Are you dissatisfied with your current website design, but can't quite put your finger on why? A few simple questions can clarify your tastes, identify your brand voice and give you direction.
It is easier to know that you are dissatisfied with your current website design than it to know just why; however, there are often rational, left brain reasons behind our immediate, right brain displeasure. Digging deeper into your aesthetic complaints can unearth new design directions for improving usability, branding and conversions. Ask yourself these 3 questions when appraising your existing website design.
What’s the first impression?
This is difficult to answer objectively. You see your site every day and you already have an image of it in your head that may or may not match the pixels on the screen. Instead of starting with your homepage, dig deeper and find a page that you have not worked on in some time. This could be a newly-added product page, or even an About Us pages that you have completed and left untouched.
Take some time to write down a few adjectives—both positive and negative—that describe your impressions. Do not overthink this. If it helps, do this as a free writing exercise. Spend a few minutes writing about your impressions without pausing and without pressing the backspace key. Turn off your inner editor and, once you have finished, go back and highlight the descriptive words that you used.
Once you have your list of adjectives, go back to your homepage and other familiar pages to see if these words accurately describe them as well. And, of course, it always helps to have other pairs of eyes to help. Ask friends and coworkers to give you their impressions as well and look for commonalities. Ask yourself which of these impressions you would like to keep and which ones you would like to change.
What can I learn from my competitors?
Find a competitor’s website that boasts a design that you envy, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why. Perform the same exercises above on their website—including the enlistment of friends and coworkers—and develop a list of impressions that you want to emulate. Focus only on the list of adjectives at first, pick out your favorites and then go reassess the site and begin asking which design elements gave you those impressions. Soon you will be able to turn a list of impressions that you envy into a list of design elements that you can incorporate in your own site’s redesign.
Does it have a voice?
Unless you have a monopoly over your market, your brand needs to have a distinctive voice. Whether you are going for sleek and professional or adventurous and innovative, your voice needs to be reflected in both words and images. Take stock of your website’s on-page text content to find more impressions. How do you talk to your customers on your site? Are you playful, passionate about your products, utilitarian? Does your text come across as proud, service-minded or personable?
As with the previous exercises, record your favorite adjectives. Look for ones that are already part of your website’s impression and ones that your competitors managed to achieve to start brainstorming ways that your design can match your brand voice. There will certainly be elements of your voice left over, that you have not expressed in your current design and that your competitors have not been able to convey. Finding ways to express that voice will be the most challenging and exciting part of your next design project. Consult with your colleagues, consult with professional designers and look for inspiration from other sites that have visually expressed that voice, but that are not your direct competitors.
These exercises will help you establish design goals that clarify your site’s character, but a thorough assessment should also include an analysis of your navigation, color choices and industry trends. For a more in-depth appraisal of your design and other site success factors, be sure to download The Ultimate Field Guide to Ecommerce Conversions.