die.
How it becomes “free floating and ever changing” is simply via the power of proper web analytics, something I speak of often. First you start with a cohesive and professional design that you think best represents your products or services and provides the best user experience towards the ultimate goal of being the best you can be. And truly, if there is any “great” website design it is the one that most engages the best user experience. In fact, your website design should always be primarily focused on providing the best user experience.
Then you listen to your traffic and you gauge your results and if necessary you make appropriate changes. Wash, rinse, repeat.
There are many ways you can listen to your traffic via web analytics. First and foremost might be the most obvious which is simply, conversions. How well is the site converting? In that regard you cannot have unreasonable expectations of conversions. The average conversion rate is different from one industry to another but it helps to have an understanding of what the average conversion rate is for your industry and see where you fall in that category. That gives you somewhat of a benchmark to test against. Here is one article on some conversion rate data put out by Wordstream which I think is reasonably within the ballpark according to our experience with existing customers across many categories.
Once you have some reasonable expectations as to conversion rates appropriate for your industry, then you know where you stand in comparison. If you are in the high range you know you’ve probably got a great website and might want to be careful about making changes. Then it is simply a matter perhaps of slow and subtle improvements. Too, it is important not to have unreasonable expectations when it comes to conversions.
On the other hand, if you are like the majority and find you fall somewhere in the averages, or worse, in the weeds (below average), then you know you have your work cut out for you. Now you have to figure out why your conversions are lower than average expectations. This is where you use the analytics to guide you. And common sense as well because the most perfect web design in the world is useless if your entire business model is problematic.
If you are below average on conversions you know you are likely doing something wrong or a lot of things wrong. So you have to start isolating the problem or problems. As an example we had a customer that simply could not convert even into the averages in fact their entire experience was a losing proposition no matter what we did. They were in a fairly competitive industry selling in the hobby field. To protect their privacy I won’t really say what the product was but it doesn’t really matter. But here was the problem in their case. They had a lot of different products available to them and in their brick and mortar (retail) store they were stocked to the ceiling with all kinds of products. But they only wanted to focus online on one particular field of products from one particular manufacturer mostly I think because it did happen to be the most popular product in their particular category. But the problem was the mfr only allowed you to sell online at MAP (mfr approved price) so everyone had the same price or closely thereof. One of the potential problems that might come up in a scenario like this could be the prospective customer asking themselves, “why should I buy from you when you are across the country and I can buy the same product at the same price from someone located close to me?” Because it didn’t come down to price, everyone had the same price, within a few dollars. To be successful in this type of situation you have to find ways to separate yourself from the competition and show why you are the one they should purchase from.
Too, in this particular scenario the field was very crowded. So it was even more difficult to be noticed or the get good rankings in search engines.
But it gets worse. In this particular case, the MFR also sold online at MAP which I think is a horrible practice by a MFR to compete directly against their distributors. A MFR should always be priced higher than its distributors in my opinion. So now a potential customer might ask “Why should I buy from anyone when I can buy direct from the MFR for the same price?” That’s ugly.
In the above scenario I don’t think the client could ever be successful not as long as they stuck to their model. The solution they thought would achieve success was to represent themselves as a “family owned and operated” business. My advice was that wouldn’t make any difference at all unless the potential customer lived down the street perhaps. I advised the client that if they wanted to stick with that model they had to find ways to separate themselves from everyone else and show incredible value over and above the purchase of the item. The example I used is a very successful company that sells car stereos, speakers and the like online only by the name of Crutchfield. I believe what has made this company successful is the resources they offer on their website and the obvious attention they place on customer service and responsiveness to customers. No matter which product you are interested in on their website there is a ton of resources, videos, instructions and so forth easy to find related to this product. So they engage the customer making it easier for the customer to make a purchase decision. In fact, I think anyone that is involved in eCommerce would do well to study their model.
Too, it often helps to have someone that is on the outside to look at your offering and overall site. And I am not talking about asking your friends what they think. I mean a third party that might have a vested interest in helping you achieve success and has the experience and knowledge from helping others achieve online success. Because generally speaking a professional marketing company is not going to mince words and will usually tell you exactly how it is when it comes to your selling model. Usually what they are going to most care about is how they can help you grow your bottom line and because they are on the outside looking in they will see things a little differently.
A preliminary consultation from a company like ours can be very helpful in determining a best strategy to move forward with both your website and your conversions and grow your online business.
Perfect web design just as in perfect selling is about engaging the visitor. Often times when it comes to selling we push when we should be pulling. We should seek ways to pull in the customer not push ourselves to them and that comes down to figuring out how to engage them so they spend time on our website. It helps to put ourselves in the shoes of a potential customer. If I was a potential customer what questions might I have, what might I want or expect to see, what site navigation will most engage me and lead me in the right way to the right places?
As well, I want to know everything about the businesses that are taking business away from me, my competitors. The most successful ones what are they doing and how can I match that? What are they doing wrong and how can I show I am the one doing it right? What are the holes in their offering and how can I stand out from them? I don’t want my web design to look like them or to think like them but to be obviously different from them in a way that accentuates all of the reasons why you should come to me and not them.
Also you have to understand your traffic. Where is it coming from? Who are they? What are the demographics of my traffic? How much does it cost me to acquire a customer and from which sources? You have to break your traffic down both into terms of personal identity to some extent as well as into dollars and cents. The personal identity will help you to understand how to evolve your website. Knowing averages such as screen sizes and resolutions, mobile versus desktop, operating systems and so forth will help you understand how best to design your web pages for optimum look and feel to your average visitor. All of this you can get from proper web analytics.
Is your website responsive? If it is not mobile friendly this will now get you penalized in Google when they show results to people with smaller screens. Your website should be responsive and not simply redirect mobile visitors to a different version. This again is about being visitor friendly.
The answer to perfect web design is simply to keep evolving. Don’t stagnate. Continuously evolve your website, track your analytics and you will grow your online business.