One of the most difficult parts of website design, especially for small businesses creating a site for the first time, is thinking through the site’s main purpose and content. Before we even begin to approach the site’s look and feel, we need to work out these details. Some of the most beautifully laid-out sites can be completely ineffective if they do not communicate accurately or quickly.
Many clients discover that putting together a “simple” small business website is rarely simple once they dive in. Thinking through the core purposes of the business, the points of differentiation from competitors, the history and personality of the company, thorough product or service descriptions, etc, can be an excellent exercise in defining and focusing your company.
In offering up content, there is a balance to strike. On one hand, we don’t want to overwhelm site visitors with every unimportant detail of the business. When you are completely entrenched in your own organization, it can be hard to tell the difference between what is important internally and what is important to the client. It is helpful in this case to interview clients or to have your design agency guide you through the content sifting. But be careful not to oversimplify either. You want to be sure to provide enough content to satisfy your audience, and make the answers they are looking for easy to find.
It’s common for the navigation and content to morph and change a few times during this process. As we boil down the main “call to action”, the design can be optimized to guide visitors to respond in the best way.
One trend in web design is to truly guide the user by serving up information in a certain order, removing nearly everything but the main point at first, while maintaining access to navigation and further information. For example, web design firm Cartelle’s website has a large, simple message with navigation that only appears when you hover over a specific area. This way the browser is filled entirely with what the user just clicked to see, not irrelevant content. This is not necessarily the right way to go for every site, but is a great example of simplification while keeping deeper information easily accessible.