If you’re planning on starting a business or are already running one, it’s probably fair to go out on a limb and say you recognize the importance of building up your brand and reputation online. Making sure your website is on point is one of the most effective ways to build trust with your potential clients or customers.
Online users have higher expectations than ever before and often do their fair share of digging around on Google before committing to a purchase. Nowadays, business sites often tailor themselves around user experience, responsive web design, website speed, and seamless navigation.
This post will cover the basics of modern web design for brands and businesses that aim to impact their potential customers online.
Web Design Process for a Business Website (At a Glance)
To be sure the web design process is as manageable as possible, you should set out a clear plan. Here a few steps you can take to the drawing board when you’re getting started:
- Identifying business objectives – Before you jump into planning your site with a web designer or as your own project, the first step to a better web design process is identifying your goals and objectives. A business website should have a clear direction of exactly what it needs to accomplish or how it will attract customers.
- Creating a sitemap – To ensure a smooth, logical experience for the end-user, a sitemap will do a lot of heavy lifting during the planning phase. How do pages link together? What can users interact with and where?
- A strategic call to action – How will you draw users into your business through your website? Is there a specific action you want them to take? Whether you have an online store or you’re looking to attract a client for your service, an effective business site is defined by how well it converts.
Key Details to Consider
- Google Analytics – Google Analytics will help you to understand where users are finding your website, how they interact with it, and what they do once they arrive. It also helps define your audience, benchmark your performance, and shape your digital marketing and SEO strategy.
- Identifying additional features – Reviews in an online store, social media sharing, and contact pages are also important factors in keeping users engaged and your visitors satisfied.
Kicking Off Your Web Design Project
- Website design systems – Website design revolves around a clear brand identity with focused, uncluttered spaces.
- Settling into a design – Designing a wireframe, identifying UX design features and exploring modern web design trends.
- Web Performance – A slow site puts you at an automatic disadvantage. With the introduction of mobile-first indexing and core web vitals, it’s time to prioritize web performance.
- Launch and Maintenance – It’s time to launch, but you’ll also have to consider potential issues that could arise and keep an eye out for ongoing improvements you can make once your site is live.
A web development project is no small undertaking, but it’s incredibly worthwhile for your brand. Below you’ll find each of these steps in the web design process covered in further detail.
Plan Around Key Business Objectives
Before getting into the must-haves, you’ll want to establish some key objectives that will help make the new website a success. By making sure your plan supports higher-level business objectives, you’ll be able to validate your web design and development decisions from the get-go.
Here are a few common goals for business websites within different departments in an organization:
- Marketing – Drive organic traffic, generate leads and retain existing customers.
- Sales – Increase conversions and online sales.
- Operations – Reduce business costs by streamlining internal tasks and workflows.
- Customer Support – Solve customer pain points or automate the customer service process as much as possible.
Site Structure & Hierarchy
Site navigation is a huge part of creating a seamless user experience. You’ll want to make sure your site architecture is organized in a clear and logical way that your visitors can easily understand.
Creating a Sitemap
One of the initial steps that might help you visualize the structure and website navigation is to create a sitemap planning out the various pages you’ll need on your site and where they will live based on the purpose each one serves and it’s importance to your business. (Eg. Signup pages, Contact, About.)
Creating a sitemap in this initial phase can help you manage the overall web design process, stay organized during the development phase and give you an idea of what your website might need to look like to make the most sense to the end-user. Taking the time to map out how you want your website to flow also gives you a clear framework to build on going forward. There are tons of free tools that can help you out with this, but one of my personal favourites is Octopus.do.
When considering the visitors to your new site, you might also want to consider using a clickable HTML sitemap somewhere as an alternative option for quick website navigation. It’s also worthwhile to understand the difference between an HTML sitemap and an XML sitemap. You can find out more information on that in this Search Engine Journal article by Eli Schwartz.
You’ll also want to get all of the necessary brand assets in order before you start planning the rest of the site. Be sure you have your desired domain name, colour palette, access to various logotypes, stock or product images you might want to use. Being mindful of minor details like these while aligning them with your brand’s identity can help you achieve a better quality result and instill trust with your customers.
Once you have a general framework in place, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty and start building your site. Below you’ll find a list of actionable tips that could give your site the upgrade your clients and customers deserve.
In the early stages of designing your site, it can be easy to get hung up making low-level decisions over things like colours, fonts, icons, etc.
One way to bypass this is by taking a systematic approach by implementing a design system. A design system is a set of pre-determined styling rules and constraints to help keep your site’s design clean, consistent and on-brand. Some can get pretty extensive, but you can keep it simple by starting with the main elements like colours, spacing for padding and margin, typography rules, border radius and box shadow.
Taking the time to establish a design system early on will help you maintain consistency throughout your build and give you a quick styling reference when you need it.
The Web Design Process
A modern website goes through numerous iterations behind the scenes before reaching it’s final stage. To simplify the process and make sure your site checks all the boxes you need it to, you might want to talk to your web designer or developer about incorporating a project plan.
Why Use a Project Plan?
A good project plan template can help you with project management and reduce the stress level throughout your web design process significantly. You can incorporate this with a wireframe or your design system to ensure your website is on brand and the timeline to completion is on track.
Use a Modern Framework, Theme or Template
There’s no doubt you’ll want to make sure your site sports a clean, modern design. Having modern design elements throughout your website can help show your customers that you’re keeping up with competitors and promote trust with new customers online who may not be familiar with your company.
If you still aren’t sure where to begin – Start with a piece of actual functionality. Say you’re building an event booking service. You could start with a feature like “searching for upcoming events” or “book an event.”
