I, much like everyone else, enjoy admiring beautiful things; be it a sleek website, a serene painting or a thought-provoking sculpture. But what separates websites from pure art is that websites often, if not always, have a commercial intent behind them. Put bluntly, art’s goal is to evoke emotional and cognitive responses, whereas websites are there to advance business goals.
This is an important distinction to understand. When I’m assessing websites, I don’t base a website’s worth on my own emotional response to the website, but on the data uncovered from under the hood that tells me how well the website is performing for the business.
Some of the questions that go through my head when auditing websites are:
• Will the website be found by the target market and how exactly will they find it?
• Will the visitors be engaged and how will the metrics reflect this?
• Will the website increase conversions and what constitutes a conversion to the business?
• Does the website have a clear business purpose in the first place?
Go ahead and watch this short and very useful video by Marie Forleo. Award winning life coach and mentor who helps people create a business and life they love. You will quickly learn some tips to brush up the messaging on your website.
BEAUTIFUL WEB DESIGN ISN’T THE HOLY GRAIL
The digital space is brutal for website owners, with surfers having the attention span of a goldfish when navigating the online jungle; click here, search there, open in a new tab, view this video, all within seconds. Unlike painters and sculptors, web designers can’t rely on people to pause or stop in their tracks in awe when coming across their artwork.
But wait a minute; isn’t that exactly what we award websites for? Isn’t the purpose of exquisite websites to catch the attention of surfers and evoke an emotional response?
If current website awards are anything to go by, this certainly seems to be the case. The more visually pleasing a website is, the more awards it seemingly deserves. It definitely can’t be argued that well-selected photography and a consistent use of design elements wouldn’t make the user experience of a website a positive one. But in order to determine what exactly constitutes successful web design, we should be looking at analytics and not base our judgments on subjective opinions.
To determine how well-designed a website really is, we should be looking at:
• Bounce rate
• Time on page
• Number of pages visited
• Customer journey and drop-off rates
• Exit rate
• Site speed
• Video views
• Outbound clicks
• Conversion rates• Seo
• Growth Driven Design
However, web design is merely one piece of a bigger puzzle.
WEB DESIGN AND SEARCH ENGINES CAN WORK TOGETHER
There still seems to be a notion out there that search engine friendly websites are somehow offensive to the eye. This is simply not true.
The modern search engines are sophisticated bundles of complex algorithms that look at over 200 signals when determining the purpose and value of a website. In fact, most of these signals are seeking to replicate human cognition, making them quite smart at evaluating websites from a holistic perspective.
There’s no need to decide between a well-designed and search engine optimized website; these are not mutually exclusive disciplines and never have been. Much like a human, a search engine that’s evaluating websites does also place value on visually pleasing design that engages audiences (as determined by engagement data in analytics research findings).
But in addition to this, it would also focus on the signals that convey the intent of the website, as well as how easy it has been made for search engines to understand itspurpose. This is something that current website awards don’t consider.
WHY DO YOU OWN A WEBSITE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Building a website based on the mantra of “making the Internet a little prettier” doesn’t compute with search engines that try to decipher what value the website offers to other people, not to mention business owners seeking to see a return-on-investment on their website in terms of lead generatin.
The biggest secret search engines try to decipher about your website with the help of their bundles of complex algorithms is the purpose of the website. By first understanding yourself what you’re trying to achieve with your website, and then making it easy for search engines to understand this purpose, it will be much easier for the engines to pass on this information to people searching for your business or services online.
Don’t create your website for web design awards, but design and optimize it with utility in mind. Only after that will you stand a better chance of having a successful website; not after you’ve won a web design award.