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Website Design Crash Course

January 25, 2021
You have a message to communicate to your audience. In a world where technology is moving so fast, website design can feel complicated. We can help. Let’s start with a crash course in web design.

Web Design Key Insights

Begin with user experience in mind

In order to understand web design, we must first understand the user. Back in 2018 (when the world was still having in person events), Symposia Labs founder, Tim Haines watched a giant festival unfold from his 10th story window in downtown Grand Rapids. The lines were long. The signs were difficult to read. It was over crowded. It was a terrible user experience. You know what would have made for a better user experience? More bathrooms. Wider paths. Clear wayfinding signs. A better organized set-up. Just like the festival, user experience matters on the web too. On the web, user experience is defined as the interactions a person has with a company’s website.

  1. Great user experience separates you from your competitors quickly by providing a more attractive way to interact with your product and/or services.
  2. Focus on the USER in user experience. Who is using your product? How are they using it? Good user experience is the roadmap for users to consume your brand.
  3. Great UX starts with the problem and then it becomes a giant puzzle of croschendoing problems. You might find for example that your website is loading slowly on mobile devices, but that problem may lead to other underlying issues that are more complicated to solve for.
  4. Make sure you remember mobile. If your audience is going to be using your website on their phones or tablets, the user experience design needs to take that into mind
    UX will evolve, because your customer base will evolve and grow.

Bottom line: Poor UX problems from the start can be a very expensive issue to fix down the road.

Your website should tell your brand’s story

For many business owners and entrepreneurs, the website will be the first opportunity to tell the “why” the “what” and the “how” to their audience. The overwhelming majority of Millennials buy from a brand based on the emotional attachment they create to its underlying values. Your users are asking the questions: Who are you? What’s your story? Different people need to interact with your story in different ways, but these are the key elements that you need to have in mind.

Bottom line: Start with why

Using your entire budget on a website is a bad choice

The website doesn’t matter if you can’t send traffic to it or generate sales with it. You have to build your budget with this in mind. Many business owners and entrepreneurs spend their entire budget making a beautiful website, but forget to leave money for ongoing marketing and sales. A strong marketing strategy needs to explain how the budget will best be used strategically over the course of time. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How much money do I have to spend on marketing while still supporting my other business goals
  2. Does the internet matter for my business right now?
  3. What other technologies am I using or considering using? Maybe a CRM such as Salesforce? Maybe email automation tools such as Mailchimp?
  4. Who is in charge of maintaining my website and how much money will that cost?
  5. Can the website start as something basic and then evolve over time as the business grows more complex? Do you have a technology roadmap?

P.S. it is getting nearly impossible to execute an aggressive full scale marketing strategy without a team. That’s why, at Symposia Labs, we have 15 people!

Bottom line: “The Build it and they will come” theory is just BS — Don’t build a website and just hope people show up

Accessibility matters

Ideally, everyone should be able to use any website on the internet. It shouldn’t matter if they have a condition that affects their capabilities or what hardware and software they need to use.

Bottom line: Make your website inclusive by making it accessible to everyone

Now that you understand the basics of web design, you probably have some questions. We’re going to do our best to give you answers based on our experience and expertise. Let’s get started!

What can I use to build a website?

Depending on your business and goals, you may or may not need a content management system. Although static HTML works in some situations, the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs that we talk to find that they will benefit from a content management system as they want to continue to market and grow their business over time.

WordPress is an excellent choice for many entrepreneurs because…
  • 39.5% of the entire Internet is currently built on WordPress — there is a wide talent pool of expertise here
  • A customized WordPress website can be made to do a wide variety of unique things
  • WordPress and its underlying technologies are not going anywhere anytime soon
Shopify is an excellent choice for many entrepreneurs because…
  • It is a cutting edge e-commerce platform that doesn’t break the bank
  • It is easy to deploy a Shopify website
  • Shopify websites can be entirely customized
  • Shopify websites can connect to a variety of other e-commerce platforms and technologies so that the business can be as efficient as possible
If you’re on a super tight budget then you should….

Do you just need a minimum viable product? Is your budget small enough that it would make more sense to take a do-it-yourself approach?

  1. Cautiously consider looking at Squarespace but remember that it may be a poor long term solution depending on your specific needs
  2. Consider the possibility of sticking to a Facebook page or a Medium.com account that gives you the ability to post articles without setting up an actual site until you’ve flushed out your idea further

I’m someone who really wants to grow our business. We have a million other things to do. What else should we consider here?

  • Is it the right time in your business journey to put resources into building a website?
  • Do you want your business strategy to be written down before you design a website or do you want to use the website design process as an opportunity to better understand your business strategy?
  • How fast do you need to complete a website (or at least this version of your website) and will your presence on the project make that process faster or slower?
Do you have more questions regarding the web design process? We would love to help! Let’s take the first step toward sharing your brand through a unique website together.