Designing A Website: Laying Foundations For An Unshakable Structure

With time, any business owner knows having a website can be a real game-changer choice. Some have been pioneers in this, others are approaching the matter now or simply need a restyling to keep the pace. Whatever the initial condition, there are some must-questions we need to ask ourselves when we wonder about our dream-website. Where to start? What kind of budget do I need to set for the project? Do I have all the needed skills or do I need to hire a professional? Let’s not rush, we’re getting there.

Showcase site VS E-commerce

The very first thing we need to approach is indeed the purpose of the website we’re going to design and this might be the only clear piece of sky you’re gonna have during this very step. The website’s reason of being has to embody the project pillar. What do I want to achieve with it? Do I want to create brand awareness? Do I want to sell my products online? Am I promoting a product or a service? Answering questions like these can only be a simple task if our brand identity is strong and we know exactly where we’re heading. For those who are already feeling seasick, we suggest embarking on a deep analysis in order to outline the main features of the brand. 

What is brand identity?

Read our dedicated article!

Brand Identity - Not Just A Logo

Steal like an artist

Once the goal has been fixed, you need to start thinking about how you wish to shape your website. Look around: visit your competitors’ websites and try to understand the things you do and don’t like. But don’t just float on the shallow water, get out of the comfort zone and pick websites that have nothing to do with what you know, most of the times you can find some real top-ideas where you least expect it. Don’t be afraid to explore, steal creatively and adapt what catches your eye to what really is functional for you; don’t get hung up on what looks good, always keep in mind the relation between graphics and functionality

Watch that SEO

Talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) a book wouldn’t be enough, so let’s not pretend we can give you insight in a short paragraph. It’s worth mentioning it though before we start talking about the design because delivering non-optimized content can really strike back hard. If you’re asking yourselves “Do I really need to use SEO?” the answer is yes, always, and not just for websites. Beware of anyone showing up with non-optimized content with terrible excuses just like “I’m creative, I don’t follow algorithm rules”. The keywords you chose for your content are exactly what will determine your popularity on search engines, as well as securing your strategic ranking and conversions. Of course, this doesn’t mean throwing creativity in the trash to kneel down to some mathematical calculation; on the contrary, you will make sure you don’t disappear and only favour those who have instead implemented a good SEO strategy.

Drawing sketches

Yes, the actual designing part of the process can be very exciting. Your head is full of great ideas, but don’t let yourself go, emotions can easily play a bigger part than the one they were cast for.  This is a very creative stage and also the crossroads at which you’re facing reality and see what are the things you can actually do and what you need to forget. You need to be prepared to cut, paste, add and delete without getting nostalgic about it. The biggest mistake one can make in such a delicate stage is to become attached to a draft sketch that won’t let you see things from other points of view. 

How to proceed concretely? The best solution at this time comes in the analogic format. Pick up a pencil, paper sheets and start drawing the actual pages, one by one with all the elements that should be on them. It might seem crazy but you can start testing interaction while understanding what is to keep and what has to go. Once the drafts are ready, reproduce the sketches with a graphics tool (Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva etc.) and make all the adjustments before uploading the final version directly on the website. Timing will strongly depend on the number of pages, on the specific design requirements and most importantly on the cooperation between the designer and the client. Always remember that graphics need to be functional to content and not the other way around; don’t ever sabotage the SEO strategy just because a text block doesn’t match the graphic section you like. Compromising is what all the process lies on. 

The blog

Blog sections are getting more and more popular on business websites. So when is it appropriate to keep a blog? First of all, think of what the added value would be for your business. Having a piece of news to share doesn’t justify the amount of time required to read an article, social media can run this task much better. In order to post on a blog, you need to have a lot more to say, something you can’t possibly squeeze in a 20-word post. In addition to that, you need to know what you’re talking about as you’re now addressing an attentive audience that is giving you 10 precious minutes of their time and that wants something in return: be that a suggestion, an answer, an idea. For this reason, you have to deliver top-quality content that won’t leave the reader frustrated. Make sure you have someone on your staff who can take care of the blog properly and continuatively; with a killer editorial plan and a good SEO strategy you’ll score amazing results. 

The shop

If they would ever make a movie about businesses during the pandemic they best title they could find would be “Run for e-commerce”. Those who were already selling online have experienced a substantial increase in sales during the lockdown months and the trend doesn’t seem to stop. On the other side of the fence, those who didn’t have an online presence lived in fear of disappearing. The tech revolution of these newcomers tends to be fast and we all know that those who rush also crash. Building up an online store takes time and many don’t seem to understand you can’t do it overnight with zero costs. Websites and professionals are very costly and you won’t find a discount coupon to cut out of the newspaper. Always chose a higher quotation for a tailor-made project over an all-inclusive formula; investing consciously today will save you a lot more money in the long run.

Call to action

Everybody loves them, everybody wants them. Calls to action are extraordinary tools you can use to guide the user’s navigation on your website. The most famous one is the newsletter subscription form, an invite to join the inner circle of those who receive exclusive news, offers, coupons, previews etc. Other types of call to action might be “Click here to read more” or “Contact us”; basically, anything that comes under the shape of a form or button can be a call to action and it becomes crucial to know where to place yours in order to deliver the best experience. For instance, if one of your top goals is to get more subscribers, you will need to designate a space for the newsletter subscription form (even better if it’s on the homepage) and you also need to make sure it’s well visible without being overwhelming. In this case, you will want to avoid a pop-up form or to place the form in a tiny little space on the footer. 

The legal side of the story

We always suggest hiring a professional to design a website (and not just because it’s part of what we do for a living!), and no, you can’t become a web designer after meticulously watching a 10-minute tutorial on Youtube. D.I.Y. is great for sewing a loose button on your shirt, but not so much when it comes to coding. The legal part of the process can be another good example of what can’t be improvised. Any website has to be compliant with the personal data processing rules. Writing a privacy policy from scratch can be stressful and not even a jug of espresso can help out. In order to write about privacy and cookies, you need to know very well how your website works, the populating links, eventual third parties involved and the analytics tools we use to keep track of the traffic on the website. If all this makes you feel dizzy the solution is quite simple: talk to an attorney or a privacy policy specialist who could write these documents for you. Don’t trust those websites where you can download a standard privacy policy because most of the times you’re dealing with incomplete formulas that can’t match your specific needs. In case you’re building up an e-commerce website make sure you also take care of the following sections: terms & conditions, payment information, shipping policy, returns and refunds

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