Top 7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Web Design

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It’s been three and a half years since my brother and I first launched our web design business in 2000. I admit that we were pretty primitive back then, and it’s a bit scary to go back and look at the very first sites I created.

I’m thankful to say, though, that I’ve learned a tremendous amount since that time. Here are the top 7 things I wish I had known when I started:

1. Reading is incredibly valuable.

Learning from the experience of other people who have already “been there and done that” saves a tremendous amount of time. In my opinion, both books and online newsletters are very valuable. Books are more methodical than newsletters, but newsletters are free and can cover more up-to-date topics. Personally, I try to read on a variety of subjects, including graphic design, web development, search engine optimization, copywriting, marketing, and online business in general.

2. It’s imperative to understand the target audience and the primary goal for every client.

In order to design a site that truly meets a client’s needs, the designer must understand what the site is supposed to accomplish, and what kind of visitor they will be working with. I’m ashamed to say I truly had no concept of how important this was when I first started designing. I didn’t realize that a site’s target audience and primary goal should affect every decision-the colors, the size of the type, the style of the graphics, the content of the home page, the personality of the copy, and everything else.

3. A basic understanding of search engine optimization and copywriting is imperative.

Although you can design a website without knowledge in these areas, it’s pretty hard to design a GOOD site without knowing at least something about SEO and copywriting. Designers have to realize their craft revolves around their ability to communicate a message-and that is dependent on the site’s copy and visibility. Without any content or traffic, a designer’s work doesn’t do any good.

Additionally, any time you get into more complicated sites, you also need to understand the basics of programming. If you don’t, you’ll end up designing poor-quality sites, or else spending a lot of time and energy to correct mistakes caused by lack of knowledge.

4. It helps immensely to narrow your own target market as a designer.

It’s a simple reality that no one can be good at everything. Even in the specific field of web design, one designer can’t be an expert at designing all the various sorts of websites that are needed. It’s better to pick a niche-whatever sort of niche you’re best at-and hone in on that niche. Whether that means restricting your focus to e-commerce sites, or single pages for sales letters, or B2B sites, or sites in a specific industry, focus is key. It allows you to become specialized in one area and to develop real expertise in that niche.

5. Web designers should be marketers, first and foremost.

After all, that’s what websites are all about-marketing products, services, and ideas. If a web designer does not understand the mindset of a marketer or a salesperson, they won’t understand the logic of how to create pages that sell.

6. The point of graphic design is to increase functionality, NOT to create something that looks pretty.

The appearance of a website (or a particular aspect of a website) has a tremendous affect on functionality, but design is not for appearance itself. It’s a means, not an end. As soon as designers begin treating appearance (and graphic design) as an end in itself, functionality starts to suffer. Instead, graphic designers have to recognize that every line of text, every photo, every button, and every other element on the page should be designed to make the page more functional. If it doesn’t increase functionality in some way, it doesn’t belong on the page. Period.

7. Knowing the rules is good, and knowing when to break them is better.

If you learn the rules and principles that underlie good design, you’re a step ahead of the crowd. But if you have skill in knowing how to apply (and when NOT to apply) those rules and principles, you’re leaps and bounds ahead. Knowing (and following) the basic conventions of the web is very important, but it’s even more important to be able to think through the logic of a given situation.

Happy web designing!

Does your site have the essential ingredients that make customers buy? Jamie Kiley can help you find out exactly how your site needs to be improved. Sign up for a site review today at http://www.kianta.com.

Get a quick, free web design tip every two weeks–sign up for Jamie’s newsletter: http://www.Kianta.com/newsletter.php

Top 7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Web Design
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