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Conversion Rate Optimisation, Website Design

There’s more to great website design than superficial good looks

There’s more to great website design than superficial good looks. 

When it comes to web design projects, it can be easy to consider only what you see as the finished product. The images, the colours, the eye-catching animations.  The truth is that so much more happens ‘behind the scenes’ to make the design of a website truly stand out. In this blog we take a look at a range of different stages all new websites should go through in order to achieve high performance. 

  • Scope
  • Information Architecture and Content Strategy
  • User Experience (UX)
  • User Interface (UI)
  • Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
  • Testing
  • Improvements
  • Summary

Scope

The first step is to define the scope of the project and understand 3 key things: the purpose of the website, the budget and the goals the site should achieve.

The design of a website will vary depending on its purpose, so knowing this will set you off on the right foot from the beginning. It needs to be confirmed whether the site is an e-commerce site where people can buy your products and services, or is it a place to showcase your business and encourage people to contact you, or is it purely informative.

The goals of a website are also a huge consideration from the start of the project. You’ve probably heard of the term ‘customer journey’ and this is a key concept in web design. The goals of the site will determine how it is designed to influence the customer journey. For example: if it’s an e commerce site selling make up, it would be important to make sure the site allows users to see the products and understand, while encouraging easy navigation through to the purchase page.

Thirdly, you’ll need to clarify the size of the project and the budget. Not all beautifully designed websites need lots of pages and large sums of money invested in them. Understanding the sites purpose, goals and available budget will enable agencies and web designers to get creative and ensure your site is built to achieve its goals, looks stunning and is cost effective.

Information Architecture (IA) and Content Strategy

Information architecture and content strategy build on from the websites’ purpose and goals, and is a process which defines the pages the site will include and the content needed on each of those pages.

Beginning with the IA, you start to build out a visual representation of the website navigation. To be clear, this varies with each website depending on what it needs to achieve, but in general you will include top level pages such as About Us, Products, Services, Our Work, Blog, Contact Us, and the subpages for those categories which go into more detail.

The purpose of IA is to understand the number of pages your website will need, to ensure the page topics are grouped together in a logical way and to ensure the site can be easily navigated. You wouldn’t want a page containing valuable information to hard to reach and hidden under a topic that is irrelevant.

Once the IA is complete a lot of work goes into defining the content for each of those pages. Decisions need to be made as to what important and valuable information would users look for and what would persuade them to take the action you want them to take. As with all sites not needing a large number of pages, not all pages need loads of content. There needs to be a balance between having valuable content for the user that is easily readable and accessible, and ensuring the page isn’t overwhelming. At this stage you need to understand what is useful for the user, what would they expect to see on the page and what needs to be there to encourage the next step.

User Experience (UX)

User experience is another common term when discussing web design and should be top of mind in pretty much every decision made about your websites’ design. It’s self-explanatory, and the experience users have on your site will determine whether they purchase, get in touch, and return in the future. Whilst UX should be considered throughout the process, it does also stand out as its own step.

Once the content for each page has been defined, it’s the job of UX designers and UX architects to create page layouts that best promote the content. They will create wireframes (also known as skeleton pages) of each page to demonstrate how they will look. This isn’t just based off of what looks pretty, it’s based off of data and research. It will be based on insight into how the human eye scans webpages, or how long people tend to spend on a single page or even which layouts encourage a particular action over another. An example of this being the placement of a call-to-action at a certain point on the page because by the time the user reaches it they would have read enough information in order to be ready to take the next step in their journey.

User Interface (UI)

Also known as visual design, the UI stage is all about developing the user interface. What this means is it’s time to start adding those brand colours, the accent colours, the images, videos, graphic design elements, animations and anything else that will make it visually appealing.

Again, how this stage is implemented will depend on the purpose of the website. For example: As an e-commerce site it will be vital to include compelling, ultra HD images of the products and potentially share tutorial or promotional videos. As an informative site, promoting the work of a charity, it may be better to place importance on how the text is displayed, and instead of showing HD imagery, it might be more impactful to show images taken in situ from real people.

One thing to remember is that whilst animations and graphics are cool and eye catching, it’s important not to overload your site with such elements. 1. because too much of a good thing can be damaging, and 2. because it can hurt the speed of your website, and slow loading websites provide a poor user experience.

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Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

Once the website looks stunning, has engaging content accompanied by compelling imagery, and is laid out in way that users will engage with, it’s time to think even further into how the website will convert visitors into leads and customers. Of course, this is always top of mind throughout the web design and influences most decisions, but it also has a step of its own (yes, it’s that important). Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is focused solely on how the site can be developed to increase conversions and encourage visitors to take a desired action.

Testing

Okay, you’re site has been designed and built and it’ almost ready to be published and take your online presence to the next level. However, before that happens you need to test it.  This is more important than we can put in words. Launching a website without testing it first can lead to poor performance, poor user experience and a significant loss of conversions.

There are a range of different tests to be carried out, a few of them being device and mobile-friendly testing, performance, usability, and web browser testing. It’s important to review how your site looks and performs across desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices as the appearance and performance will change based on different screen sizes. Similarly, different web browsers will interpret you site in unique ways, so you need to ensure it works just as well on Safari and Firefox as it does on Google Chrome. Usability testing helps validate whether your design does actually influence users to take desired actions and whether they can find the relevant information they need. This is achieved by setting users tasks to carry out and asking them to explain how easy/difficult they found it and which steps they took.

Improvements

After having completed the testing phase, there’s no doubt that issues would have been found, and so it’s time to work on improvements to solve those issues. Whether it’s poor mobile responsiveness in one area of a page, slow loading times in a particular browser, or a user found it difficult to find the pricing page, it’s vital that any and all issues are resolved before launch to enable your new website to perform strongly from the start.

Summary

To summarise, we repeat the title, there’s more to great website design than superficial good looks. Hopefully this blog has shed some light on the different stages of web design, all of which come together for an intelligent and compelling website design focused on enhancing your business’ online presence and performance.


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    Jack Kennedy

    Jack is the founder of Invanity marketing and has worked in digital marketing since the age of 17. Having been involved in both the client-side and the agency side of the process he is building Invanity with a vision of creating a marketing agency that truly delivers on the results it has promised.

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