1. step into your users’ shoes.
When was the last time you asked your constituents what they wanted from your website? Try it: create a focus group. Hear what they want from your brand, your product, your services, and your website. Excellent website design will strike an engaging balance between what visitors are expecting and their greater online experience—including the actions you want them to take before they go.
2. clear out the clutter.
Refreshing web content warrants some serious spring housecleaning. Know when users want short, quick-to-digest text—or, better yet, video—and when they need a more in-depth explanation. Organize your navigation in that same concise, intuitive way. There is rarely a reason to have more than six main nav options (granted, we’re fond of the number). Simplicity is crucial to help users narrow their choices and get where they want to go, fast.
3. stand out from the crowd.
Know your brand and let it shine. Explore your identity, visual representation, and tone of voice, and communicate it consistently in every image, interaction, and headline. Avoid cheap imitations, templated designs, and gratuitous bells and whistles. Users are looking for personality—but they want authenticity above all.
4. think ahead. far ahead.
Nothing is future-proof, but technology is changing at a breakneck pace—so build your website for tomorrow, not today. In 2014, experts agree that more people will visit websites on tablets and phones than desktops. Responsive design—adapting seamlessly across all devices—is a must. Non-responsive websites will soon be left in the digital dust.
5. check under the hood.
Gone are the days when only HTML geeks were website-savvy. Compare popular and up-and-coming software options. Leverage the power of an open-source or commercial content management systems like Drupal or Sitefinity to maintain complete control over your website content, promotions, forms, and reports. Build in a CRM tool like Marketo or Salesforce to capture leads. Expect to understand how your website works—and to take the time to keep content fresh.
6. measure twice, cut once.
Your website performance statistics should always be on your radar. Install Google Analytics. Create conversion goal tracking. Know where your site falls in search engine rankings and stay abreast of SEO optimization best practices. The web is a big, competitive place: know your numbers and understand what changes will impart a boost to your standing.