A different approach to web design

What do your car and website have in common?

The answer (probably) is rapid and relentless depreciation. Like a flash new motor that you’re about to drive off the forecourt, your website design will peak in value before you’ve even got it running. And with every day that passes your pride and joy will become that little less shiny until one day it’s so haggard that you’re forced to begin the whole miserable process all over again.

The depressingly typical eroding of engagement stats over time.

Turning constant depreciation into constant improvement

It doesn’t have to be this way and with the recent shift towards content marketing it can’t afford to be. Content includes anything that impacts the user experience, and few things impact that more than the design. Ensuring constant improvement in design is absolutely at the heart of content marketing in 2013.

So rather than viewing a website re-design as a finite project with a beginning and an end, we need to view it as merely the starting point. After all, the likelihood that the design and user experience were bang on first time is between about zero and nil – it doesn’t happen – and as the visitors land and the data builds it will soon become apparent that you made a myriad of shocking decisions, no matter how steeped in logic they were at the time.

A new years’ resolution

This year I’m going to do things very differently for Inbound. Rather than simply assuming it’s all okay, I’m going to adopt the Lance Armstrong approach and pump it full of engagement enhancing drugs, until one day when it’s monopolising such a massive chunk of the internets’ page views that it’s forced to appear on Oprah and make a fake apology to all the other websites.

Needless to say this couldn’t be more different from how I’ve approached web design in the past. I viewed each one as a completely standalone project with just one shot to get things right, which in addition to being horribly ineffective is also unbelievably stressful. The relief when the site was finally signed off felt like a small elephant dismounting my shoulders, only for me to realise three months later that he’d kindly shat all over them before departing.

Well not anymore. We now view all of our sites as continuous works in progress. What did we get perfectly right and what did we get embarrassingly wrong? Which pages have the best engagement and what characteristics do they share? That fancy slider that we chose on our home page, for example; does it actually enhance users time on site or is it an irritating complication? Sure, it can be a pretty bitter pill to swallow if you do admit defeat on what originally felt like an inspired decision, but it’s a pill that may just protect the health of your companies most important asset.

And the same applies to clients. If their hours are best invested in blog posts, social media and traditional link building then great. But if we’re better off having a developer or designer work on the site itself then that’s what we’ll do. No extra charge, no quotation process. This is all part of modern SEO and if the user experience is flawed then we may as well not even bother with the rest.

Stretching your investment and maximising your ROI

Of course at some point the site will still need starting all over again. With every tweak, no matter how it may improve performance in the immediate term, you are taking the design that little bit further from the original coherent vision. But rather than starting again in two years, it means you’re able to start again in four or five and with a considerably chunkier ROI.