In this article, I’d like to share with you some general concepts and some technical specifics you should be aware of when evaluating how your web design company will approach your project.
Or, if your website is already done, you can use this list to judge the relative quality of your website.
- 1 Is Fit For Its Purpose
- 2 Is Technically Sound
- 3 Can Prove Results
- 4 Can Evolve & Change Affordably
- 5 Empowers You & Your Team
Is Fit For Its Purpose
Understands the Target Visitor
Among the first orders of business in any web design project, should be a process by which your designers come to understand your target customers, users, visitors… whatever term is appropriate to describe the people you’re trying to help.
This process should involve developing user personas that describe the demographics of your users, their common needs, and how your site or software will address those needs.
Identifying these personas will provide guidance to the design team. For instance, if you’re targeting millennials, the design should probably push the boundaries of what’s currently on-trend. If however, you’re targeting established business professionals in a B2B setting, a more traditional approach is probably what’s called for.
Probably nothing influences a site’s conversion success more than whether a visitor can find what they’re looking for and quickly get where they want to go. Depending on the nature of your site… its purpose and its content… the approach to navigation could be significantly different.
Content rich sites may want to focus on search-ability and an organized categorization. Lead generation sites may focus on funnels. Simple business informational sites may prefer a traditional flat or menu-driven navigation. E-Commerce sites might focus on major categories and filtering.
The point is that the best option for you should be derived from an analysis of your content and what you want your site to achieve. A site with only tens of pages must have a very different navigation from a site with thousands or hundreds of thousands!
Has Valuable and Succinct Content
In the conversion game, second only to whether users can find your content… is what that content is and how it’s presented.
Generally speaking, these days visitors need to be able to consume more with less time and less screen real estate. So, we have found that good use of summary headlines, short paragraphs, and a focus on succinct copy satisfies those needs, allowing visitors to scan your documents and zero in on what interests them.
Is Technically Sound
Utilizes Proper HTML Semantics
An often overlooked aspect of great web design in these days of quick and simple WYSIWYG web page editors is proper use of HTML semantics.
Once upon a time, when us web designers actually had to hand type our HTML, we were very intentional about the tags we used, because that practice of typing out the HTML caused us to specifically learn the intended *meaning* behind tags.
These days, page editors many times ignore semantics for technical convenience in presenting the look and layout a person wants.
The problem with this approach, is that it limits the understanding a bot can have about your web page… namely the Google Bot. There is a reason why we have <h1> <h2> <h3…h6> tags. Why we have <article> <section> <aside> <header> <footer> <main> tags and more… so that bots can know what the content *is*.
Implements Complete On-Page SEO
And so extending from the previous section… implementing complete on-page SEO means using proper HTML semantics to their fullest. It also means implementing all the old reliable SEO techniques plus incorporating the new.
The old reliable techniques are first, do some SEO research and develop a good, focused set of terms you should optimize for. Then, be sure to elegantly incorporate them into your meta titles, meta descriptions, alt tags, and body content. Make sure your site has a cohesive internal linking structure, and submit your XML sitemap to Google.
The new techniques expand upon the basics to incorporate structured data into your HTML to provide even more detail to Google. Here’s a good introduction to structured data.
Is Mobile Friendly
We’ve covered the topic in this article, but it bears repeating! All consumer & informational sites… and even many B2B web applications should at least consider the possibility that their target visitor wants to interact with them from their mobile phone.
We all do it… we start a search from our mobile on the go… find a couple sources we like, but can’t dig in deep enough where we are. We then get to our office or our home computer, and pull up those resources to study them more deeply.
You MUST have a mobile presence these days! Not because that will necessary be the channel through which your visitors immediately convert, but because it is now a common touch point along the *path* to conversion!
Can Prove Results
Implements Analytics Platforms
Of course Google Analytics is the de facto standard… but don’t stop there! There are whole other classes of analytical tools which can give you deep insight into your site and help drive ideas for improvement.
My favorite among these are the class of tools which record visitor sessions for playback, and produce useful reports like heat maps. My current favorite among these is Lucky Orange. For a very affordable price, you can get in-page analytics at a level Google just doesn’t deliver, which can trigger all sorts of insights about your visitor’s behavior you might not have had otherwise.
Another class of tool to implement from the get-go is a search engine ranking tool. At Endertech we’re using SE Ranking. Again, for a very affordable rate, you’ll get daily updates as to your search engine position for a range of keywords that you specify, along with other useful analytics to help guide your SEO efforts.
Has Someone Reviewing and Reporting
Without much prior experience, the data and reports provided by Google Analytics, Lucky Orange, and SE Ranking can seem overwhelming. It can be quite a learning curve to understand what you’re looking at, let alone make judgements about how to react to the data.
So, you can benefit from retaining your design firm’s consultants to review the data with you and provide their analysis. This will expedite your personal learning and it will help you get important improvements done the fastest.