Building Your Business Website: Jamstack, WordPress or a Page Builder?
The way people use the internet has changed. This means that your business website needs to be responsive for all devices so that it can be easily viewed and navigated on any screen size or orientation. While a template or theme is a quick way to get your site up and running with a responsive web design, it’s not always the best option in the long run as you grow your business.
You should take a close look at each aspect of your project and be sure you end up with a result that will be both efficient and sustainable in the future. It’s easy to use a free service, but working with a web designer is a more personalized way to create a website that represents your brand exactly the way you need it to. Below are a few pros and cons to each option.
Using a Free Website Builder
While you might think of a website builder like Squarespace or Wix as easy to use, you’re sacrificing what you think of as low costs upfront for a much less customizable and effective way to reach customers in the long run.
These sites offer users a great web design tool for small projects but not much else. If you don’t need a custom design or specific functionality, these can be a decent option for someone looking to build and manage a basic website independently.
While many website builders offer a free plan, unless you’re willing to pay a premium for additional add-ons – your site will likely incorporate their branding in some way, as well as have limitations on customization and monthly visits. However, free website builders are a great way to experiment with web design or test the platform out before committing to it for your project.
Building a WordPress Website
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems available. It’s been around since 2003 and currently powers more than 40% of the internet. WordPress is open source and has a massive repository of themes and plugins that allow you to customize your website, add functionality and improve security measures. In many cases, WordPress is the best way for businesses and marketing teams to build and manage their own website.
Jamstack, Headless CMS & The Modern Web
JAMstack is an architecture that allows you to build faster, more secure web applications that are ready to scale without dealing with the complexities of traditional CMS platforms. While software like WordPress or Drupal make some things easier, they also do way more than a CMS needs to and are prone to vulnerabilities and security issues if not set up correctly.
A lot of businesses are switching their websites to a Headless CMS. Meaning the data and information for your website stored in your content management system lives in one place (outside of your main server.) It then communicates via an API to a static website on the front-end, which is hosted separately.
Prioritize Page Speed & Web Performance
Google recently made an announcement that page experience signals would be included as a ranking factor – A focus on performance when building your site should definitely be a focus point. Having a page that loads quickly without errors or layout shifts is just as important as your site’s content, products or services content driving visitors to your site.
Responsive Mobile-Friendly Design
Did you know Google is moving to a Mobile-first Index? A significant amount of our digital activity occurs on a mobile device. It goes without saying that having a responsive site that looks and functions properly on all screen sizes is a priority. Responsive designs are now developing into a mandatory style for all websites, whether or not you’re just starting out.
There are plenty of options in terms of themes or templates that offer a responsive design out of the box – But if you don’t have someone in-house with a background in web design or development, it’s worth outsourcing to be sure your site represents your brand professionally.
Have a Clear Call to Action
Getting creative with your call-to-action can be a great way to showcase your brand’s personality, just not to the point that your potential clients or customers aren’t sure what to do next.
Pages that lack a clear, visible call-to-action might have a bigger challenge converting those users into paying customers. Keeping things clear and concise will help keep things simple and enable your visitors to move on to the next step without confusion.
If you have more than one call-to-action on your site – make sure your visitors are lead to the right place and that the information on that page is consistent with the step before. You’ll also want to check for broken links and spelling/grammatical errors. Here’s a curated list of solid call to action examples.
Google Analytics is a free solution that helps businesses better understand the way their customers interact with their website. Once you add the snippet provided in your dashboard, you can start collecting valuable data that can enable you to make faster, more informed business decisions.
Google Analytics is also a useful tool for helping you to kickstart a search engine optimization strategy that can power a business website. SEO is essential to drive traffic from search engines with the goal of converting those new visitors into customers.
Here are a few useful things you can track with Google Analytics:
- Track organic traffic and performance.
- Visitor segments and demographics.
- Create attribution models.
- Measure the value of traffic from Social Media or PPC Ads.
- Track a Mobile Website or App.
- Video Plays.
- Phone Calls.
- Cross-Device Tracking.
- Custom dashboards – (I prefer to use Google Data Studio for this.)
- Remarketing and a lot more.
Add Reviews to the Mix
Customer reviews are no longer limited to Google My Business and Yelp. Many folks appreciate seeing reviews directly on whatever site they’re visiting. Seeing them natively on your site might save them the inconvenience of sifting through external review sites or subreddits in search of a genuine review.
Reviews can also offer social proof that your brand and its products are worth the purchase, giving potential customers the confirmation they need to commit.
An Effective Contact Page
Every business site should have a place where your customers can reach out to you for support. However, this can also be used as an opportunity to highlight your values or zero in on user experience.
Highlighting your priority on customer support or creating a simple and effective way for people to reach you might help establish trust with new visitors.
There’s no doubt that building an email list can move the needle when it comes to driving traffic and generating leads, but some website owners have doubts about how to approach the building of their list when they’re first getting started.
Email Marketing remains a direct and personal way to target your potential customers. Try to make the signup process as easy and seamless as possible while providing genuine value to those that sign up.
Maintaining Your Website
Website maintenance is often ignored, but it will help your site stand the test of time. A website isn’t exactly a “set it and forget it” type of asset. Your average business site likely requires regular maintenance and security updates.
Website maintenance is important to consider as web design trends change. Allowing your site to become outdated is a great way to drive away a potential client or customer.
Think of your digital presence as the first impression your potential customer will have of your brand, you want to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Having a solid website design process in place can serve as the make or break point for user, content or product interaction.
I hope you were able to find something of value to take into your next business website. Do you need help building a website? Check out my web design services or contact me directly. If you want to know more about me, you can read a bit more about my story here.
Thanks for reading.