For most clients, design is the fun part of a web development project. It’s exciting to choose colors and pontificate palette decisions. And it’s tempting to start there.
My counsel is always to take a step back and consider critical business issues. Ask key questions. Then let the answers inform the design choices.
For example, in the case of a retail business that sells online as well as in brick and mortar stores:
1. Conversion Paths – The objective for the web presence should be to drive customers to the point of purchasing product, filling the cart, or driving them to physical locations. These conversion paths can be plotted and mapped from existing metrics and taken into account when building out the wireframes. The objective is to get traffic to convert. Understanding and monopolizing the path will ultimately deliver a design that provides conversion. Not the other way around.
2. Wire Framing – Before fixating on stylized elements there needs to be some importance weighed against the architecture, how you are drawing the customer in, and the paths you are pushing them through, etc.
This pushes usability to the forefront and provides clarity to the objectives of the website beyond its aesthetic value. Ultimately, proper wire framing will draw out the inherent flaws in architecture, providing insight into conversion paths, as well as where the roadblocks are from a user standpoint. It is important to draw the functionality out of the core branding and creative work. Otherwise the core functions of the website (selling the product) will be lost in the back and forth over colour, style, etc. A contractor wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint.
3. Brand & Creative – There is an established brand that already exists. Once the architecture, wire framing, and mapping is established then it is time to apply the brand elements. This will make the design process iterative in its nature, in turn providing a well thought out, properly executed design that serves the user base and draws them in to convert to a paying customer. I often sound like a broken record (remember those?) but not unlike the in-store experience, where stock is carefully placed according to consumer behaviour, one needs to need to understand the customer before choosing the website aesthetic. By evaluating metrics via Google Analytics, we can develop an experience that better suits the ultimate goal – conversion.
Assess. Wire-frame. Map. Then design it! Approaching it any other way is just plain “bass ackwards.”
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