Even though web design and digital marketing seem like two disparate areas, they work inextricably together. Your website is one of the most important, if not the most important, digital marketing assets that you have. Think about it—what more clearly communicates to your customers who you are, what you do, and who you serve than your website?
You’ll want to make sure to know where digital marketing and web design intersect, and to understand why it is important that your design foundation is solid before undertaking digital marketing efforts.
Elements of a Marketing-Ready Web Design
One of the more obvious benefits to a website is that the space allows you to clearly define what you do, where you are located, and how a prospect or client can contact you. You want people to be able to easily access your businesses’ vital information from your site: your name, address, and phone number. The first 10 seconds of a page visit are critical for a user deciding whether to engage with your site or whether to bounce, and if it isn’t clear in 10 seconds who you are and how to contact you, you’ve lost a potential client.
Your design partner needs to have a sense for where this vital information should reside. The primary areas for contact information are the header, footer, and conspicuous Contact Us or About Us pages. These areas should clearly contain information about how a prospect can find you.
A website is a perfect place to explain to customers and prospects who you are and what you do, beyond text. If you’re a fun, new company, your design can complement that. Same with an established company—you’ll want to communicate through design that your company is a longstanding, trustworthy institution. Your online brand should match your offline brand—both in design and in reputation.
In addition to aesthetic benefits of consistent branding, branding speaks to who you are as a company. This differentiates you from your competition, and allows you to focus on your unique selling proposition.
Deriving Customer Insight
Other than a direct Q&A with a large number of individuals from your consumer base, there is no better avenue for obtaining information on your customers than through your website. The use of contact forms, surveys, and other interactive elements, such as search bars, can provide a treasure trove of qualitative data. When users submit information through these channels, the aggregated data that’s collected begins to paint a picture of what it is that brings people to your website. This allows you to better tailor your message and offerings in a manner that aligns with what your visitors actually want. Designing your site in a manner that makes collecting this type of information simple can save numerous hours and expenditures in attempting to retrieve it through direct channels.
Beyond the qualitative data that can be obtained, there is a boon of quantitative data to be found as well. By correctly implementing any proper analytics platform, such as Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture), numbers themselves begin to tell a story of how your visitors are interacting with your website. Seeing only a couple page views per session can tell you that your website isn’t as engaging or organized as you thought. A high bounce rate on a page can suggest that the content that lives there is thin or misleading. The percentage of return vs. new visitors can speak of how well you are growing your customer base over time.
While not directly a frontend design aspect, analytics are critical to the success of any digital marketing you do and should be foremost in your thoughts when venturing out on any digital campaign.
Consequences of a Weak Design
Driving Traffic To An Unsound Website
You have SEO. You have SEM. But what is going on with your website? All of the traffic in the world will not remediate a website that is not built on a solid design and development foundation. You don’t have to be a designer to know when something is wrong on a site. If navigating the site is cumbersome and confusing, your site visitors will not stick around long enough to discover what you have to offer. If you’re on a site with multiple error pages, you’re likely to trust the site less. Again, it takes internet users 10 seconds or less to judge whether they will be interacting with your website or moving on. The state of your website speaks, whether accurate or not, to the state of your business. You want it to be well-designed with the user in mind, and for it to be technically sound (some technical issues are addressed through SEO).
Additionally, search engines take into account how user-friendly your website is. Google has factored in load time for search engine friendliness since at least 2011. The tracking of “short clicks” and “long clicks” has been around even longer. And, as of April 21, 2015, websites that are not mobile friendly are seeing drops in their Google rankings. This is because a site that is not mobile-friendly is not designed with the visitor in mind, and Google wants to deliver the best results to users.
A conversion is generally when you “convert” a site visitor into a lead or a customer. Most lead generation campaigns have lead form submissions count as the main goal of the site: when a site visitor hits the “Submit” button on a form, they have converted. Another example of conversions is ecommerce sites, which have a purchase count as the macro conversion event for their digital efforts. For sites using web analytics properly, conversions will show as a “Goal Completions.”
Speaking more broadly, a conversion can be any number of actions. A conversion is when a web visitor takes an action you want them to take—it can be playing a video on the homepage, submitting a personal story to a discussion board, or receiving a phone call tracked back to the website that lasts more than two minutes.
When you look at the number of site visitors who convert on a website, you want to look towards a higher conversion rate. The conversion rate is the number of site visitors who complete the desired action as a percentage of total site visitors.
Websites without a solid design foundation—without a usable layout, clear and consistent navigation, reasonable load times, and a consistent design throughout pages and devices—will see their conversion rates suffer. Fewer visitors are likely to trust an unsound and inconsistent website enough to engage with it to the point of a conversion.
Your Site Needs to Be Digital-Marketing Ready
Even though web design and digital marketing are two separate concepts, they need to work together in order to grow your business and increase your visibility. Digital marketing can help you draw visitors to your website, but if your website isn’t ready to welcome visitors than those efforts are lost.