Whether it’s getting important information about a certain topic or purchasing a specific product or service from our preferred brands, one could easily find a site that provides them with just about anything they’re looking for.
In the context of business however, some companies are still confused as to what it can do for them, aside from the usual benefits of being online and ecommerce of course.
So, we’ll begin by exploring what website design is and use that knowledge to understand why businesses should care about it going forward.
What Is Website Design?
To begin, let's start with a clear definition on what the term means.
Based on the different ones provided by multiple sources (Interaction Design Foundation, Technopedia, 99designs, Pagecloud and Wiki), website design refers to the production of graphics, visual content, site functionalities, and ‘user experience journey’ for a website.
‘It is the process of planning, conceptualizing and creating the overall look and feel of a website.’
To reach the end-product however, several components are needed to work in tandem with each other:
1) Graphic Design
Creating graphics and visuals (i.e. images, colors, layouts etc.) based on the brand identity of a business for the site.
2) User Experience (UX) Design
Creating a pleasant and memorable web experience for users on the site.
Put simply, it’s about designing the interactions a user makes on a site to feel more ‘natural’ from their perspective, so their overall experience becomes much more enjoyable when using the website.
Putting various features at the bottom of a phone screen to allow users an easy way to navigate around the site (as opposed to it being on top where they have to stretch their fingers to reach it).
3) User Interface (UI) Design
Creating attractive and user-friendly graphical interfaces for users to interact with a product, service or feature within the site.
4) Content Creation
High-quality written content that is not only informative, but useful and relevant to help businesses educate and persuade users in completing an action (i.e. purchasing best their sellers or subscribing to emails for a discount).
5) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Improving the website’s ranking on search engines to bring in more traffic to the company’s individual pages or entire website.
Alongside web development, these are five major factors that dictates whether a given site is successful or not.
However, the two terms shouldn’t be confused with one another as web design focuses on the front-end (or appearance) of a website, while development is responsible for the back-end (code) aspect that makes the site work and function as it should.
In essence, you need both web designers and developers to create a website.
Types of Website Design
At any given time, we’re often browsing the web through different devices (desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone), which means it’s common for sites to tailor and optimize their pages in such manner:
Essentially, the content of a webpage has to adjust itself to the different screen sizes so it can provide users a pleasant experience when reading and browsing the site.
To do so, there are two types of web design approaches employed to produce such results:
1) Responsive Design
This refers to creating web pages that dynamically adjusts itself to the screen size of a given device.
As shown, the site will respond to any changes in a browser’s width by adjusting its placement of the various design elements so it can better fit in the available space.
Essentially, a responsive website will show its content in an ‘optimal’ manner based on the available space given by your browser. If the size of the browser changes, then it will fluidly adjust the content to present itself in an ideal arrangement.
2) Adaptive Design
Like responsive design, the content in a webpage also adjusts itself to the different screen sizes.
However, adaptive design relies on multiple fixed layout sizes instead to determine the best arrangement for your content.
It does so by detecting the space available in a certain layout size before adjusting the content accordingly.
For a more detailed explanation, you can click here.
The Process of Website Design
A professional website isn’t just built from a click of a button.
In reality, it involves a carefully-planned process, with a step-by-step approach to ensure that the final product is able to help a business meet certain goals and objectives.
Thus, to fully understand what web design is, we’ll also need to look at the process that goes into building one.
Starting off, a web design agency will conduct a ‘discovery session’ (or an initial meeting) with a company to better understand their goals, products, target audience, competition and other valuable information about their business.
If possible, the agency will then offer consultation and relevant recommendations on how creating a website can help the company accomplish their goals more efficiently.
Through this valuable exchange of information, both parties are able to set down realistic expectations for the project while gaining a high-level understanding of what’s achievable, especially when it comes to the end-results and potential outcomes.
Once that’s established, several follow-up meetings will take place between the two parties to iron out the agreements and contracts before kick-starting the web design project.
From there, the team from the agency will begin planning the structure of the website by creating a ‘sitemap’, which is basically a list of pages within a site to help users visualize how they can access a specific page or content.
