This article is a bit lengthy, but it is a good place to start your website design journey 
Hello friends. Here is the second Building Better Business Websites - Strategy 2.: Making the Structure of your Business Website Customer-Friendly

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE :-)

Although I’ve mentioned in the previous post [ http://goo.gl/7L6wN3 ] that far too much priority is given to the way #businesswebsites  look, and not enough to what they actually do, that doesn’t mean that things like design and structure aren’t incredibly important.

For one thing, the layout of your website creates an instant impression, and can make it instantly clear in a customer’s mind whether or not you are on par with others in your industry. Simply put, if your site looks like it was put together in a sloppy way, or built from a widely used template, that’s going to hurt your credibility.

And, as we’ll explore in this section, the actual structure of your site — how the pages are arranged and presented — has a direct role in determining how effective it’s going to be at helping you generate new sales opportunities. A site that’s simple, clean, inviting, and easy to use can help funnel visitors from one area or topic to the next. One that’s muddled or confusing can ruin the rest of your online marketing efforts before they even begin.

What Makes a Great Business Website Design?

In a certain sense, great website design is whatever resonates with your customers. After all, art — even website designs — is always a little bit subjective. But, looking at things in a more practical way, we usually find that there are a few elements that separate effective designs from ones that seem distracting or amateurish. For one thing, white space and organized sections are important, because they naturally draw the eye from one area to another. Additionally, most businesses will want to use conventional color schemes, and ones that fit naturally with their overall marketing tone and personality (something I’ll talk about more in just a bit).

The appropriateness of different layouts, fonts, and other details can vary quite a bit from one business or industry to the next. People don’t expect a bank to have the same kind of website as a bakery, for example, but they do expect things to be clear and cohesive.

When in doubt, a good way to judge a company’s website layout is by seeing whether it appears to be purposeful and confident. If so, those are things that visitors and potential customers will pick up on. If it isn’t, then changes are probably going to be needed.

Let Personas Guide Visual Design

In great website design, nothing is random. Rather than looking for color schemes, images, and fonts that “look good,” for example, think back to your marketing personas and let those insights guide the process. Ask yourself what customers would expect to find on your company website based on your industry, the type of site it is, and your own marketing personality [ Not sure what yours is? Check out the communication briefing tool at http://goo.gl/mvuloA ].

To illustrate why this should matter, consider two businesses that are both retailers, and are located in the same city, and even have a lot of the same overlapping customers. But, one is a fun, quirky toy store, and the other is an upscale shop selling tailored business suits. Even though their buyer personas might be similar (both companies are selling to young professionals in the neighborhood), their marketing personas are completely different — one wants to emphasize fun, creativity, and good parenting, while the other should project an image of quality, and possibly austerity.

These might seem like simple examples, but hopefully they make the point that each one would be likely to choose very different elements to address in their website design.

The personas you create for your company and your customers aren’t just the product of an intellectual exercise, but the guiding force that should steer you toward better decisions on website design, content creation, language, as well as the overall feel of your online marketing efforts.

Web Development and Custom Programming Is Not Always Required

While custom back-end web programming (web development) has come a long way in the past few years, the vast majority of modern business websites don’t require any custom programming at all.

What they actually need instead is a good content management system (or CMS, for short). There are several on the market (including WordPress, HubSpot, Shopify and Magento, to name a few of our favorites) that will allow you to enjoy a consistent visual design and navigation structure on your website as you add and remove content. Low cost or free themes for visual design and plugins for functionality make CMS-based sites incredibly versatile for organizing and deploying your content [see some examples of what we've done with our clients at http://goo.gl/anqKf5 ]. And at the same time, it can eliminate the need for custom programming. Of course, you can style your content with a bit of CSS/HTML knowledge to customize the look.

Once you and your creative team find the right CMS for your project, it’s simply a matter of configuring a suitable template with these add-ons to get the functionality you desire.

That can save you a lot of money, of course, but it can also make the web development process a lot simpler. Custom applications are like any other piece of software, meaning that they require extensive coding and testing - and time to develop. By choosing a CMS with the right template and functionality, you can take a lot of this risk and stress of web development out of the equation and quickly move the focus to creating great content.

Because there are so many good CMS options for virtually any need and website type, it would be very unusual if you couldn’t find one that can easily handle your needs. Save a bit of time and money by finding the one that best fits what you want your business website to be.

How Clear Navigation Pulls Different Parts of a Site Together

Usability, which started out as a buzzword in the web design in-dustry years ago, has become one of the standards by which we judge every site. Part of that is because digital are getting better and more efficient, but another reason is that the web (and individual websites) is getting bigger all the time. That makes it important to present the content on your site in a way that’s easier for visitors to search and use.

