Social Media LogosIn today's society the Internet is what people turn to for answers and research, which they ultimately take at face value. When someone 'Googles' a company that they are interested in, whatever comes up defines that company immediately.

So, when a visitor arrives at a homepage that throws big, bold, rainbow colored pop-ups in their face, they are most likely closed frantically, before he/she even reads a word of it. It is likely that whoever built that site had no idea of who the company was, or what they wanted. Instead they depended on loud and unnecessary approaches to try and 'stand out.'

A website only get 4-7 seconds to capture their audience and get their message across before the visitor hits the 'back' button and is on to the next search result. This is why it is so important to understand your company and how you want your website to represent it. Whether it is through a color, image, video or maybe all three. You need to take a moment before diving into the world of design where there are thousands of variables for you to choose from.

These five questions not only help you develop an idea of what your website should be like, but they also help a designer narrow down the choices to come up with the perfect solution to represent you and your company.

1. What do you do?

This concept is very straightforward and shouldn't be too difficult to answer. What services does your company offer? When someone comes to you, what is it that they're hoping to achieve?

This will create a good starting point. Simply knowing what you do helps us learn more about your industry and what would be the most successful approach for you. Looking at your competition's sites will be helpful, you can see how they talk about and portray what they do for you to get an idea of what is and is not working.

2. If a complete stranger were to come across your company, what do you want their first impression to be?

Anyone can say their company is the greatest, but what is it that makes yours unique? A complete and total stranger should be able to immediately know what kind of company you are - not just what you do, but also your approach to it. Are you generally more relaxed and welcoming, striving for a 'neighborly' or 'close friend' relationship? Or is clean, serious professionalism more your style? If your company was a person, what qualities would they have and what relationship should they have with your target audience?

When someone visits your website, it should be like walking through your door. It should reflect you, but still be professional. Think of a badly designed website as an old run-down building that everyone avoids for fear of getting mugged or it collapsing on them, no matter what is being housed inside the building. That same concept can be applied to your website, if the exterior is overwhelming, no one will want to click around and 'enter' your site.

3. Who is your target audience?

A fantastic first step to a website redesign is defining your 'buyer personas' or target audience. These are detailed descriptions of who you want to bring into and engage you're your site. Are you targeting men, women, and different age groups? What is their profession and what are their hobbies? Once you know who you are targeting you can look at their online behavior and preferences to ensure that your website's design really captures their attention. The one thing to remember:

The answer is never 'everybody' or 'anyone.' Yes, your business may be applicable to anyone, but there is always one particular group that makes up the majority of your customers. Sometimes it may be difficult to figure out who that group is, but it is always possible, and very helpful once it is figured out.

4. What are you trying to accomplish with the website?

Generally having a website 'for the sake of it' isn't very effective and provides very little direction in designing a layout or company brand. Are you hoping to attract more customers for a specific service? Do you plan on selling products through this website? Does your service or product involve some sort of experience?

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Having an idea of what your goal is helps you and your designer decide what kind of website you should have. Take Facebook and YouTube for example. Facebook's goal is to help its users connect with one another and develop relationships while YouTube's goal is to allow its users to share, watch and comment on videos. Each of their respective layouts and design are geared towards their goals and target audience.

No matter what your site may offer, it is important to reflect that functionality in the design and layout so visitors know what they can do once they arrive.

5. Personal Preferences?

Last, but not least, you should always be proud of your website. You know what you like and what you don't like, don't be afraid to take that into account when working with your designer.

So if you have a dire hatred of the color purple, and dislike the font 'Times New Roman' then they shouldn't be representing you. That doesn't necessarily mean that the website should be completely orange because it is your 'most favorite color ever.' Designers like myself will always do our best to incorporate whatever it is that you feel is important, while providing our professional opinion and suggestions. Open communication is very important and letting us know what you like, find important and must incorporate on your site is key information we need to make your web project a success.

Amanda Downie
By Amanda Downie

Designer from school, coder by hobby, her greatest interest is combining the two as a Front-end Developer. Her other interests include music, dragons, and guinea pigs - though not always at the same time.

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