Feb 2, 2011

Google Dictates Web Design

We all play by the rules; Google’s rules. Scan the web, and you will see website-after-website conforming to the rules.

As search has grown in relevance, companies are doing everything in their power to rank high in Google. According to Marketo, “93% of B2B buyers begin their buying process using Internet search.” No wonder everyone is playing by the rules. We are optimizing our content, our meta tags and our backend code to rank higher. Everything that can be optimized for Google is being optimized.

Optimizing is just a $10 word for conforming. Conforming may feel like an ugly word, but it’s actually great. Think of Google’s structure like road markings. We know where to drive, how fast to drive and where to turn based on the signs of the road. That structure helps us make decisions faster, and gets us where we want safely.

By designing our websites to suit Google, we are making it a lot easier for users to find information and make decisions. They don’t have to interpret our designs or our interfaces. They know what to look for, where to click and how to get what they want.

Structure makes persuasion easier

Check your Google Analytics. I’m willing to bet the two most clicked on pages on your website is “About Us” and “Contact Us.” Those are the go-to places for users trying to sort out who you are, what you do and if you can help them.

Knowing where your customers are looking is very valuable. It’s like the lines on the road. Based on Google’s structure, you can predict your customers will look at the top menu to navigate, they’ll read the headings to identify the topic of a page, and they’ll read the first couple lines of text to get the gist of a page. It’s your job to fulfill those expectations.

Structure frees your users to take the next step. If you fulfill their expectations and answer their questions, they can decide whether your products and services are a fit or not. If not, they’ll leave. That’s cool. It’s better for a customer to qualify themselves, than to waste your time with them in a sales process that won’t close. If on the other hand your service is a fit, that’s even better. Now you have a qualified prospect who understands what you do, and is ready to talk about how you can assist them.

Innovate in experience not structure

Innovate inside the box. Rather than playing with the structure of your site, work on the customer experience.

Four areas where you can innovate on your website:

  1. Graphics: Use unique pictures, colors and designs that bring your brand to life. Your customers should be able to get a sense of your brand and your company’s personality without reading a single word.
  2. Core Messaging: Your website has to sell as well as your best sales person. Your customers are forming an opinion on your company and its offerings based on what the website says. Work to constantly refine your value proposition, your examples and your descriptions so that customers get you without any human intervention.
  3. Content: Provide free content. Content is an exceptional way for your customers to get to know your firm, how you think and what you have to offer. Blog, tweet, videos. You have lots of options to share relevant content with your customers.
  4. Simplicity: Play within the rules. Create a navigation system that’s straightforward, easy to use and doesn’t take any thought. The faster you can get your users to the right content, the better.

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