Four Stages of Web Site Design
This article looks at how web sites evolve over time, covering topics such as style, online visibility and designing a web site to targeting your audience.
Typically, web site designs evolve. In the beginning, many web site owners
become enamored with "bells and whistles" that, on the surface,
might appeal to their target audience. Flash movies, Java applets, animation
and other rich media has become increasingly popular over the years.
However, in the rush to have the "coolest" site design, web
site owners forget whom they are designing their site for: their target
audience. Your audience might find that Flash movie irritating after viewing
it multiple times. Your audience might not be able to find your site in
the search engines. "Bells and whistles" are attributes of a
web site that need to be measured and tested to see if they increase or
drive away sales.
Below are the various stages of evolution web sites typically undergo:
- Stage 1 - Style Over Substance
- Stage 2 - Designing for Online Visibility
- Stage 3 - Designing for Your Audience
- Stage 4 - Site Redesign
Stage 1 - Style Over Substance
The first stage is to design a site that the CEO, venture capitalists,
and ad agencies like to see. There are all types of "bells and whistles"
in this design. An entire site might be a Flash site. Or there might be
design. It's always a pretty design, but the message is clear -- style
Stage 2 - Designing for Online Visibility
In Stage 2, the reality of an ineffective web design begins to hit, usually
around 3-6 months after the initial launch. A site will typically get
rejected by many of the major directories, not be indexed by the major
search engines, or not get the traffic or sales that were projected based
on the various types of marketing strategies used. Typically, that's when
companies decide that they will try to hire a professional online marketer
to promote the site. Doorway page companies, in some way, shape or form,
rear their ugly heads.
Unfortunately, many web site owners fall for a doorway page company's
pitch because the beautifully designed site couldn't possibly be the problem
with low site traffic. Yahoo might have rejected a site, or the site might
have been listed in Yahoo and the company cannot understand why they have
no description next to their company name. But in no way would many ad
agencies or doorway page companies want to tell potential clients the
truth -- they simply did not design and write an effective web site --
because it would mean losing thousands of dollars in business.
Stage 3 - Designing for Your Audience
By Stage 3, after spending an exorbitant amount of money on pretty web
site designs and various marketing strategies, web site owners generally
figure out that they did not design or write an effective Web site for
their target audience.
Typically, web site owners will bring in a usability expert to analyze
potential problems and present various solutions. Bringing in a search
engine marketing expert to help with search-engine
friendly design templates early in the design phase can save a company
thousands of dollars in online marketing costs.
Stage 4 - Site Redesign
After careful usability and search engine visibility analyses, web site
owners finally have an effective web site. A site that is written, coded
and designed for user friendliness and search engine visibility generally
gets the most traffic and resulting sales because it was written, programmed,
and designed for end users.
Web sites should always be designed with your target audience in mind,
not your own personal preferences. Colors have
meaning. Professional designers understand the psychology of color and
the use of white space to best project the
image your audience wishes to see. (For example, try not to use the color
red on a financial site.)
Understanding the products/services/information your target audience
is searching for is paramount to designing and maintaining an effective
web site. When you launch a site, you might have to make an educated guess
as to what your target audience wants. After that, tools such as site
statistics software and reporting from site searches tell you exactly
what your visitors are looking for. Then content and marketing strategies
can be adjusted accordingly.
Unless the advanced technology clearly benefits end users, do not use
it on your site. If your venture capitalists or CEOs or lawyers like the
site, ask if they are going to spend the thousands or millions of dollars
to keep you in business. They're not.
Your target audience who will ultimately determine the success or failure
of your site.
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