This is a guest article contributed by Richard Larson*.
Tell your potential clients, not only do you design beautiful websites, you design websites that convert!
Designers that make beautiful websites are everywhere. As a designer you need to demonstrate to your potential clients that not only do you create beautiful designs but your designs are carefully crafted marketing tools that convert potentially interested people into devoted customers. Doing this isn’t easy but it will dramatically improve your business and more importantly it will improve your client’s business. When they sell more, thanks to your website, they will spread the word and before you know it you will be turning potential clients away or hiring staff.
In order to convince your clients that you create websites that convert you need to start a crash course on marketing and apply it to all the skill and knowledge you have about SEO and web design. Secondly, you need to establish a standardized formula for getting to know your clients and their business needs. The more you understand about your client, the better job you can do at placing their website so that it will get the most exposure and the most traffic.
It’s essential to articulate your marketing strategy to your client in a clear and dynamic way. At every opportunity you need to remind yourself and your client that the ultimate objective is to create a website that converts. This requires a delicate balance of often diametrically opposing forces like SEO and customer appeal. Every web designer will have strengths and weaknesses. As you read through the following skill list make mental notes of the areas where you personally need improvement.
Understand Your Audience
As a designer you need to understand and target your client’s audience. This is done using a combination of traditional marketing research tools and new web marketing tools. You need to know the age, gender, location and economic class of your target audience. You also need to understand what your customers like, dislike and want out of your product and industry and where they are online (laptop, desktop, mobile, Facebook, Twitter etc.). Here are a variety of tools you can use to do this:
- International Business Strategies
- Internet Time Machine
- Plunkett Research
- Valuation Resources
- Yahoo Insights
Social Media Tools:
- Dow Jones Insight
- Nielsen Online
- Visible Technologies
- Social Mention
Branding and Niche Placement
Branding and niche placement have always been important but Online this is critical- especially for conversions. The advantage of the Internet is it is a large market; the disadvantage of the Internet is that it is a large market. The Internet is like a desert filled with sand and as one of those grains an unknown website needs to distinguish itself. Your conversion rate can only increase if you are attracting the right audience. Careful keyword selection is the number one most important way to get your site into the right niche. Branding (see BrandSimple by Allen Adamson and Sir Martin Sorrell) and placing your web site in the appropriate niche within an industry are equally important. Careful logo design and strategic advertising (PDF) are also essential. Reaching the appropriate audience equals high conversion rates.
Excellent Coding and SEO Design
No amount of beautiful design and market research will save you if your coding and site architecture aren’t SEO friendly. Flat site architecture is optimal and a well-designed linking structure is critical. Paying attention to SEO code details like titles and metatags is also important. Google’s new Panda updates have changed the game substantially and if you aren’t up on the new game get out there and do some research!
Quality Design including font, color selection and overall presentation are critical. You need to design for your potential customers. Knowing your audience before you start designing will make this much easier and will eliminate many design choices. SEO site structure and choices will eliminate even more designs. You may be surprised to find yourself with a very limited number of choices and this is what separates the good designers from the Masters. The Masters are still able to design unique and appealing websites despite all the demanding limitations of marketing and SEO.
Quality content is also essential. All your content should have a unique and consistent tone. Your content must also be credible, logical and emotionally appealing. Content should appeal to the right level of depth. For example, a consumer looking to buy a car doesn’t want an engineering prospectus, but an engineer does. To capture organic rankings there must be reams of unique content and it must be consistently produced. Make sure your clients understand that a steady stream for a long time is needed to attain first page ranking on organic Google searches. When thinking about content make sure to consider podcasts and instructional materials as well. Cleaver designers find ways to make other people create their content. Apple Computer does this through marketing and branding. Get creative and think of ways to get your own audience to create positive content and buzz for you.
Quality visuals include pictures and graphics but any more quality visuals also include video streams and slide shows. Visual elements tap into people’s emotions and can activate other senses if they are well executed. For example, a great photo of food will make a consumer hungry. The web is quickly moving towards movement so if you haven’t already- get yourself up to speed on flash and video streaming. The Sundance Institute website is a great example of a site that incorporates a wide range of visual mediums effectively into a flat site structure. In this site visuals add to rather than detract from the tone and mood of the site. Your site must still upload quickly across a variety of platforms. The video stream is small box but has the potential to go full screen and the audio on the video stream is exceptional.
Testing, Customer Feedback, Tracking and Analytics.
Test your website design using visual heat mapping before launch to optimize your point of action points and after your website is flying to measure and track user views, clicks and participation. Use traditional analytics programs to get more complete data and details. Use customer feedback forms to make future corrections and updates to the site so that it is converting customers at the best rate possibly.
Here are some heat mapping tools:
- Attention Wizard
- Google In-page Analytics (free Overlay tool)
- Definitive Heatmap (from Corunet, Free DIY Tool)
- Omniture ClickMap (Adobe)
Here are some tools for site feedback:
All of your time and effort will be wasted if your client is with a poor hosting company. A good hosting company can dramatically influence site upload speed and site downtime. In addition a poor hosting site can negatively impact SEO through association. The other sites hosted on your host are your neighborhood. If the neighborhood is full of rotten sites it will influence your SEO. Conversely if your host has large reputable sites this will work favorably for your SEO.
This above list is only a beginning- look at your strengths and keep going to further brand yourself as a unique and valuable web designer. Use everything you use for your clients and apply it to your own business and watch it grow!