Who is the Focal Point of Your Design?

Many times during the web design process the focus gets lost. Sometimes we try very hard to create an impressive visual appearance. Other times too much priority is given to designing for search engines. While an attractive design and search engine optimization are both important, ultimately the design should be created for the user.

Nine times out of ten the goal of a website is to create some type of value or income for it’s owner(s). This won’t happen unless the site is useful to its visitors and meets their expectations. By creating a site that is valuable and useful for visitors you will be well on your way to creating value and income for yourself.

Things to Consider:

1. Is the purpose of the site clear to its visitors? If visitors are confused about the purpose of the site it is unlikely to be successful. It may be difficult for you to objectively look at the site, but try to imagine that you are a first-time visitor. Does the design get in the way of clearly communicating the purpose of the website? Is it easy to see what is available on the site and know how to find it? If you are having a hard time answering these questions, considering asking some friends or colleagues for help.

2. How easy or difficult is it for readers to find information? You may spend a great deal of time creating very useful content that your visitors will love, but if they have a hard time finding it no one will benefit. Navigation is one of the most important aspects of designing for your visitors. Hopefully you can anticipate the pages on your site that visitors are most likely to want and make them very easy to find. Don’t count on visitors spending a lot of time and effort trying to find your content.

3. What value does the site bring to its visitors? Why is it worth their time? It’s important to understand that if visitors don’t see a reason to come to your website, they won’t be back. An attractive design will help to create a positive first impression, but after that your content will determine the real value of your website. Be sure to design your site so that visitors can’t miss the importance and value of the site.

4. What will keep them coming back? If you want to have consistent repeat visitors you will need to have a plan to create a website that will make them want to keep coming back. In most cases this means that you’ll have to update and add new content. Blogs are very popular for this reason. Other options include games, polls and surveys, video, etc.

5. How is the website different from competitors? You will need to communicate to your visitors what your site provides for them that your competitors do not. If your website doesn’t stand out from the competition, you will need to consider how you can make it more valuable to visitors by differentiating.

6. How will serving the customer/visitor help me to achieve my goals? As I mentioned at the start of the article, most websites are intended to create value or income for owners. Creating a website that is useful for its visitors is crucial, but at the end of the day you need to find a way to convert that into value for yourself. Will you be selling products, selling ad space, using pay-per-click ads?

7. What else could make the site more useful? In order to stay on top of the competition and best serve your visitors, you will should always be looking for ways to improve the site. Don’t be afraid to ask your visitors what changes they would like to see. This will show them that you’re concerned about meeting their needs.

8. Is your site something that visitors will want to share with their friends? One of the most powerful forms of advertising is word-of-mouth. If you create a website that will cause visitors to share with others, you can benefit from very valuable, free advertising.

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26 Responses

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  • pablopabla, November 6, 2007

    I would like to think that I am faring well for the above points in respect of my food blog as well as financial & legal matters blog as the said blogs contain lots of useful information to readers. Funnily, I am still trying to find a concrete direction and tone for my blog about blogging :D

  • Vandelay Design, November 6, 2007

    Hi Pablo,
    It’s sometimes difficult, but I think if you try to stay focused on the visitors it will work out. Sounds like you’re doing well though, especially with the first 2 blogs.

  • pablopabla, November 6, 2007

    Trouble is, the majority of visitors are silent readers. It is thus kinda difficult to assess what they want, what they like and what they dislike. Of course, I can put up a poll but even so, the results are not going to be accurate unless each and every reader of that blog answers the poll.

    Your site here is different as it is niche based and I know what I get from here. The other two sites of mine are also niche based and I know for a fact that my visitors know what they will get and will get them on a regular basis. A blog about blogging, is however, not an easy blog to maintain especially when there are tonnes of blogs out there about the same. The difficulty is being different.

  • David Airey, November 7, 2007

    Excellent pointers, all of them.

    I don’t use my blog to sell adverts (I did, but got into trouble with Google). Instead, I sell myself as a designer, and so far so good. I learn something new on an almost continuous basis, but blogs are incredibly new anyway, so that should be taken as a given.

    Glad I subscribed to your feed, although I wonder what your name is. Do you prefer to remain anonymous, or am I missing something obvious around here?

  • Acopic - Web Designers, November 7, 2007

    I think you’ve always got to create your site for your users. It kinda goes without saying. A site ranked at no.1 with a 0% conversion rate isn’t anywhere near as effective as a site on page 3 of the serps with a 20% conversion.

  • TyCat, November 7, 2007

    Thanks again for the info, I will definately be using this.

  • Paul, November 7, 2007

    Great info you got there. Very useful indeed

  • Vandelay Design, November 7, 2007

    I think your blog does an excellent job of selling you and your services. At least your situation with Google seemed to get resolved pretty quickly. Has the search traffic completely returned to what it was before the penalty? To answer your question, my name is Steven Snell. I handle pretty much everything on the blog here. At first the blog was going to be more of a two person thing, and so it was anonymous, but now it’s just me. I should probably consider changing that.

    I agree completely, rankings are worthless without results. It makes you feel good, but that’s about it.

  • David Airey, November 8, 2007

    Everything is back to normal, Steven, and I’m pretty lucky to have my rankings back.

    Thanks for the kind words about my own blog. I keep meaning to add more work to my portfolio, but other things get on top of me. There are a few logo design draft posts I should really finish off.

    Bye for now.

  • Christine O'Kelly, November 8, 2007

    Another excellent and thought provoking list! I especially like #4 (What will keep them coming back?) and #8 (Is your site something that visitors will want to share with their friends?). These are 2 things that are often forgotten about when creating websites… I think I need to go take a look at my own sites and ask myself these questions!

  • Jermayn Parker, November 8, 2007

    Number 3 about what value it brings to the client is the best tip! The website is a service and we as designers have to make the service is best served up as possible :D
    Great tips

  • Vandelay Design, November 8, 2007

    Yes, I think those two are especially important for long-term growth. Unfortunately, the answers don’t come easily.

    Thanks for your feedback. It’s easy to lose focus on the visitors sometimes.

  • Tay - Make Money Blogging, November 11, 2007

    Steven, this is a great list. I’m including it in this weekend’s roundup on my site. These are all points I need to carefully go through and make sure that my site is up to par. To be quite honest with you, a lot of the questions you recommend to go through I haven’t even thought about before. Thanks for the great article.

  • Vandelay Design, November 11, 2007

    Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad the article was helpful for you.

  • oracle consulting, November 15, 2007

    Nice advices from u all. these discussion are more helpful then reading a book. I’m becomming a blog lover.