Like most businesses, yours will face a fair share of constraints, parameters, and plateaus. In order to avoid being derailed by these natural events, it is important to point out the most common forms with which these obstacles manifest themselves in corporate web design.
Web technology is a topic that we will cover in detail in the next chapter when we discuss deciding on a content management system. If you take nothing else away from this chapter, just remember that technology decisions are now rarely isolated from other business decisions. Even local plumbers, contractors, and other traditional low-tech industries are having to face technology decisions that affect the entire tapestry of their business.
Cementing Your Objectives
It’s easy to delegate jobs until they are so specific that each employee resembles a cog in an industrial assembly line. Collaboration is hard; you have to filter out noise, listen to bad opinions, and see things from contradicting angles. However, if you go through the process of collaboration, you can end up with a digital presence that not only pleases you and your design team, but one that carefully caters to the needs of your customers, clients, patients, and fans.
When cementing the design objectives that will improve your business goals, there is a basic checklist that should take place:
- Discover – This is where all of the separate teams or members of your company sit down and define the measurable requisites.
- Storyboard – Once the priority of measurables has been established, the design team can begin to come up with layout versions and user interface sketches that define the basic flow of your site or app.
- Test – As soon as different employees or friends have played around with the designs, they can give feedback about likes and dislikes. Since you won’t be able to please everyone here, make sure to stay loyal to the measurable requirements you laid out in the discovery stage.
- Implement/Refine/Deliver – With the planning and research phases over, all that’s left is to deliver an improved user experience.
Why it Works
Looking over this checklist, it is entirely feasible to see non-designers and non-developers involved all the way through at least the first 3 stages. While unsupervised chatter between techies and non-techies is not always productive, goal-oriented discourse gives everyone direction.
Let’s quickly outline an example of E-Sprockets Inc, a hypothetical manufacturing company that is planning a site redesign. E-Sprockets has been able to deny their diminishing local market share until now, when a competitor takes away one of their largest clients. Reality staring them in the face, all 10 executive heads are called in to talk brass tacks.
After the smoke clears, the consensus points out a few clear parameters: the raw material prices of your primary vendors has risen steeply, and new clients are not aware of the unique process you use to make higher-quality sprockets at market costs. Your team decides that high-priority, measurable objectives should include new vendor analytics, and increased client education.
These objectives manifest into new areas of the corporate design, which will now include a prominent vendor signup area, and a conspicuous white paper/download area, where potential clients can be informed about your unique manufacturing process.
“We see design as the new language of business. While functionality is assumed, design is the key differentiator in today’s competitive digital landscape” ~ Clark Valberg, current CEO of InVision
Let’s venture out in the wild, and compare the way a few corporate sites have made critical design decisions to shadow their business goals over the years.
Adidas is in the business of selling shoes and various fitness apparel worldwide. In 2011, their design focused on interactively showing how famous athletes were wearing their products. A few years later, the site objectives called for a removal of clutter to just focus on one celebrity at a time. The design moves away from older Flash-based interactivity into a more responsive layout that emphasizes search, user-focused navigation, and one-click shopping.
The alternative lodging rental company had a design in 2010 that was not too far off from its 2014 implementation. However, design objectives called again for less clutter, more show and less tell. The find a place to stay form element in the newer version is prominent, with little else of significant importance. The takeaway here is that the design not only lends itself towards increased bookings, it creates competitive separation by attempting to place the Airbnb user experience above that of its competitors.
The SEO marketing software and tools company made a drastic redesign from their 2010 version. Their old design was reminiscent of a rigid business that was void of any personality. The newer design speaks with a voice that appeals to millennial entrepreneurs who have a bootstrapping, startup mentality. The clear goal of the software-as-a-service homepage is to bring the user into a trial for a paid monthly subscription. In addition, they shortened their name from SEOmoz to Moz for name recognition and search engine purposes.
This Disney-owned sports media conglomerate has goals similar to most media companies, in that they need to sell ads and premium services, such as online subscriptions. In ESPN’s more dated implementation, they seemed to self-promote their on-air personalities in prime layout positions. More recently, they have decided to make a conspicuous effort to focus on video as a longterm investment. A layout that highlights their video assets leads to higher user engagement, time on site, and increased advertising revenue and sponsorship opportunities.
In their particular case, they have decided against a total reconstruction of their layout, opting instead to maintain a similar look and feel to earlier designs, despite increasing pressure on their market share from competitors such as Fox Sports.
The trend towards more personal, more engaging design has been made clear. Companies that are thriving are taking a comprehensive approach to their design, and placing the user experience on a pedestal. Whether your industry is retail, service, software, marketing, construction, local, national, global, customer-facing, or business-to-business, your corporate design must mirror the experience that you wish to give to your audience.
Missed part one of this series? Check out Corporate Web Design Guide: Getting Started.