When planning a new website, it can be exciting to think about how it will look when it’s done—colors, fonts, textures, graphics. You can create a whole mood on your website that’s elegant and sophisticated to rustic and country to childlike and fun.
However, no matter how hard you may work to make the most beautiful website in the world, it won’t matter if you’ve overlooked other crucial parts of your website, and its success will suffer for it.
Now, make no mistake: Your website’s appearance is important. If you’re selling fine, handcrafted furniture, customers may question your taste if your website blinks and flashes and uses bright neon colors. Toy store websites probably shouldn’t use dark, somber colors. Appearances in marketing do make a difference.
But if your website fails at a critical level, the best appearance can’t save it. Think of a house. Paint colors, flooring, furniture, and lighting can all set the perfect mood for a living room or bedroom, but if the roof is leaking, the foundation is crumbling, or termites are eating the woodwork, no amount of perfect paint can save your home.
What are these crucial “foundations” for your website? While they vary from website to website, you can discover most of them by answering a few questions.
How easy is the site to use?
Time is precious. People won’t spend a lot of time trying to find something on your site if the navigation menus don’t make sense, if links are broken, or if the search mechanism returns poor results. Make sure that contact forms, shopping carts, comment forms, and other user interaction features work and are easy to use.
Does the site meet my visitors’ needs?
All businesses and organizations are trying to meet the needs of a demographic. When that demographic visits your site, are their needs met? Can visitors answer their questions, purchase what they want, or get help for a service they need? If the content doesn’t appeal to them or help them, they will be checking out your competition.
Does the site meet your needs?
If your contact form should be collecting information from leads but doesn’t, or if you can’t easily update the inventory of the items that you’re selling, then your site isn’t helping you as it should. Sometimes, some features need to be deferred for cost reasons, and that’s fine, but the eventual goal is for your website to help you in your business, not to create more work for you.
Are there no barriers to using your site?
Not everyone who visits your site can see it, hear it, or use a mouse with it. With assistive technologies, visitors with various needs can use your site to access what they need. However, some websites are not designed with all users in mind and unintentionally put barriers up for these visitors. Your web developer can implement techniques to ensure that the greatest number of visitors can use your site easily and effectively.
So, how does your site perform?
If your website can answer these questions successfully, then it should be working well for you. The right appearance for your site can enhance its effectiveness with your audience. However, if any of these foundations is off, no amount of the right design will save a broken website from working well. To use a colloquial expression: Don’t judge a book by its cover. I’d recommend making sure that the right words are inside first.