How to achieve the critical balance of website usability, design, SEO and results

What is the key to Web design for each of these audiences?

The prerequisite to effective design is to fully understand all of your site’s visitors. Who and what will look at it? What are their expectations? What is the end result you want them to get out of the visit?

Simply put, knowing your target audience is Marketing 101. Beyond this requirement, let’s take a look at website audiences and the related dynamics you need to include in your strategy before you set fingers to keyboard, or stylus to canvas, in ‘design.’

  • Devices: If you are not currently addressing the multiple ways the Internet is accessed, and how your website looks on each of them, then you are behind the competition and losing more ground daily. There is no uniform technical protocol or standard among today’s spectrum of devices. iPhones, Androids, other smartphones, iPads, laptop computers, traditional desktop stations, web TVs, varying screen resolutions and browsers used will all impact the experience of your website’s quality and effectiveness. Ignoring one or some could be a fatal business decision now or in the near future.

Knowing your audiences and their typical device use can help prioritize your design for device strategy, but be aware that this dynamic is a moving target. A case in point is the Web browser Internet Explorer, which held nearly 70 percent of global usage market share two years ago. Now, CNN reports that in early October 2010 it holds 49 percent — less than half of all users. How does your website render on browsers other than IE? 

  • Search Engines: This audience isn’t even human, but is critical to your website’s success. Design that accommodates the best practices basics as well as the format and content flexibility needed for ongoing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) competitiveness is crucial to your website’s ability to be found by the right people (your targets) using search to initiate, research and fulfill their products and services needs.

The entire practice of SEO is always evolving. What once was a most effective method in one time period may be saturated and even a detriment in the next. If your website is not designed to keep up, your SEO results won’t. However, it is quite possible to ‘SEO to death’ your Web content. This is where the balance with design for business results is needed.

  • People: Your Web visitors are not just your target prospective customers. They can be existing customers, prospective employees or influencers. Each needs to receive a favorable experience. The look and feel of your site, its content and the delivery of your corporate message needs to resonate meaningfully with your primary targets and to your secondary and other online audiences. Achieving this is a hallmark of truly artful Web design.

Then you need to connect the navigation and usability of your website to address these audiences and create momentum toward your desired end result (the lead or sale). I call this aspect ‘design for the directed path,’ which is orchestrating website elements and content that facilitates the journey of the educational process to the sale. Great Web design educates people through content that eliminates barriers and motivates them to call you, submit a lead form or purchase online.

When you have addressed the needs and expectations, and optimized the experience for each of these audiences in your website design, your business is primed to reap online results and best your competition. Thus, great business Web design = leads and sales.

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Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or