Building Your Website On Stable Ground

Web design is one of the more ephemeral forms of design.

The things we build very seldom stay unchanged throughout time.

Times change. Technology changes. And most importantly — the needs of the people using your website change.

A website is never truly finished. It is a constantly evolving organism.

How a website evolves depends a lot on how intently the architects are listening to the people using the site.

The Only Thing Constant Is Change

Every so often, there seems to be an upswing in the number of people who are actively seeking to get their website redesigned.

Sometimes, it is brought on by news that websites will get penalized in search results if they don’t comply with basic usability requirements.

I know that many of these websites should have been designed with usability in mind from the get-go — whether that means accessibility, mobile-friendliness, or page speed and performance.

Whatever the reason that business owners seek to improve their websites, I’m happy that they are motivated to do so. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Website redesigns, when done right, can have a huge impact on the bottom line of a business.

Customers trust sites that look current over those that don’t. That’s one place conversions can improve. (By conversions, we mean taking an action, like signing up for a newsletter, or buying an item from an online store.)

Page speed affects conversions. So does mobile-friendly design.

But a lot of site owners are not savvy enough to make changes or updates on their own. Many sites don’t have any sort of analytics installed, so observing how customers actually use their website is impossible.

Some site owners are locked into old technology, and since it’s been so long since they had their website built, the web designer is long gone.

This can be overwhelming.

But all is not lost.

The Web Is Malleable

Web design is a constantly evolving form of design.

In almost every other form of design, once the artifact is made, that’s it. It’s done. Game over.

If an architect designs a building, once it is erected, it’s finished. There is no easy way to redesign it.

You can maintain a building, but it’s difficult to reassemble it, and not disturb all the people working inside of it.

But here’s what is so great about web design as opposed to other forms of design.

You can rebuild a site to make it easier for people to work, shop and do what they need to do, if you see a problem. You can even rebuild a website on a better foundation to make it work better, now and into the future.

Your site doesn’t need to be an inflexible monolith, that can never be improved. It can work for you &#8212 to better satisfy your customer base.

Redesigning With Purpose

"I never design a building before I've seen the site and met the people who will be using it" Frank Lloyd Wright

— emily k. watson (@emilykwatson_) May 10, 2015

Like the Frank Lloyd Wright quote says, nothing can be built without knowing the needs and use cases of everyone involved. That means the site owners, the people who maintain the structure, and the customers within.

Owners are sometimes baffled why I ask so many questions about their business. Why do I ask?

The more that I can know about the business I am designing a site for, the better I will be able to help them achieve their goals.

The goal is always to improve your business by making sure your website fully supports your business objectives.

Your website should be your most tireless and efficient employee. I need to know what actions the business profits from, so the website can assist in those tasks.

Hearing customer input also helps me determine what areas of a current website need improving the most. Sometimes there is functionality missing, that customers wish was there.

Making your business website appealing and easy to use signals to customers that the business is trustworthy. Making sure the customer can find information or complete tasks they came there for means more sales for the business.

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Gathering Information For A Flexible Future

The great architects of the past didn’t design their blueprints in a vacuum. They gathered as much information as they could — about the land they would be building on and who would be using the building. They had to know the constraints and limitations of the building site, and consider the needs of the tenants and landlords.

But what if those needs change over time?

As web consultants, we are used to design trends, marketing techniques and technology changing constantly. Change has been the one constant of the web.

When the needs of your business evolve, you don’t want to tear your whole website down to the ground and start over.

At the same time, you need a web structure in place that will adapt with your needs. Something that will scale with your business, so you don’t need to start from scratch every few years.

The best web designers will help you solve the issues of today, but will also build with an eye to the future. They know your website will continue to evolve, and they will plan for tomorrow, and not just the present moment.

The web consultants I respect talk more about business goals than they do web technologies, but are masters of both.

There are multitudes of people who can build a website, but few who can help you build your business. There are plenty of people with access to the tools, but few who build on stable ground.