Today, spinning up a digital presence is easier than ever — really!
All it takes is a Squarespace account, crowdsourcing to find a great looking template, integrating your Twitter feed, browsing some free stock imagery and presto! You have yourself a professional-looking website, complete with a content management system that you feel may help you boost your digital presence — but it’s not quite that easy.
It’s impressive that something like this, in the early days of the internet would have amounted to a significant seven-figure sum. Today, some organizations are pulling these websites for three figures, including outsourcing design and development! Pretty amazing, huh?
You see, the ease of getting a digital presence spun up is at an all-time high. For organizations, it’s one of the best ways to boost your SEO cred. It’s a simple and stunning way to get your voice heard, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having more people online than we’ve ever had before.
However (and you knew this was coming!), I’d like to provide some caution before rushing down this road. Advice that can make your digital presence stronger, more distinctive, and more likely to get you the attention you need. For a moment, consider these pitfalls before you embark on a website design project.
1. The Pitfall of Sameness
Yes, good design is more accessible than ever. We’ve managed to quell most of the worst design abuses of the early 90s. We’ve embraced minimalism, intuitive ways to present information effectively and provide easy-to-use navigation. But when you see the same flat design fronting the simple-and-easy look on thousands of websites, it gets a little tiresome. If your organization is looking to stand out from the competition, you may want to push your designer beyond these tropes. When you really get right down to it, what organization doesn’t need to stand out? Reflect on your brand and express it through visual metaphors that set you apart.
2. The Pitfall of Info-Blasting
It’s a typical equation for most templated websites, they will tell you to start with a 3-column layout with 12 navigation buttons, maybe layer in 6 of your most recent posts, a Twitter feed of your latest tweets, an event calendar highlighting the dates of your upcoming engagements, a sidebar full of additional navigation items, and to what end? A simple question I always ask: is all this really enhancing your audiences’ experience? Does it communicate, at a glance, who you are, why you are different, or what you really have to say? Or did you do this because there was a good-looking theme readily available? Take pause, and ask yourself: “What is my core message, and what is the minimum number of elements that I need to say it with?” Because then you’ll truly resonate.
3. The Pitfall of Site Spread
With online noise clamoring for audience attention, many feel that it’s not enough just to have a website. You have to have a blog, and a separate blog for your product team, and blogs from key executives. Oh, right, and a captive social presence too! Perhaps, a microsite for your newsletter, and a microsite for a specific product for good measure. The problem is, now you have to manage all these websites, and figure out how they fit into your digital ecosystem. It’s important to ask yourself three questions before you launch something new: Can you manage it? Does it do anything that can’t be incorporated into your main website? And do you truly think your audience will be excited about it? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then don’t create it.
Again, I’m really excited that producing a well-designed website is so easy using the various website building platforms available today. But sometimes it’s best to take a step back, relax, and gather your thoughts. Think about how to be different. Think about what your key message is. Think about how the design will support that message.
And then go create something truly stunning.