Categories
Design Digital Marketing Information Architecture UX

How to redesign a landing page: why you should initially say no

Ever tried to buy something on a website but it was so badly designed that you couldn’t figure out how to give them your money?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that the average website is a pile of reactionary, incoherent content. A lot of content on sites was posted simply because there arose a need somewhere at some point to post an asset or alter a design, and it was done with no regard to the ecosystem it was entering.

Web designers and marketers should initially say no to design requests and first ask why.

There are probably 1.3 million articles on the web about how to redesign a landing page, so why am I writing this? I’ve found that a lot of design and marketing how-to articles are talking about some fantasy world where everything is perfect and everyone is super excited about following a process.

What about all the companies that have no process and live firmly in the Wild West of the web? And no, I’m not blaming or even criticizing these companies. Websites are a beast. A big, fat, hairy beast that is extremely hard to control once it’s gone rogue (which it does in a hurry).

The truth is, not every company can afford a fancy web agency full of bearded white guys sipping cold brew laced with activated charcoal. In a lot of regards, they don’t need to.

Hiring a strong digital designer adept at asking questions and crafting a coherent architecture on your site will go a long way.

As a digital designer, you should be asking questions like this at the start of any design request:

  • What is the #1 goal of this redesign? (you would be surprised how often this isn’t addressed)
  • What priority is this work?
  • When is the deadline?

From there, create an end-to-end journey map, starting with the routes your customers will take to arrive at the new page(s).

Reassess your flow chart and ask the following:

  • Where and how will customers enter this page or set of pages?
    • Email, direct mail, search? Explore all possibilities.
  • Will this page make complete sense to someone who enters laterally, say through organic search?
  • What contingencies and dependencies are there?

A flow chart/journey map will help you more easily identify even the smallest dependencies that could put your design on hold. Break the work into manageable chunks with their own deadlines.

You can’t design a page if you have no content. Look – I understand more than anyone how much joy you can get from using Back to the Future quotes as placeholder text, aptly named DeLorean Ipsum. But just don’t. Save yourself time and sanity by simply demanding content up front.

Start with a whiteboarding session that includes your copywriter and any other key stakeholders. Create a rough layout that you can combine with your flow chart and translate to a medium fidelity prototype using a tool like Adobe Xd. When you reconvene, it’s another chance to assess the flow of content. Your copywriter will then have a good idea of how the words will fit into your design.

All of these things were not things I knew how to do when I graduated with a Bachelor of Science. College gave me the skills to create smaller pieces of work, but I learned on the job how to connect all the dots and create coherent, usable designs.

Judging by the frequently chaotic state of the web today, I’m guessing there are many millions of people in the same boat! But I think this is a positive thing for digital designers – there is a lot of room for growth and to make a huge difference!

Categories
Design Digital Marketing

Ways to prevent global websites from failing at being global

As someone who has spent nearly half my life living and working professionally in both the United States and Europe, it seems to me that people are quick to assume highly Americanized global websites are simply the result of insular thinking among Americans.

Perhaps to an extent, but I don’t think that’s the biggest reason why many global websites fail at being global. They fail because they’re failing to take care of their biggest market – at home – before expanding into other markets.

Growing sales teams and acquisitions outside the United States create an immediate need for localized and translated copy on the company website. Underfunded web teams scramble to catch up and often end up serving in a reactionary capacity, completely side-stepping strategy and planning.

This creates sloppy, half translated, outdated content that ends up being an embarrassment more than an asset.

In my experience, smaller to medium-sized companies will hire exactly one do-all, be-all person to manage the entire global corporate website and anything connected to it. The job duty includes, but is not limited to:

The content administrator.

The designer.

The developer.

The troubleshooter.

The email … everything.

The marketing automation magician.

The analyst.

Meanwhile, marketing teams are able to call themselves just that – a team – likely filled with more than one graphic designer to design outdated print collateral. And do not get me started on the fact that these types of companies will hire an entire human being to manage social media alone. </endrage>

This problem has a few solutions.

  1. Establish a designated person to be the gatekeeper of localization. Nothing suffers from the deferred responsibility phenomenon more than managing versions of a website no one understands.
  2. Decide which areas of the site are most useful to sales teams and customers abroad. Make sure the English language content is completely in order, and focus localization money and effort here first.
  3. Inventory the crap out of your current English language content. Chances are high that 75% of it can be deleted, reworked or consolidated.
  4. Create an independent web team outside of marketing. Even if this team consists of one person, placing them outside the bounds of other teams will better enable them to serve the broader interests of the company both internally and externally.
  5. Hire a content administrator. Companies throw tens of thousands of dollars down the drain by forcing a web manager or designer to do the work of a new college grad or paid intern. An experienced web manager should not spend half his or her week copying and pasting words onto a website or uploading and deleting documents. You’re paying them big bucks for their technical expertise and strategic thinking – use it!

In future posts I’ll explore these points at a more granular level. I could go on and on right now because the topic of managing global websites is a genuine passion of mine!

 

Categories
Uncategorized

A lesson in productivity

If I remembered the post, I’d link to it, but Chris Coyier posted something somewhere recently about being more productive by handling short tasks as they come up. Essentially, if the task takes less than two minutes to complete, just do it now instead of throwing it on a task list.

This is a huuuuge thing for me. Any “task” goes on my list or in my email to be done later, during a mental productivity sprint. The list gets overwhelming.

Just this morning, I found a large dead bug belly up by my work table in my sun room. I thought, “I should pick that up so I don’t step on it since I can barely see it against the dark rug.”

Then I thought, “I should pick that up … later.”

Then I thought, “Maybe this is one of those 2-minute tasks. It’ll take me a lot longer to scrape the bug pancake off the bottom of my foot when I invariably step on it later, so I should move this off my task list and onto my now list.”

So I did.

Later I found myself stepping in the area where the giant bug had previously been, and I gave myself a huge thank you for not having to scrape bug guts out from between my toes.

I hope this story inspires you to get something done today. Happy Friday!