Web design, like all of modern marketing, is an evolving business. There’s much more to building a great website than excellent graphic design or search engine optimized (SEO) content. Truly outstanding web design is balanced, effectively blending and prioritizing branding activities, visitor usability, and search engine friendliness all into one well-oiled virtual machine.
Branding in Web Design
Web design and development cannot occur in a marketing vacuum. A website must blend seamlessly with a company’s entire web presence and all of its online and traditional marketing materials. For example, at the most basic level of branding there’s your logo. If you have an existing logo and develop a new one during a web design project, you must update that logo everywhere. Otherwise, how are online visitors to know that the store they saw a billboard for is the same one they’re locating now online? If your company has a mascot, primary-color-heavy marketing materials, or a tongue-in-cheek voice, those things have to be consistent both on paper and online. Whether your website sets the tone or simply matches what’s already there is irrelevant: the important thing to accomplish is consistency.
Usability in Web Design
When writing marketing materials, it’s important for your content provider to use language that the majority of your target audience will understand and relate to. It’s the same in web design. Sure, it’s nice to have a designer who can build the most complex of websites, but if your target demographic does not consist of computer engineers who understand the back workings of Linux, there’s not only no benefit to having a highly complex website, it’s actually a major deterrent to your consumers.
Finding and maintaining this balance in a web design project can be particularly difficult for companies such as IT firms, whose work is highly technical but whose audience isn’t necessarily well-versed in the latest technological advances. Thus, ensuring that the site appears and is very user friendly, while emphasizing the company’s outstanding technical knowledge base, is essential. Even with the most simple of information or sales sites, those with no technical information, it’s still massively important that the site be usable (no broken links, easily navigable interface, clear instructions, intuitive design) or customers will simply click away to the next option: your competitor. Keeping a website simple, accessible, and usable for its intended consumer base is just as important as maintaining branding through aesthetics, tone, and style. Finding that balance, however, is a skill that takes experience and a finely trained eye.
Search Engine Friendliness in Web Design
Search engine friendliness is the third component of web design, after usability and branding, that creates that virtual hat trick of a successful website design project. By “search engine friendliness,” we mean keeping URLs short and neat so they are easy to share and decipher and so they can contribute to SEO and SEM campaigns. If your URLs are little more than a string of letters, numbers, and dashes, they’re nearly impossible to remember and don’t hold any keywords. But if they’re intentionally shortened and organized, search engines and consumers alike will find your site easier to use, and that, coupled with great usability and consistent branding, is what keeps ‘em coming back for more.