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Create an Exceptional Customer Journey With Your Website

Each and every day we take journeys. We embark on customer journeys in both the physical and digital worlds.
Years ago our journeys were limited to store fronts and physical goods. Today we live in a multimedia world of websites, social media, chat sessions, newsletters, email, and call centers. These digital journeys have changed the way we interact with companies and products.

Last week I decided I was going to try shopping at a new grocery store. I was on my way home from the ortho with my son and I was passing by a Kroger that was recently given a facelift. I thought I would try it out and forgo the extra few miles I’d need to drive to get to my regular store.
Guess what happened? I was a big fat ball of stress the entire time I was in the store. I could not find everything on my list, regardless of all the signs throughout the store.
So what went wrong with my journey? Here are a few mental notes I made as I silently vented in frustration:

  • There was bread here, there, and then there was bread way over there.
  • The dairy section was along the entire back wall and it seem to last forever. I had no idea when I’d actually get to the sour cream or if I’d even find it.
  • Personal care products were in multiple areas and no matter hard hard I looked, I never found my fluoride rinse. It’s a week later and I still don’t have any.
I was aggravated and I left the store with much less than was on my shopping list. As I walked out the door, I pledged not to return. Instead I would head back to Meijer where I could locate the items I need and where the pharmacy staff know me by name.That example was an illustration of a customer journey in the physical world. A very negative journey that will leave a lasting impression.

Strong website design extends past colors, fonts, and layout boxes. Strong design focuses on the user. Website design should be crafted around the user, their needs, and the desired outcome of a website visit. It should be focused on the user’s challenges and the website’s ability to solve these issues. It should not be focused on coding trends and prepackaged templates.

Design Trends Come and Go, But a Focus on the User Should Not

I’ll receive emails from people discussing their website design requirements and many times these lists will be focusing on specific project criteria like infinite scroll, hamburger menus, hero images, video backgrounds, and motion.
> Rarely do people approach a design firm and present data based on their visitors, the user’s needs, and the ultimate goals of a website visit.
Website owners get caught up in design trends, their competitors’ websites, and what they believe is modern and current design elements. In doing so, they lose track of the actual website visitor.
All too often people select a website template or blog theme and get caught up in the graphical presentation or bells and whistles it offers. It’s an emotional buy that supersedes the desire to help the actual website visitors.
Once they buy the stock theme, they force their content to fit within the template’s available content blocks. Or worse yet, they force a custom design to adhere to the same style and presentation of a top competitor’s website.
In most cases this leads to disappointment and buyer’s remorse.
The reason this occurs is this process follows the path of purchase, design, development, and finally content. That path is in the wrong order. The process is going backwards and it leads to frustration.

Content First Leads to Educated Design Decisions

Documenting your desired user flow, visitor paths, and call to actions is something that is typically done after the graphic design is completed. Unfortunately that’s the wrong approach because it forces you into matching content to the website theme or design. It should be just the opposite.
> Before you find yourself falling in love with a competitor website, coveting a stock WordPress template, or reaching out to a graphic designer, you need think through the goals and objectives of your website or blog.
You need to document your user personas, their individual challenges, your solution offering, and the paths you’d like these visitors to take within the website.
While graphic design in very important, it must take place at the right time within the project to truly allow you to showcases the website, content, and offering in the best light possible.
One of my favorite quotes on this subject is:

“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” – Jeffrey Zeldman

Messaging and content are the building blocks and foundation of the website. This means they should be carefully thought through and documented well before any colors, fonts, and layouts are considered.
The design elements should complement, highlight, and showcase the key messaging and most important content.

Focus on the Right Content

While I am saying you should have content written before beginning design, I’m not saying that you have to have all your content written. That would be a difficult task to accomplish for most website owners and businesses.
I encourage clients to focus on core website sections and pages. During the sales process I usually go through their website and look for areas I think would benefit from custom design templates. These will vary based on the client, industry, and target demographic.

Here are some common areas that can benefit most from a content first strategy:

  • Home
  • Main about or company page
  • Main services page and individual service pages
  • Main storefront and individual product pages
  • Resource section, categories, and/or resource items
  • Personas
  • Landing page templates
  • Main blog page and individual blog posts
  • Contact page

Sometimes I’ll suggest just a few custom design templates and other times I’ll suggest fifteen to twenty. It really depends on the complexity of the content and the variations in the content flow and call to actions.
As we progress into a project with a client, we like to have as much information as possible on core elements and how these might be altered based on different areas of the website.

Finding Balance

Not all situations will allow a content before website design approach. You have to find balance and you have to pick and chose your battles.
> If this approach is going to be difficult, I suggest starting with universal elements such as navigation, SEO, and call to actions. Then begin narrow down the focus by reviewing user personas and their visitors paths.
Focus on known elements and weave these into design by starting with the home page and then allow the design to build from his central hub. While moving through this process, stay focused on the visitor, what they need, and what action you ultimately want them to take.
The process can seem overwhelming, but like anything in life, you need to break it into chunks and evaluate the large list bit by bit.

Can We Help?

If you are gearing up for a website redesign or launching a new site, we’d love to help. We’ll provide a blended approach of user intent, website design, and SEO.
But be prepared for questions and lots of them. The more we know about you and your visitor, the more we can help achieve your marketing objectives and goals.

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