WRITE ABOUT THE WEB THINGS!
3 Keys to Unlocking Websites – The House the Developers Built
Building a website is a lot like building a house. In essence, your website is your business’s digital home. When you wander through the online neighborhood, sometimes you see the dilapidated, decades-old run down sites. Other times you get cookie-cutter builds in a decent neighborhood. Then, there are the ones that stand out — the picket-fenced, perfectly manicured, charming Victorian constructions that leave a truly lasting impression. This is what we aim for in website development.
Web design is more than just picking out the proper porch columns and beautiful bay windows, though. It involves meticulous attention to your target audience, and how those users interact with the site. To break down the barriers and get to the foundation at hand, we as developers look at two primary staples of modern web development UI and UX (user interface and user experience), which serve as the structural support for all of the elements that make this digital house a home.
The Look and Feel – User Interface
When it comes to first impressions, a lot is said of a website within the first few seconds of page load. A crisp, clean aesthetic means your site has proper alignment, white space, typefaces, and carefully considered symmetry/asymmetry. Many users immediately bounce away from a site simply because they feel overwhelmed, or the page looks cluttered.
Though a site’s interactivity speaks to both UI and UX in a way, the base-level interactions of user pathways on a website come down to simple expectations. Does a drop-down list appear under a navigation item when clicked? Does the CTA change colors when it’s hovered-over? Do the parallax features of the site rob the visitor of their scrolling ability? These things function like good editing in a feature film – if it’s done well, you won’t notice. If it isn’t done well, the viewer will definitely notice, and have a poor experience.
We mentioned previously the importance of making sure that your audience is accounted for, and this is doubly important when it comes to accessibility. Just as you would when inviting guests to your home or business, it is critical to consider the needs of your digital visitors.
When a site is designed and developed properly, all users have the ability to access the functionality and content available, regardless of their particular needs. This means considering navigation, interactivity, color schemes, captioning, and more. For more information on web accessibility, check out webAIM’s introduction.
The Function – User Experience
Functionality ( I would consider putting this first or second)
One of the most important aspects is the functionality of a site. Performance is one of the most readily recognizable mishaps of a poorly constructed web property. When you invite house guests over for a dinner party in the winter, you want to make sure the walkway to the door is clear, the heater works properly, and the bathroom is sufficiently insulated. Similarly, it’s important to make sure that all of the bells and whistles added to your website talk to each other clearly. For example, does your search bar send users to indexed pages, or back to the home screen? Does your form submission error give users a confusing code, or simple directions for proper field inputs?
The only time people enjoy getting lost in a maze is at escape rooms and in the fun house at the county fair. When a building’s layout is simple and easy-to-follow, the tenants feel safer and more welcome. This is why navigation is key to a website’s success. When your menu bar and respective anchors or drop downs are properly organized, a web visitor knows exactly where they need to go when they need to find something. If their goal is to find the contact page, don’t send them through four clicks and a form submission to get there. There are countless pages of “best practices” for website navigation online, but one of the best ways to see if the pages flow well is to do what you would when designing a home — go to a site with a similar potential layout and intended use. If everything seems accessible, clear and simple, you’re off to a great start.
Next up, and very closely related are the user pathways of a website. Considering how one page (room) flows from one to the next will ensure that your leads have what we call the “shortest path to conversion”, simply meaning that if the end-goal is to request a free quote or place an order, finding their way to the proper contact or shopping page is not difficult.
The bulk of nailing down user pathways involves identifying the proper content to go on each page, and where calls-to-action (CTAs) direct the user after they finish reading. Before beginning web development, setup your information architecture including links to different site pages and an overview of each page’s content.
Just as the best homes account for the people who live there, and their lifestyle choices, websites are constructed best when developers and designers are able to consider the user pathways, look, and feel that will make their audience most comfortable.
When all of these things come together properly, your visitors will truly feel welcome to your site. This is why our web development process at Mountain Mojo always starts with strategy, and considers the real people, your audience, all the way through our process. Just because pink is your favorite color, does not mean that you should paint your house pink. When you know what the audience needs, you know just how to exceed their expectations.
Give us a call at 928-440-5301 to ask about blueprints for your business’s digital home. We’re excited to get started.
By Alex Carel