The larger concept of usability really comes down to a couple key details: How easy is it for someone to find information on your site, and do they have to do a lot of digging or clicking to get from one area to the next?

The answers to these questions are generally influenced not just by your layout, and the links available on each page, but by your overall site map. Ideally, you never want to have important content that’s more than a couple of layers “deep” into your site. Additionally, it helps if you have commonsense categories, a search optimization plan in mind, and a process for testing links to make sure that they are always valid.

If usability is an afterthought in your web design, that’s going to be a tough challenge to overcome. Today’s internet users and searchers have too many options and are much too savvy to spend a moment being frustrated. If they can’t find what they want or need quickly, you can bet they’ll take their attention elsewhere.

Why Canonical Structures Make the Most Sense

As a general rule, I try not to fill our company blogs, or my e-books, with technical details that the average business person wouldn’t understand – as those things tend to change from one time period to another, and are usually secondary to the most important points.

But, this is one of those exceptions to the rule, because maintaining a canonical site structure almost always makes the most sense. If you aren’t familiar with that word, it has to do with the way pages are organized and saved on your site, especially in WordPress or other content management systems.

With a canonical file system, new pages are labeled with words, rather than dates or numbers. (They also help the search engines know which page is an original in the case of syndication or repurposed content.) That’s crucial because it makes the pages easier for Google and the other search engines to scan and catalog them by topic (and, for people to remember them). So, if you want to have customers coming to you rather than being forced to guess what your pages are, which is one of the keys to the long-term profitability of your site, this is one of those best practices that you can’t afford to have your company, or your design team, ignore.

Don’t Make Fast and Sudden Changes With Your Web Structure

Given what I’ve just said about canonical structures, you might be tempted to jump into your website’s control panel and start making immediate changes. That could end up being a huge and irreversible mistake.

It isn’t unusual for us to come across a website that has been “redesigned” by the wrong firm. Often, designers and developers (and clients!) are in such a rush to get the new site up and running that they simply delete old pages or restructure them without adding any 301 redirects (a 301 redirect connects one page to another). This sends a signal to Google that you are not taking care of your site, making it less interesting for Google to index. Yes, that's right, Google may stop coming by (and listing your site) over time if it is poorly built with errors.

In addition, there could be numerous links (both from inside and outside the website) pointing at the old content that are now broken.

Added together, these poorly implemented changes mean that you could lose existing search traffic, and referrals from other sites, in an instant. At +KAYAK Online Marketing, one of the first things we do when we even have a sense that we might be working with a new client is back up their existing site map (yes, even when we are in exploratory talks) so we know exactly how everything was connected at that moment. That way, in the event the client or their agency attempts to make edits without understanding this, we'll have  backup so that nothing gets lost in the end.

The bottom line is that #canonical page names and structures are best for your site, but that isn’t something you want to change instantly without having the right pieces in place.

Form Should Follow Function

File structure details aside, what matters most about your layout and site map are that they look professional and have a logical flow to them. You want people to be able to intuitively understand how to get from one section to the next, and how to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for.

Luckily, it’s pretty obvious if you have problems in this area. We often see web pages that feel cramped because too much content has been forced onto a single page, or that have missing links or strange navigation structures that make it difficult to find things like product details or important articles.

Just as you don’t want your business website to simply be a “web-sign,” neither do you want artistic considerations to come before bottom-line goals. When it comes to business website design, form always needs to follow function.

-----------------------------
BONUS Material:

Pro Tip: Your website's navigation and sturcture should lead your visitors through your website, always offering a logical next step in the buying process or sales funnel. 
Resources: The Basics of SEO Friendly Design and Development via Moz [ http://goo.gl/xrZqo7 ]. 
Further Reading: Is Your Website Visitor a Skimmer or a Diver? [ http://goo.gl/Sx9Ebq ]

In a rush of the next instalment? Get the book at http://www.kayakonlinemarketing.com/building-better-business-websites-ebook

#betterbusinesswebsites   #betterwebsites  

Next instalment on Friday December 12: Distilling Your Message into Unforgettable Content Please let me know if you'd like to be added to the book notification circle.

Previous chapter post: https://plus.google.com/112138989808817331242/posts/Zdbp59fHP4x

Many thanks to every one of the post shares on the previous installation 68 shares (my ripples is amazing)!  Take a peak: http://goo.gl/B97Srh (I'll make my way to each share and do my best to engage on every one of them. Hope to see yours in the next set of ripples.)
Photo
Shared publiclyView activity