What every website will have in common is the broad mission – website engagement. You want people to click the links, expand all the menus, and look through the tabs. At the same time, every website is different: the organization might be a commercial business or a non-profit organization. It might be intended for processing customer transactions or attracting new leads.
While those differences will affect the design in terms of the layout or mood, the universal goal means that when you sit down to make a website, there is one function of the website that is always the same – you want it to tell a story. You want to entice your audience, to draw them in to “read on” and to engage.
Three Core Factors to Consider
Before you start digging in, there are three main things to consider:
1. Who is your core audience?
Think about the specific types of people who might come to your website: both those who will resonate with your content, but also those who might happen to come across it. Some are already interested in what you have to say, but some need to be convinced that they should be interested in what you have to say. Make sure to give each one of those types of audience members something to remember.
2. What is your core engagement metric?
What do you want your readers to do? The answer to this question will help refine the story you put together through your website. Do you want them to share it? Bookmark it? Do you want to drive them to action? Your story can create intrigue, be informative, or be inspiring. Craft a tone or effect based on what you’re measuring your engagement by.
3. What is your core message?
Trim down your takeaway. Always assume you have less time than you want from your audience. Boil down what you want to say and be until you know the essence of what your website represents. Your core message should be what you want every person who comes across your website to remember.
Sculpting Your Story for Engagement
Once you’ve drilled down on the details of your core audience, engagement metric, and message, you’re ready to sculpt a brilliant story with your website. Now you know who you’re talking to, what you want them to do, and what you want to say. A few key principles will help you craft a design that will turn navigation of your website into a memorable experience:
Present It Front and Center: This can be literally or figuratively, visually or verbally. Throw all key information in the face of your visitor. Assume that if they have to search for contact information, they won’t do it. Put it in the homepage and don’t make them scroll down.
Use Your Space Wisely: This blog design article expands on how to maximize use of this space. If you’re designing a layout that highlights a specific area of your webpage, put the main takeaway there. If your style focuses on minimal text, optimize it.
Be Concise: Tell your story in a way that makes it clear to the visitor who the storyteller is, what they have to say, and why the visitor should care.
Reduce Clutter: Consider a minimalist approach to your website. If there’s no clutter, there’s no confusion. Everyone struggles in our modern world of notifications, social media, and convivial technological devices to focus their attention. We can barely keep up with the newest events and trends. We also have incredibly overcommitted lifestyles. The average person is inundated with greater amounts of information than ever before and all of it is updated in real time as well as more often than not popping up to demand our attention on a screen.
Keep in mind that whoever you’re trying to reach through your website, they’re probably only going to give it half of their attention. Make sure they know they’re in the right place and that your website can meet their needs.
Tailor It Until It’s Relevant to Your Audience: This boils down to considering and identifying what information your visitor possibly will and won’t have before they find your website. There are 21 ways that your audience affects your design, but remember that it’s a bottom line for your content to be carefully and meticulously curated to cater to their needs in order to promote and sustain their desire to spend time perusing your website.
It’s easy to assume when you’re building the website that navigating it will be intuitive. Since you’re a fabulous designer, it will be. The catch is that for some segment of your audience, they might not take the time to look everywhere or click everything before going back to Google to find the information they want.
Try to anticipate what questions someone might have, or where they might click first as they explore. This is where the art of storytelling comes in to play; think of all the characters that make up your audience and what might appeal most to them. Then take them through the plot step by step.
Be Compelling With Your Information: Now that you have captured your audience’s attention and sustained it with relevant information, we need to close the deal, don’t we? In many ways, less is more. Try to foreshadow what else they might find either on the next post or next time they visit your website.
If you have a blog, you might let them know when to check back for new content. Another method would be to make your story entertaining: tell your background in a comical manner. Rather than using text, add a panel of stick figure characters depicting the tale. Be creative. Be fun!
When you can make someone react positively to your website, they will be more enticed to engage and come back. Make engaging with your website a good experience for your audience. By thinking of your website as telling a story, you can guide your visitor through each part of your design and then make it feel complete when they’ve seen it all. Have you found any good methods that have worked for you in the past? Share any websites you know that do a great job of telling a story.