Why creativity matters
Web design is really just a more technical manifestation of traditional graphic design, of photography, and the art of fluidly integrating text, image, and colour to a form a cohesive emotional and visual experience. Whether or not the audience understands and appreciates the process behind this creative fusion is merely academic, as anyone worthy of your company’s engagement is capable of appreciating your artistic efforts.
Your digital presence should paint a picture of continuity for your audience. Whether large or small, your business should have a style guide that mandates the colours used to represent your brand, and the fonts applied to convey the messages you wish to portray. Similarly, copywriting efforts should convey an even and consistent tonality across every spectrum of your brand, whether digital or otherwise.
Presenting a consistent brand personality means customers and prospects are more likely to identify with your business, as well as recognise your presence across all the different mediums you use to reach them. In the digital sense, what this means is that an holistic presentation of content across your website, social media and digital marketing properties will always yield the best results.
Good Web Design is… Good
To start with, you needn’t have a big budget to develop a premium website design. Most budget websites look, well, budget, because the agency delivering them lacks creative intelligence. There are a whole host of affordable web designers eager to take on your project, and many can offer well-established design skills, rather than mere technical competence. It’s the latter which generally delivers function but not form; while good websites should offer both in equal measure.
One of the best ways to evaluate the creative acumen of your web designer is to request a demo website tailored to your specific needs. Reviewing their work for other clients is, of course, helpful, but you can never obtain the background to these previous projects, and hence won’t understand the brief given by other clients. For web designers, this alludes to one of the biggest challenges of this market: some clients are curiously passionate about design elements which really don’t flow together. It’s our job as web designers to walk clients through the design process, explaining what works best and why. A consultative process is always best: both sides need to lead the project and have equal input throughout each one of its steps.
And it doesn’t end when the new website “goes live”. The best web designers will monitor the performance of your website using web analytics tools, and they’ll use this data to suggest improvements, as well as demonstrate to you how their design has improved user experience. Building a website is certainly not a set and forget process – it’s an ongoing project of continuous improvement, which is why it’s important to obtain the right strategic partner and negotiate your longer term requirements with them upfront… This is also a great way to scope out whether your agency has a genuine interest in your ongoing success, or whether they’re simply looking to push your site out the door without the necessary care and attention.
Some tell-tale signs of BAD web designers:
1) They use “DIY-esque” web design tools, such as Wix or Weebly, which leave little scope for genuine customisation. The best designers use the best tools – it’s no different to being a builder or electrician and using the right equipment for the job.
2) They don’t work with you to improve your web content: given text and imagery are so critical for a successful web design, the best designers will help you obtain the greatest outcome from your visual and textual material, so as to improve the overall aesthetic of your website. A bad designer will just drop in whatever you have available, without taking the time to consult with you.
3) They quote exceptionally short timeframes (e.g. a new website build in “two weeks”): this is a tell-tale sign that your designer hasn’t accounted for consultation and design refinement before go-live, meaning their first draft is effectively all you’ll get.
4) They don’t ask questions: a common understanding is key to design success. Just think about it: how can someone deliver what you want without taking the time to understand the background of your business, the challenges you face, and the type of products and services you’re taking to market?
5) Their own website sucks! This is an easy one: naturally, your web design agency will have devoted a lot of time to their own website (well, if they haven’t, you’ll have answered your own question instantly!). Spend some time picking it to pieces and engaging with its design aesthetic. If it looks good, chances are, their work for your business will also be a success.
Great Words Are… Great
The best clients, and those with whom you’ll have the most potential to build a lasting relationship, are the ones that will spend the time reading about your brand, and understanding what you can offer them. Visual
design can convey a big part of this, but so can words. Digital copywriting reinforces the feelings and emotions that the visual elements of your digital presence have created. The two sides of the puzzle should flow together, delivering a concise and cohesive message, ensuring customers (new ones, especially) only have questions around about how to get started, rather than ones focussing on what you do, and why you do it.
