Web Design & Development: Why Simple is Hard Work

Sketching out the framework for a new site

Have you ever watched a figure skater all of sudden pull a triple axle out of thin air? One minute he’s gliding across the ice and next thing you know he’s twirled, almost clearing the boards and swoosh, down to the ice again. It all looks so effortless that in the back of your mind you think with a little practice, you too could pull off at least a double.

Of course the reality behind that super-human moment are thousands of hours of ice time and as many bruises along the way. But whatever the sport, it’s that moment where something is rendered almost simple that is the culmination of all your efforts.

And simple is precisely the user experience we seek to offer when visitors arrive at your website. As Steve Krug famously wrote about in his book, Don’t Make Me Think, a great website should allow users to accomplish their goal as easily as possible. The zen feeling of a well designed site belies the hard work that led to this moment.

We’ve all had the experience of arriving at a website with big pictures, headlines, lots of links to cool stuff like social media. Oh and don’t forget to tweet about us and like us. And while you’re here, have you read this? And look at this awesome badge! Here’s a bunch of links to every one of our departments and products.

This experience is distracting and exhausting.

Design with a mission – your mission

So let’s focus on what makes for a great design for your company’s website. I emphasize ‘your’ because every company should have a unique story to tell, a unique selling proposition and every section of your site should have specific goals. And all of those things directly influence the design.

That is precisely why all of our sites are designed from scratch not from a pre-designed commercial template.

Great design flows from the planning stage of the project. As we outlined in another article, we don’t lay pen to paper (yes, good old fashioned paper) until we thoroughly understand your business, identified the various objectives of the website, researched relevant keywords for your industry and organized the content into a flowchart.

The plan dictates what needs to be included in the homepage – the distillation of your pitch into a concentrated and persuasive introduction, perhaps a killer photo or brand building video and an introduction to your important material or products with the promise of reward – that you will deliver on with more great content.

If every page, post and template has a mission (to get you to delve one step further, or sign up for your newsletter, subscribe for your service, request a demo of your product, purchase your product, or even purchase another product), that mission also dictates what items and actions aren’t central to the mission. Landing pages are a great example of this. When your design is based on the desired goal, it’s amazing how a clean design takes shape.

It’s the old less is more lesson and great design focuses on the central mission.

Functional and attractive, how wonderful!

If you’re worried that all this function and goal-oriented planning will elbow the “attractive”  out of your site, fear not!

In our experience design direction happens in one of three ways:

  1. You’re happy with your marketing materials and branding and now you’d like us to come up with a strategy that builds on your good looks for the web.
  2. You’re working with an agency to craft a new logo and other branding materials that are going to be the “new you” and you’d like us to take our lead from that and come up with a web strategy and design a site that incorporates your new good looks.
  3. You’re feeling a bit shabby or perhaps a little stale, so you’d like us to take a little license and put some spice back in your marketing life (and you may even end up taking that lead into your other marketing materials).

We’re comfortable with them all.

Once we have a design direction in place for the homepage and a key template or two within the site, we’ll post them for you to see before we go into development – the coding bit that turns those pretty and functional designs into real life, webpages.

Coding is creative too (and why it’s important to you)

Now that we’re all flush with the excitement of the design direction for your new site, it’s time for us to produce the code that makes all those pages and posts actually work.

It’s at this point that all those must-have features are executed. I’m talking about technical considerations that will ensure that the functioning page is Google, mobile and browser friendly.

The code also has to incorporate  WordPress – the software that will allow you to manage and contribute to your new site.

Although WordPress is available to anyone to download and install on a server, by its very nature – opensource – it can be customized in a number of ways. From the way we configure your dashboard, to the features you can access (or not), to the plugins used to extend the software to accomplish all sorts of different goals, WordPress can look a lot different from one site to another.

In the right hands, the custom solutions that can be engineered with WordPress are endless. That’s why it’s really important to work with a firm whose developers are WordPress experts.

We don’t just find a way to produce an online catalogue for your business, for example, we come up with truly creative solutions that will make your life easier once you’re at the helm of your website. We know that next month you’re going to need to shoehorn in a new product into the middle of the line-up – and we find ways to allow you to do that simply.

We bake all kinds of goodies into our code so you don’t have to think about how to edit that photo so that it’s the right size in your blog post, or how to add that new webinar date into the existing list on your homepage.

We understand that when your site it easy to edit and contribute to, you will and that will begin a whole new relationship with your website for you and your clients.

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Let’s chat – take the first step toward better results

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Glen Patchet

Glen is a co-founder at GK Media and has been designing and developing websites for over 15 years.