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by Gemma Holloway on 8th October 2013
It’s not uncommon for businesses to redesign their website once in a while for one reason or another. But one pitfall I have noticed is that businesses rarely take into account just how important their new website design is going to be for their digital marketing strategy in its entirety.
All too often, when a website is redesigned it ends up being worse than its predecessor. This tends to be because of one reason in particular; it is created with the purpose of satisfying one element of their digital marketing strategy as opposed to the strategy as a whole. For example; introducing a new brand OR improving the SEO potential of their site OR any other one element they have at the forefront of their attention at that particular time. A quality website design can have a huge impact on most areas of your digital marketing strategy, so it is important to consider the various elements in conjunction with one another.
In this blog post I am going to look at each aspect of digital marketing that is impacted by website design, both back-end and front-end, to identify just how important a good website design can be to running a successful digital marketing campaign.
So let’s start with SEO. This is usually the biggest reason I have seen for website redesigns – Their current website simply doesn’t meet the requirements for ranking high in Google anymore, so businesses redesign their website to incorporate all of the elements they deem ranking factors.
Since the introduction of Panda everyone has gone duplicate content elimination crazy! So why not save yourself the elimination process and just insure there is no occurrence of duplicate content in the first place? There are three main instances when this occurs; news pages and blog categories that pull in content from the posts themselves, automatically generated duplicate pages and finally (more common with eCommerce sites) duplicate product descriptions of similar items with very little difference in specifications.
The occurrence of any of these three can have a devastating impact on your rankings. Whilst the first example can be easily addressed with the insertion of a ‘noindex, nofollow’ tag on the offending pages, the other two need to be considered when designing the infrastructure of the site itself. For example, perhaps they have a page consolidating similar products with the differences in specification detail under each product and one generic overview, as opposed to one page per product with a duplicated description.
Something else to consider from the back-end design of a website is the capability to insert the necessary information. It is surprising how often I have come across a website that simply doesn’t have the functionality to input custom Meta descriptions, Alt tags and the like. These are some of the more simple elements of SEO; therefore it is essential they are incorporated within your design.
Now I could write an entire post on improving the CRO of a website, but for the purpose of this post I am going to focus on two areas only; authority and simplicity. The overall feel of a website can portray the authority of that site to the user. Imagine going to a site to buy a set of festival tickets; you get there and the site is a WordPress style template with stock looking images – would you feel comfortable paying hundreds of pounds to that site? Well neither would your users. It is important that your website looks well designed and authoritative in appearance.
That said, this doesn’t mean a simplistic design won’t work. I will cover site speed later, but a design that is too complex can have negative implications on the load time of the site; but on the other hand, if you make it too simple you risk looking untrustworthy. This is where a balance is needed. When considering the conversion rate of your website you need to ensure your design is simple enough to satisfy UX but complex enough to satisfy CRO – It can be a tricky equation but get it right and you will reap huge benefits!
The design of a website has a huge impact on the UX for your visitors. From making the navigation simple and easy to use, to ensuring the speed of your site is as fast as possible.
First let’s look at site speed. Site speed is now considered to be a ranking factor due to its implications on UX (therefore, this point also crosses with SEO). As the speed of the internet increases, so does users’ expectation of page load time. If your website design incorporates large images and other elements which slow your load time, you will be negatively impacting the UX of your website. There are many ways of increasing this load time such as compressing files and carrying out a full audit.
During the design process I have come across many sites which have tried to over complicate the navigation of their website for the purpose of using flashy designs. It is important to remember that the key goal of your website is to satisfy your user. Without satisfying your user – They will not stay, let alone return, to your site.
Your visual elements can also have an impact on your design. I previously wrote a post on how certain emotions can make a user act and how to provoke those emotions. Provoking the right emotion within your user can dramatically increase the UX of your website, so it is important to make sure the website is designed accordingly. Finally, tying this in with the point about site speed, it is quite common for websites to be designed in flash, or with high levels of interactivity in the hope to increase the UX of their website. This can in fact have the opposing effect as it will slow the load speed and can make for a confusing experience if done wrong.
There is a common trend in the industry at the moment for one-page websites, or websites with various pages rolled into one. For example, on the homepage of a site you may click categories and be presented with information about each of the categories (while the URL does not change), then you click on a category and the various products in that category appear (still the URL does not change).
It is important to consider how this may affect the Analytics data you are able to collect. With the potential of most Analytics tools, Google Analytics especially, a website designed with such an infrastructure can effectively record the necessary data but it does require customisation to your tracking and some advanced techniques to ensure you are able to achieve the measurement you desire. When designing your website, consider whether or not you have the capability to implement this advanced tracking or not. Without the necessary data, it will be difficult to measure the success of your new website, let alone your digital marketing strategy as a whole.
The other aspect I want to cover under Analytics is the checkout process. Without using advanced Analytics techniques, it is best practice to have each individual step of the checkout process presented on a different URL. This will allow you to set up goals and funnels so that you can monitor the checkout process and optimise it where necessary. If you are unable to record this data because of the infrastructure of your website, then you are losing out on this valuable data.
The importance of collecting Analytics data is increasingly being emphasised within businesses, therefore it is important to ensure your website is set up in such a way that you can effectively collect the data you require. Having the capability to implement advanced Analytics methods means less limitations on the designs available to you; however, be sensible if those capabilities aren’t accessible to you.
It doesn’t take a genius to spot a bad website. Even for someone who is unable to spot the technical malfunctions and specific elements deteriorating a sites’ quality, a user will immediately get a feel for whether or not a site is of good quality or not. If your design gives off this impression it can have extremely detrimental effects on your brand.
This point ties in slightly with the authority point mentioned under CRO. A user will view your site and, even subconsciously; develop perceptions about it. Be sure your website is designed in such a way to evoke the perception you desire. Make sure your site reflects your brand.
This doesn’t necessarily just mean reflecting the brand in the aesthetic design, i.e. colour, logo etc. But within the infrastructure and set up of the site also. Imagine going to the Apple site – A brand focused on simplicity and beautiful aesthetics – and finding a site with confusing navigation and ugly typography. It wouldn’t exactly give you the best impression of their brand would it!?
So consider your core brand values and make sure these are reflected within every aspect of your website to ensure your online brand image is not damaged.
I’ve left PPC until last because you may not think it fits in as well as the others. After all, you’re just paying for traffic right!? Wrong! Well to a certain extent. A well designed website with good site speed and good UX can in fact reap the benefits when it comes to PPC by receiving higher quality scores leading to a lower CPC and higher average position.
Creating dedicated landing pages that best serve the keyword you have bided on will also improve your Conversion Rate and the way you design pages to answer the query will play a key part on this.
So, as you can see web design and development can have a huge impact on some of the most important elements within your digital marketing strategy. Remember to consider all aspects of your strategy to be sure that no areas suffer. It all starts with a website – So when you’re at the first stage of designing the site itself, make sure you get it right. You’ll see the benefit of doing so in the future.
Perhaps there are some other aspects you feel are of more importance than others? What do you consider to be the most important thing when designing a website and why? Let me know in the comments.