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
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.