Here’s an example:
Put simply, it’s a blueprint to visualize the entire architecture of a website, which shows the relationship between each page and content, while defining the overall navigation and how it should be structured to provide users a clear and easy way of moving around the site.
That way, they can quickly and conveniently reach their end-goal of taking a specific action (i.e. signing up or making a purchase).
Not only that, but this helps the team in planning and categorizing each piece of content, section and page according to its importance while having a strong visualization of the user’s navigational journey.
Furthermore, they are able to understand which areas of the site can be improved upon to provide users with a better experience in the future.
Next, a ‘prototype’ (or demo) is designed to help everyone visualize the appearance of the website along with basic functionalities (i.e. image slider) that can be interacted with.
By doing so, it allows everyone an opportunity to see what the final product will look like early in the project’s life cycle, which helps to set down expectations whilst preventing any unwanted surprises for all stakeholders in the later stages of the project.
Similarly, the team will also provide suggestions on how the site can be further improved as a whole to ensure the company receives an end-product that satisfies their goals and needs.
3) Design & Content
After the planning phase, the team will start working on the overall ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of the website by designing attractive graphics and creating high-quality written content for each page.
Both the visual and content will also be tailored to the company’s brand identity to ensure a coherent and consistent brand is achieved to present a professional and credible business image.
However, if there are already pre-existing designs or content prepared, the company can choose to request for them to be used instead.
Once approved, the team begins developing the technical aspect of the website by writing the code that is responsible for bringing it to ‘life’.
In essence, it makes everything within the site functional (i.e. clickable buttons).
However, this is also the most challenging phase out of the rest as it requires a significant amount of time, effort and expertise to build out while ensuring each of the features are working as intended in a smooth yet efficient manner.
Thus, bottlenecks are to be expected here. But, it’s not a cause for concern as the agency will most often than not deliver the site on time and as agreed upon in the contract given their experience in managing such challenges in past projects.
In this phase, the website will begin going through a series of UI & UX tests to identify and resolve any issues, bugs and errors.
This is done so by providing a link to all project stakeholders, which allows them to view and access the site, while giving them the opportunity to provide feedback for any adjustments and improvements.
It’s also encouraged to access the site from different browsers and various devices as this provides the team with even more information on which areas to optimize given the different operating systems (Windows, iOs, Android etc) out there.
By doing so, they are able to address any critical problems that can make or break the website before it goes live, which ultimately helps create an amazing end-product that’s well-loved by both users and search engines.
Finally, as the site begins nearing completion, the team will run a series of final checks on it while also conducting a meeting with the company to go over a pre-launch checklist to ensure everything is in order before it goes ‘live’.
They’ll also be on standby to address any sudden or unexpected issues on the day itself to ensure the website remains smooth and functional to prevent business operations from being affected throughout that period.
An important thing to take note of is the maintenance of a website after it is launched.
Essentially, the internet is an ever-changing medium that constantly rolls out new updates with the potential to affect the performance of each and every website.
Thus, investing in a ‘site maintenance’ package with the agency is recommended as doing so ensures one’s website is kept in tip-top shape with constant improvements while preventing various unfortunate situations (described below) from happening:
a) Drop in SEO Performance
When not maintained properly, the site’s SEO performance will suffer, resulting in reduced site traffic, lowered search ranking, increased bounce rate (how quickly users leave the page) and various other unwanted consequences that makes it difficult for users to find your website on search engines.
b) Site Errors, Issues & Breakage
Sometimes, even the most well-designed website can break and malfunction for no apparent reason. This essentially means hiring dedicated personnel with technical expertise to fix those problems as they come up, so costly downtimes can be prevented from affecting the company’s online operations.
c) Complete Site Disappearance
One of the most important aspects of owning a website is to have a backup of its most recent version on hand in case of critical emergencies (i.e. sudden disappearance of the website). Put simply, it’s an ‘insurance policy’ that helps guarantee the company a fail-safe solution if something terrible happened to their website.
Without it, they have to start from scratch to create a brand new website all over again, which will require even more time, effort and money on top of the resource already spent on the previous one.
