June 24th, 2009
by Kate McMillan
If you’re like most people, you don’t sit around yearning for great CSS documents and marketing strategies – instead, you want solutions that create a great business strategy online. You want a way to communicate with your customer, and provide them with a great experience – not just have a great website.
Luckily, there are some simple steps for you to have the best of both worlds: a solution designed to create a quality experience & a cool website because of it.
- Before you do anything, get to know your users. You likely have lots of information about your customer, but do you have information about how their behaviors translate to an online environment? What kind of site architecture will suit them best? What kind of information are they looking for? What technology are they comfortable with? There’s something new to learn about your customer continually – this isn’t something you do once and then forget about it. Gathering knowledge over time will continually inform what you present to your customer online.
- Create an map of what you want your online presence to DO, not just what you want it to BE. Write down what your online presence will offer your customer. This could be as simple as directions to your location, or a way to get in touch with you… but make sure all the solutions are accounted for. Draw connections between things – might someone want to read about an existing customer experience and then sign up for the same thing? Capture the connections you want to make to enhance your usability.
- Aim for simplicity. Once you have your solutions mapped out, simplify! How can you provide those solutions in the most simple, clear & straightforward manner? Start creating your site content around your map of solutions, and then think of ways you can communicate it in the fewest words possible without losing the message. 95% of web users won’t read 80% of your content – this doesn’t make it less important, it makes it MORE important. Not just for the sake of people’s attention spans, but also because drowning your potential customer in information will not make them trust you more or want to buy more for you – it will just drown them in information. Weed out the uncritical & keep your content focused and honest.
- Allow your personality to shine through. As you begin to think about how to communicate your solutions, don’t lose yourself in the process. Just like your social media outlets like Twitter & Facebook allow you to connect authentically with your customer, your website does the same thing. You don’t have to compromise your professional credibility to have an authentic voice online – people are more likely to do business with people they like – so there’s no reason to be a nameless, faceless entity. A good experince often hinges on the small things, so don’t underestimate the subtle things you might bring to the table.
- Your customers are looking for solutions & answers, just like you! So as you get ready to actually create your web presence, make sure all your leg work so far has led you to identify solutions, not just problems. With your solutions identified, creating a web presence that communicates them clearly will not just keep your customer happy, but it’s the bulk of the work! That last effort of making your web solution’s aesthetic the way you want it will now ensure that the design is serving the solution, not the other way around. Design isn’t nebulous magic or just making something pretty, it’s a process by which you create solutions – and the ones that work the best are the ones that answer your customer’s questions, even if they don’t know what they are yet! And remember that there are ways to discover what’s working and what’s not – the only constant in life is change – so track your successes and failures, learn from them, then respond by adapting for the better.
Everything you do to help improve the experience you’re creating via your online presence means a better ROI. You might be able to track it in customer satisfaction, cold hard cash, or the buzz it creates – and you don’t have to start from scratch or do it all at once. Design is inevitable – the alternative to good design is bad design, not no design – so make your design decisions conciously & with solution building in mind!