There are a lot of jokes about out-of-touch bosses or professionals who think they know it all, even outside their areas of expertise. Doctors, CEOs, lawyers, architects, financiers – they get a fair share of teasing about letting personal aesthetics or seemingly arbitrary, unfounded opinions negatively affect otherwise rational business or marketing projects.
To be honest, I’ve actually seen some version of this happen with web design. And admit it, you super-Type-A personalities out there, sometimes you just can’t help yourself! So, I’ve put together a quick list of four things you (the boss-man or boss-woman) should keep in mind when your company is designing or redesigning its website.
1. Consider goals, functionality and content BEFORE design
Your competitor has a snazzy bit of Flash on their homepage, and, yes, it looks cool, but does the website accomplish measurable goals?
The main point here is to consider what you want your website to do for your company (beyond looking impressive) before you get too deep into design. Do you want to sell more product? Gather leads for your sales team? Tell your story to investors?
Whatever your goals are, you need to think of how the site will be built and the content displayed so your goals can be achieved. Let your web designers work with your team to specify the technology that will achieve your goals and make it easy for your team (the folks who are tasked with working on the site every day) to maintain it. Once the technology foundation is specified and content outlined, your designer can make it look fantastic – on-brand and appropriate for your market.
Making the design process the second step is difficult because it is the most emotionally engaging (and fun) part of the process, and where you actually start to see what your site will look like in the real world. And don’t get me wrong: design is absolutely critical to a website’s success. But remember – design should support the business goals you set for your website.
2. If you don’t like it on other websites, don’t put it on yours
I’m talking about “intro pages” and “splash pages.” They are universally despised, but for some reason, the occasional CEO still wants one.
You know you hate them for wasting your time on other sites. Don’t put one on yours.
3. “Global” = content, not spinning, animated globes
If you want your company to appear “global” in its reach, a little, spinning globe image isn’t the way to go. Consider an image with your team or partners in obvious locations around the world, create content that discusses your work in other countries, show your international offices in your “contact us” page, or have your site translated into other languages. Those techniques show you walk the global walk.
4. Don’t hire your cousin
… unless she has 5 years experience building professional websites. Be sure whoever builds your website will be around to help maintain and support it, and has a history of successful website launches. Professional web design firms have employees who can help when your main contact is on vacation, sick or just unavailable – you’d be surprised how many emergency, late-night content edits we’ve received over the years (particularly from companies in regulated industries like pharma or that are publicly traded).
Essentially, I urge you to look at your web design project the same way you think of complex contracts or year-end accounting: consider your goals and hire a kick-ass professional who knows the industry’s best practices.
So, if you’re a big cheese, I hope you find these tips useful. And if you believe that you’ve made some of these mistakes, it’s O.K. – one of the great things about the web is that you can change things for the better very quickly.
Best wishes, Eric Weidner