As such, these are some of the negative consequences that could come about when a website isn’t maintained properly. Thus, companies have to consider what measures are needed to resolve these problems once they’ve launched their website.
Why Is Website Design Important?
Now that we’re clear on what web design is, alongside the types and the process that goes into building one, it’s time to dive into the reasons why having a website is so important when it comes to running a business.
However, our focus won’t just be limited to the benefits alone as we’ll cover the various negative consequences and missed opportunity costs as well.
To do that, we’ll address the common myths and misconceptions most businesses have towards getting a website in the first place.
Myths & Misconceptions
1) “I don’t need a website because my business is already on social media!”
Starting out, social media is a great way to make a company known or ‘discoverable’ online. However, there is only so much it can do for them, especially in terms of acquiring customers, boosting bottom-line profits or even in building the brand image of the company.
To emphasize, let’s take a closer look at each of those points:
a) Acquiring Customers
To acquire customers on social media, businesses can do it through paid ads or their regular social media posts (a.k.a the ‘organic method’). However, most businesses often don’t realize that people are on social media to ‘socialize’, rather than to buy a specific product or service.
Put simply, they’ll engage with you by liking, commenting or sharing your posts, before moving on with their day as they’ll rarely ask to purchase what your company is offering.
With a website however, people clicking on it is a strong indication of their intention to buy as those consumers are using search engines to actively seek out companies that are providing the products and services they’re looking for.
In essence, this provides businesses a platform to engage and acquire those customers, which is often done through lead generation methods such as capturing their contact details from product or service inquiry form.
From there, businesses will be able to contact those users and convert them into paying customers, as opposed to the list of followers from social media who may or may not indicate a clear intention to purchase your products and services.
b) Boosting Bottom-Line Profits
Now, say that you’ve successfully acquired some customers via paid ads and/or through the organic method. With that, we say congratulations!
But, if you look back at the amount spent on ads, as well as the time and effort needed to create high-quality social media posts, it’s likely that you’re spending more than you’re making back in terms of ROI.
Not to mention, the opportunity cost of spending your company’s finite resources on social media when it could have been used on a website to boost one’s profits instead.
To illustrate this, one needs to understand the importance of analytics. Compared to social media, the data analytics provided by a website helps you understand certain metrics such as:
- Which products (and pages) are the most popular among your users
- How much time do they spend interacting with the content on those pages
- What their actions are on those specific pages and etc.
From there, businesses are essentially getting valuable information about their users on their online store, which helps them better understand what their customers are looking for as well as the types of content they interact with that eventually leads to the purchase of their products and services.
This allows them to prioritize what their website should do, as well as the improvements needed in order to drive up profits.
On the other hand, social media limits this information as the only useful aspect of their analytics is in helping businesses understand which type of content performs well with their target audience, as opposed to the user behavior that leads to product and service purchase.
c) Building The Company’s Brand Image
Social media is a good tool for brand building. But, it can only go so far because it restricts what businesses can fully show on their pages.
For instance, compare these two examples:
As you can see, the left side shows the various content produced by the company, while on its right, it’s able to fully display its products, services, company history and other valuable information.
Furthermore, having a website allows you to present your brand the way you want it to, which is more effective for building brand awareness over the long term.
Another important factor to consider is credibility, in which new customers who have never interacted with the brand previously, are most unlikely to purchase from them because they can’t tell if the business is legitimate or an online scam.
With a website however, credibility is more easily built as it allows one to display past customer reviews, in-depth case studies and video testimonials that helps remove certain objections a new customer might face in terms of legitimacy.
In fact, other users can easily create a social media page about any company and pretend that they are the legitimate ones instead, just like like this:
With that being said, being on social media is just not enough when it comes to running a business as the benefits of having a website clearly show why one is needed in the first place.
2) “My business is too small to have a website.”
In the world we live in today, this is one of the most dangerous misconceptions for businesses to have. Here’s why:
a) Consumer Behavior Has Changed
Ever since search engines were born, consumers have become increasingly reliant on them to look for information that can help solve their troubles on a daily basis (i.e. looking for various types of products and services).