It’s all well and good to present a unique and striking website design to your customers, but if they start reading your copy and it interrupts the flow of their experience, chances are they’ll simply look elsewhere. Let’s consider a simple example: if you’re looking to buy a car and are browsing through Carsales.com.au, you’re certainly more likely to inspect the vehicle that has a nicely written description, rather than the one with broken sentences and grammatical errors. In fact, the advertisement with the best images and most descriptive copy – i.e. the optimal fusion of text and image – will surely get your attention first. It’s the same with your own website and overall online presence: you need to make your business sound, look and feel professional.
Signs of bad digital copywriting:
1) There simply isn’t much of it: if a website lacks copy, it’s effectively telling the audience that its owners couldn’t be bothered taking the time to write about their business and/or that they don’t understand their chosen subject matter well enough to write about it.
2) The copy isn’t unique and offers nothing new: cliche or unoriginal words and phrases hardly make a brand feel special. They also imply that the brand lacks imagination, which is never going to inspire anyone.
3) There are spelling and/or grammatical errors: well, hey, this one is pretty self-explanatory, yeah? Write well and edit well. Oh, and don’t cut corners either.
4) There are questions left unanswered: it’s really important to make sure your audience feel comfortable with your service offering. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure their questions are answered in your digital content and copywriting. Think about what people will be wondering as they browse your website and look to answer their questions with logical and engaging words. Don’t rely on people to proactively contact you to ask – those who’ll take the time to do this are generally in a very small minority group.
5) It’s either out of date or infrequently updated: things change, products develop and services are refined. You need to illustrate this journey with your digital content, showing customers that you move with the times, or even better, that your business drives change.
…And Striking, Original Images Matter
Have you noticed the sheer volume of beautiful images on Facebook, Instagram or Google+ that literally garner millions of “likes”? Well, most people that liked the image probably had – and still have – no idea how it was taken or how to navigate their way around a modern DSLR camera. It doesn’t matter. The point is, people are attracted and inspired by beautiful and creative images. To consider our own case at Fond Digital, we use images from our own photographic portfolio very widely. We do this because we know that they gain your attention… In fact, to get really creepy, we see this in the analytics data for own webpage. And for our customers, too, we see that the best images get the most attention, which is why we always work to help our clients improve their website imagery.
The moral of the story is that your online personality should, well, have personality. That is to say, if you buy stock images to illustrate your services, or use poor quality visuals to display your products online, people won’t see you as unique – you’ll just be lumped into the same basket as the million-odd other businesses that are doing the same thing. You really need to make an effort to stand out. It takes time – and sometimes money, too – but it matters, and it’ll pay off in the longer term.
Make sure your images don’t tick anything on this list:
1) Grainy, pixelated and/or low resolution: your brand needs to look crisp, fresh and inspiring. Dull and diluted images will never, ever tell this story.
2) Unoriginal or copied from elsewhere: aside from the legal implications, don’t copy images. If you do, you’re merely illustrating that you’re unwilling to go and above and beyond to get the best result.
3) Stale or dated: just like your wardrobe, your images need an update fairly regularly. You wouldn’t rock up to a business meeting in your “glad rags”, just like your website or social media pages shouldn’t appear for duty using old and meaningless visuals.
4) The same as your competitors: be different. You need to stand out from the crowd, especially the one that you’re competing with for business. Look at what your competitors are showing customers and endeavour to do something different… Just make sure you’re hanging onto some degree of relevance.
5) Lacking prevalence: we’ve spoken a lot about the importance of digital copy, but this doesn’t mean it should saturate everything you do. Where there are words, there should also be images. This matters for user experience, just as it does for SEO.
So there you go!
Don’t be a boring brand, be an inspiring, creative and passionate one. Be evocative in the way you present yourself and meaningful in the way you illustrate your purpose. If you’re in an exceptionally competitive market, distinguishing yourself is particularly important. Saying this, though, even if you’re breaking into brand new territory, you should also create a bespoke aura around what you do, as it won’t be long before someone else wants a piece of the pie and you’ll instantly need to stand on your toes.
Think carefully and holistically, and observe how your digital content works together, taking into account the experience you’re delivering users across every touchpoint you’ve created.
Consistency is key, and clarity and continuity will deliver it.