Web Design 2014 EssentialsWhat is a website? No trick here, just think about this question for a moment.

For a small business, your website is one tool in your revenue arsenal. To profit with it, you need to know it works, and you need to know how to use it (hassle-free, without reading a manual or constantly asking for help). If you don’t know, neither will your customers. And, let’s not forget, you need to make sure your website is equipped to handle the job.

This brings us back around to an important question you need to answer this year: What is the purpose of your website? The short answer is: to attract long term visitors who make you money. For the long answer, let’s strip down to our bare essentials here and explore this question together. Let’s reveal what your web design needs to make you more money in 2014.

Here are 6 Web Design Essentials in 2014

#1        A Pretty Face – your ugly UI needs to go

UI Web Design EssentialAre you sitting down? I hope so, because I’m about to mention Windows 8; a surefire topic (up there with religion and politics) for sparking an intense debate between strangers. Regardless if you love or hate Windows 8, you’ll learn something (and possibly profit) from what I’m about to say.

Windows 8 failed. Sorry, numbers don’t lie (even if you lie about the numbers *cough* Microsoft). To crudely sum up the situation:

  1. Windows 8 released without a start menu in August 2012 (yes, really)
  2. The people were not pleased (google: windows 8 fail)
  3. Steven Sinofsky, head Windows 8 engineer, left Microsoft in November 2012 (coincidence?)
  4. Microsoft fudged Windows 8 sales figures in December 2012 (where’s my calculator?)
  5. Microsoft brings start menu back in December 2013 (why was it ever gone?)

What’s the point? A poor user interface can cripple any business, even a multi-million dollar company. That’s the bad news; the good news is that even a 20 year old kid can design a better Windows 8 UI and heal the damage dealt. Your web design needs a user interface that your users expect and benefit from. Don’t try to be artsy-fartsy, just because you can, at the cost of losing customers who keep you in business.

#2        A Nice Body – your UE is a crime scene

UE Web Design EssentialYour website user environment (WUE) is like a CSI crime scene; visitors look all around (think 360 degrees) and trauma draws the most attention. Don’t expect your visitors to maintain eye contact, or to follow your directions. People have short attention spans and tend to wander, so you better baby-safe the boundaries of your WUE.

Website user interface gets a lot of attention, but clear navigation and page hierarchy doesn’t keep people on your website. You need to care about the personal experience of your website’s environment.

The recent consideration to lift cell phone bans on airplanes tells us a lot about how much people value personal space. According to a recent poll, “only 19% back cell use on planes.” In business, we give our customers a pleasant experience, or risk losing them to someone who does. The environment we offer to our website visitors says a lot about how much we respect them.

Website visitors are real people, who take time out of their busy day to stop by and give you their attention. Beyond a friendly first impression, like not throwing random advertisements in their face, you need to offer long-term value that compels visitors to return. Local utility companies and government websites have the luxury of low quality UE (sorry, Obamacare) with guaranteed return traffic, but you don’t.

#3        A Clean Underbelly – your weight is their wait

Website Weight Web Design EssentialAre you a hoarder? Customers may think you are if your website is crammed full of junk you don’t need (and they don’t want). Every byte you serve to visitors must be slowly ingested between server and browser before they can finally see your website. We’re not using dial-up modems, but speed still matters.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a look at your website experience in 3D (here’s a tutorial for opening 3D mode in Firefox). If you see tall towers on website elements you don’t need, you may want to re-evaluate your life (or at least your web design).

#4        A Responsive Display – your website is stubborn

Wake up! I know your eyes just glazed over from reading the word ‘responsive’ again; the topic has been overused this year, a lot. Enough to drive you to the point of explosive rage (depending on how far along you are in your anger management classes). Responsive design (sorry, last time, I swear) is taking on a new form though. You’ve been thinking small, like mobile devices, but it’s time to start thinking bigger. Think about the possibilities for how your brand can interact with your visitors, beyond just your website. Recently, British Airways took this concept to a massive scale with an interactive billboard, with a child pointing to an airplane, flying real-time overhead.

Ask yourself the big question again: “What is the purpose of my website?”

Does your website need to be available to every person on every device?

Shut up, no it doesn’t (sorry, anger management is my new year’s resolution). Realistically, your website just needs to be available to your customers, not everyone. Sure, most of your audience is using mobile devices, but you need to look at your analytics to be sure.  The point is, find out how your visitors are looking at your website and make sure it’s formatted to fit their screens.

#5        A Customer Service Window – your anonymity is creepy

Do you have a team of experts standing by to help your website visitors? Amazon does. In fact, the new MayDay feature lets users connect real-time with real people at no cost, for any reason. Damn, how can your website compete with that?

I’ll tell you how; don’t be anonymous. You may not have the time or resources to offer live assistance to every visitor, but the least you can do is not be a faceless creeper. There are still a surprising number of websites lacking basic contact options. If you have a phone number, make sure it’s visible. If you have a contact form, make sure it’s functional. And, take a few moments to personalize your contact page. Let people know that you’re a real person who wants to communicate with them.

#6        A Social Life – your social media activity is obvious

Social Media Web Design EssentialSpeaking of being a faceless creeper, when’s the last time you were active on social media? No, I don’t mean when you first created your Facebook page; I mean when you actually engaged in conversation with real people about a topic other than your own business. People aren’t as dumb as you think they are (or as I say they are), at least not when it comes to being sociable online.

Even a monkey can ‘Like’ a page or ‘Pin’ a board, but inspiring that same monkey to ‘Like’ or ‘Pin’ your website is the challenge. When you jump into the monkey pit, you’re better off talking bananas (at least at first). People need to see that you’re willing to listen to what they say; that’s what earns you respect in online social circles.

2014 is your year to pull off the veil of anonymity and engage with visitors like the real people they are. Just make sure that your website has a face, body and underbelly worthy of attention.

Does your web design need a makeover?

Start the New Year off right with expert help from Fingerprint Marketing. Your website is a machine that we can help you fine-tune. Contact Pia now for a free 15 minute consultation; together, we can give your online visitors the experience they expect.

How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line

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