Thus, people expect businesses to be online as they demand the convenience of being able to buy from them whenever they choose to. To that end, if a company (big or small) doesn’t have a website, then they’ll risk losing customers to competitors who have an online presence instead.
Not to mention, consumers often partake in webrooming, which refers to doing their research about a specific product or service before buying them in-store or online.
Without a website, businesses won’t be able to communicate all the benefits of what they offer to persuade customers on why they should choose them over their competitors instead.
b) Rapid Shift to Adopt ‘Digital Solutions’
In 2020, COVID-19 has forced many companies around the world to adopt digital solutions as a backup to generate revenue to survive long periods of business uncertainty.
This is made even more difficult for small companies who don’t have a loyal customer base, as they have to shift to selling online or risk closing down instead. Hence, no business is ‘too small’ to have a website in this day and age as the era we live in requires one to be agile, so one can navigate any risk and extreme uncertainties presented to them at a moment’s notice.
c) Competitive Advantage Against Industry Giants
From the benefits shown above, having a website allows you to compete with market leaders and industry giants.
With SEO, any company can effectively appear on the first page to gain an online competitive advantage against other established businesses, as customers rarely move to the 2nd page to look for the products and services they want to buy.
This essentially means you’ll be capturing a large portion of online customers (potentially from all across the globe) as opposed to the usual consumer base in one’s respective sector within a specific location.
3) “It’s too expensive, I can’t afford to have a website!”
For some, the cost of building a website might seem like a huge upfront payment. However, the investment made is actually more valuable than the initial amount paid.
Put simply, its a 24/7 business asset that helps with:
- Sales - A channel for eCommerce, B2B sales, or even a combination of the two.
- Marketing - A medium to generate leads, product enquiries and even nurture prospects into future customers.
- Branding - A platform to display the company’s branding in order to build brand awareness and loyalty.
- Advertising - A digital billboard that appears 24/7/365 to promote one’s products and services.
- Customer Service - An avenue for customers to have their questions answered via FAQs, chatbots or even live support.
And that’s just scratching the surface as businesses can effectively use their website for other roles such as (HR) talent recruitment, (PR / Corporate Comms) newsletter publications, (Investor Relations) and so much more.
To emphasize further, building a website doesn’t need to be expensive, as any good web design agency will provide you a site that is tailored to achieve your business goals, such as:
- Increasing monthly product sales
- Improving the quality of leads generated
- Enhancing the site’s user experience etc.
When done properly, it will also help the business in reducing cost for various functions in a variety of ways such as:
- Marketing - Lowers cost by providing the marketing team with a new avenue to execute digital marketing campaigns such as email direct marketing (EDM) to acquire new leads.
- Customer Service - Lowers cost by reducing the amount of support needed to handle large amounts of customer questions through FAQs and chatbots.
Putting everything together, one of the main reasons businesses believe that a website is too expensive is because they’re getting a ‘general’, low-quality product that doesn’t help them achieve their goals.
This ends up influencing their judgement about the effectiveness of a website as they did not get a valuable asset built properly to help them realize the ROI they were expecting.
4) “I don’t need a website because my industry doesn’t need one.”
Similarly to misconception #2, regardless of a company’s size or industry, not having a website can result in various negative consequences for the business, such as:
a) Limited Business Growth
Without one, the company won’t be able to capture large amounts of consumers who are looking for their products and services online. From there, they’re potentially losing out on additional revenue, possible loyal customers, and valuable market share to competitors.
b) Online Competitive Disadvantage
In this era, not having a website puts a company at a disadvantage on the internet as the lack of an online presence will only make it harder to discover new customer segments.
Furthermore, the longer one prolongs this, the more likely their competitors will gain an edge by solidifying their presence online. This then makes it harder for the business to compete if they do decide to go online as they have to put in double the work to compete against their established presence.
c) No Protection Against Physical Crises & Disruptions
As shown in 2020, not going online makes it difficult to run a business amidst disruptions and physical restrictions.
Without a website, companies aren’t able to operate normally, as they face difficulty with sales (or lead) generation and customer communications that strains various aspects of their business, especially in operations and financials.
Thus, getting a website means preparing for the threats and opportunities of the future so one’s business can stay competitive in an increasingly digital globe.
