Website design – a clarity of vision

Someone asked me yesterday: “I’m trying to write a specification for a website designer about how I want our new site to look. Can you help?” The answer was of course yes, as I can never resist when clients set challenges like that, but there is of course only so much advice I can give when I’m not part of the client’s business. So as a first response, I asked what the site was supposed to do.

The answer was, not unusually, primarily to “present the company’s products” and “to get enquiries”. Many of you will be thinking: “Duh. What else would you want it to do as a priority?” but you’d be hard-pushed to deduce that from many companies’ website home pages.

What I advised was to build the core of the site around the prospect’s journey to making an enquiry. That means the following:

– A home page clearly listing all the products, allowing the prospect to reach an individual product in one or two clicks;
– A clear link to a “solutions” page (a hateful word when it’s misused, but it’s used correctly here), where prospects can identify what their need is, and be directed to the correct product;
– A product page design which offers everything on a single page, with the only possible diversion being to open a separate (PDF) datasheet where the siteowner didn’t have the time to put the information on the product page; also, just two possible options at the end of the page: make an enquiry, or read more about the company;
– An “about us” page designed to be read by prospects who were interested in a product, but who wanted further reassurance about the suitability of the company as a supplier, before making an enquiry; and just one call-to-action at the end of the page: make an enquiry.

That’s it really. Obviously there’s plenty more material which should be added to the site, such as technical background information and news, but that’s all designed to get people into the site or to support product information pages. None of it needs to fight for space on the home page (or in the menus) with the really important stuff, so it can all be tacked on after the site plan has been sketched out.

Once we had that clarity of vision, the brief for the website designer was straightforward. The next stage will be to build a working site, with just text and no styling to distract us, and see what we think of it.

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