When it comes to the look and feel of the websites we design for our clients, our designer Janna has a mantra: “Form follows function.” We approach website design for our clients with the idea that a completed site is a product that someone uses. Both the desktop and mobile versions of company sites need to be user-friendly, which entails deeply knowing your audience.
Designers are artists, and artists thrive in a creative, free landscape. But, we understand that our client’s sites have needs that supersede our desire to go too wild with design. They should:
- Satisfy the client
- Serve the audience
- Play nice with Google …
… and not necessarily in that order! Therefore, when we have out-of-the-box ideas regarding design, we sometimes test them first on the Savoir Faire site. Even then, our designer has been reeled in by Ben, our analytics/SEO guru, for ideas that do not play nice with Google’s site ranking tools.
In general, Janna follows these three guidelines when approaching website design projects:
Design for functionality
Keeping the Bauhaus school of art’s principal in mind, a page’s design relates directly to what it needs to do. The look is all about the user and the pathways of the user. If your audience is younger, the design should not be too rudimentary. They’re savvy enough to navigate around and get themselves back and forth on the site. Whereas, customers who are a bit older and newer to an online experience need more intuitive ways to get back to the top of the page or back to your homepage.
Website design is understanding iconography, architecture and flow — and making every element work together so it’s all easy on the eye and simple to follow. It’s less about what pleases a designer and more about leading the audience on a journey via an aesthetically pleasing, intuitive presentation, which takes us to the second guideline:
Don’t be too precious
At Savoir Faire, we take this seriously — and not just with design but with everything we do for our clients. You’re the client and we deliver what you want. That said, we advise and explain why certain things are best practices, but ultimately, you get what you want. This means we won’t be too precious about colors, fonts, headline sizes, image choices, rows, columns, captions, videos, icon placement — we can go on and on, but we won’t. Instead, guideline three:
Evaluate and test
Make sure your design choices allow your audience to do what they need/want to do. For example, is this “submit” button too small to click on a phone? If someone can’t click something, that creates issues with lead generation, for example.
One way we tackle this early — to save everyone involved time and money — is creating wireframes for some site pages. These are skeleton pages without fancy colors and distracting images, so we can all evaluate the functionality of the page overall and not focus on the details to be added later.
Do we have visual cues that assist the hierarchy of the page and guide interaction? Yes! Great, now we can begin thinking “pretty” or “fun” — if pretty and fun works for your audience.
Janna also reads A LOT about website design, looking at trends (but not instantly acting on trends), seeing what works well for others in a variety of industries, culling ideas and evaluating how those ideas could benefit our clients.
We mentioned playing nice with Google earlier. What we mean is that it’s important to optimize a site for search engines. Our website successes for clients result in Team Savoir Faire playing nice together. That means design considerations partner with content creation and SEO/analysis. Each member of the team knows that their speciality is just a cog in the larger machine and all cogs must be functioning for the machine to run properly.