5) “My products are good enough on their own. I don’t need a website to display or market them.”
As mentioned, the world is growing increasingly reliant on the internet, which indicates that businesses with an online presence will only stand to benefit as the ‘digital population’ grows.
Yogood is one of Malaysia’s leading FMCG brands who has distributed their products to major retailers across the country’s various regions.
But even as consumers shift towards eating, being and living healthily, the company understands that having highly-marketable products in physical stores alone is not enough to capitalize on this entire trend.
Thus, they created a website to expand their reach to consumers all across the globe, which not only helps market the brand and its various products, but also with getting their hands in on the global share of the health and wellness industry.
In essence, a website helps businesses overcome sales and marketing barriers (or objections) often posed by consumers through combining various disciplines and functions together, namely:
Presenting a consistent and coherent brand across all regions of the world to establish itself as one of the global and industry-leading players.
b) Digital Marketing
Using different marketing strategies and activities to acquire and convert newfound consumers into loyal customers, while retaining existing ones that helps the company grow financially stronger.
c) Online Advertising
To not only diversify and reduce its advertising costs, but also in maximizing its ROI through efficiently promoting its products using different paid advertising campaigns.
d) User Experience
To create a memorable and one-of-a-kind customer experience when interacting with the brand online, in-store, or a combination of the two to further strengthen customer loyalty.
Put simply, a website is built to become a powerful asset for the company to help them scale, grow, and thrive upon its already successful business.
6) “I already have enough business. I don’t need a website.”
Just like the previous point, getting a website helps businesses further improve on its already thriving business.
Even if companies ‘don’t need any more customers’, one can argue that a website can be built for other purposes as well, such as:
a) Brand Awareness
Being online keeps the company on customers’ minds whenever they consider buying products and services related to their business.
b) Community Building
Maintaining constant contact with customers, interested prospects or even people outside the business’s usual audience segment that fosters strong brand loyalty.
c) Digital Readiness
Ensuring the company’s online operations remain functional to maintain internal and external communications amidst physical disruptions (i.e. lockdowns).
d) Revenue Expansion
Creating additional sources of generating revenue (i.e. restaurants with delivery and pick-up options) on top of an already thriving business.
To illustrate this, here’s an example:
Inovar is a flooring company who has found an innovative way of incorporating their products (floor tiles) within their website.
Aside from displaying it ordinarily, they built an ‘interactive studio’ that lets customers pair their desired floor tiles to a specific room.
This encourages people to get creative and spend more time interacting with their products, which has the potential to result in higher product sales as consumers find their perfect match or ‘style’ to recreate their ‘ideal rooms’ at home.
Essentially, a company can build a website for various purposes (sales or non-sales related) that comes with custom features to achieve a certain objective or goal in mind.
7) “There are too many things to worry about. It’s just not worth my time.”
Running a business is definitely not easy, especially when it seems like there’s a list of other things that are far more important to take care of first.
But, if the company constantly delays this, it’s likely that they’ll push this idea further and further behind, to which they’ll never experience the benefits mentioned above for their business.
For instance, is the company worried about spending lots of time on the technical side of managing their website after it’s built?
If so, they could always get someone from a web design agency to help them with running and managing it on a regular basis. That way, the company can focus more on what truly matters to their business and less on the technical side that requires skilled expertise to operate.
All in all, it comes down to a matter of prioritizing what’s most important for one’s business (in both the short and long term).
In fact, here’s an easy way to think about it - would a website make my business better off in the next (X) years? Only you will have the answer to that question.
To summarize, website design is the process of planning, conceptualizing and creating the overall look and feel of a website.
It combines together different functions such as graphic design, content creation, UX / UI and search engine optimization to ensure it performs well in both search engines and the company's customers.
But more importantly, it helps businesses in various ways, such as:
- Customer Acquisition
- Sales & Lead Generation
- Brand Building
- Business Growth
- Ability to Compete with Industry Giants
- Protection Against Physical Disruptions
With that being said, companies looking to build themselves a professional website in order to achieve a specific goal in mind can easily do so at this page to get started on their web design projects.