So this is kind of the first piece of research which you’re gonna be doing, before you approach a web developer or it might be one of first things which they actually work with you on doing. The first thing that I want you to do is to list half a dozen websites or find half a dozen themes which actually you really, really like. And this is just to get deep inside your head and work out exactly what it is you like from how it looks and how it feels. So you’re looking at layout, colour schemes, position of logos, images, and things like that.
There are some really great theming websites out there which you could look at. There’s Envato and ThemeForest, which there are thousands of themes out there for a variety of different kind of CMS platforms. Also you could look at W3 Layouts, which are just some very simple responsive themes. One of my favourites is actually a website called WrapBootstrap, which has got some what I like to call naked themes, which you can plug into pretty much any website. In terms of websites, this can be any websites which you look the look and feel of. Anything from your local competitor right through to Apple and the BBC and some blue chip websites. I tend not to ask clients for websites which they dislike because what we’re trying to get a feel for is things which they like and which we’re actually going to put on their website. We don’t wanna get distracted by poorly designed and poorly laid out websites and themes, because we’re not gonna use those anyway so why try and use those for inspiration.
The second thing, which you should do at this point, is create a feature set, a list of features which you like. So this isn’t, “I would love it “if I could have this on my website.” We’re actually still looking at other people’s websites and themes. So you want to get a feel for what your competitors are doing and start to make a list of features on their websites which you like and might like to have on your own website. Creating extra features just to be different – it’s not really very acceptable. A lot of small businesses have this wishlist of stuff they wanna put on there, bells and whistles and gizmos.
What you need to think about is the customer journey and the more features you put onto your website the more confusing that customer journey is going to be. So things like animations, slide shows, Twitter feeds, things scrolling, things flashing, loads of videos, loads of bells and whistles, and extra whizzy things. And secondly, these things are gonna cost you extra money when you have them. So ask yourself the question, “Are they really necessary?” And secondly, does it form part of the customer journey? Is it actually gonna be a distraction to your customers rather than something that they’re gonna interact with and hopefully lead on to them buying products from you or buying your services. Have a look at your competitors and list features on there which you like. When I say features it’s not necessarily bells and whistles or interactive things. It could be something as simple as their logo, the position of the logo or size of the logo, what color schemes they’re using throughout the site, what colors really stand out on their website that draw your eye in, and how their branding is used throughout the website.
Is it consistent, for example? Have they used three or four colors very cutely so they’re not overused and your eye is drawn into a very specific button on that page that then leads you to submit a contact form or buy a product? And also ask yourself, are there any features that your competitors don’t have that you want on your website, and do you need those? Like I said, those could become a distraction to your customers. Finally, ask yourself what’s the core message running through your website? Again, the customer journey typically is somebody lands on your web page on the homepage and then you have determined at what point they’re going to do something on that site. So, like I said, it might be buying a product, it might be submitting a contact inquiry or a brochure request or signing up to an email list, which you’ve got. So just ask yourself what’s the core message running through the website that’s gonna take your customer from the homepage to one of the main calls to action and to submit that form? Good websites tend to have a very consistent theme and message running through their site, which leads the customer on that journey.
And it might be something as simple as the way they’ve used images, fonts, or colors throughout the website to take people on that path. For example, all of the call to action buttons might be one specific color that is different to all of the other colours on the website to draw the eye into that very specific spot on the website. So to summarise those key points, which I’ve just mentioned, in terms of getting inspiration for your future website, find half a dozen or so themes and websites which you really, really like. Secondly, list the features on those websites and themes that you like, then go and have a look at your competitors and work out what features they’ve got on their websites which you also like. And finally ask yourself, what’s the core message running through your site that is gonna take your customer from landing on your homepage to complete one of your calls to action?
Glenn has been involved in a wide variety of Internet marketing over the last 20 years. He holds an MBA from the University of North Florida. He lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida with his wife and two children.