Great customer experiences must be your primary focus when running a small business or campaign. Especially when you have a limited budget to spend on your website.
Properly researched design solutions can cost nothing but your time. You might also need to spend a little on digital marketing or social, to give your website an extra push towards success. But generally, a lot of mileage can be gained by simply researching your audience.
1. Survey Your Existing Customers
The first steps you can actually do yourself, at no cost. Simply research your audience, get to know their pain points and preferences. The easiest way to do this is by setting up a survey. People jump at the chance to share their opinion, especially as consumers.
This is a great opportunity to engage with people and make good use of your mailing list. There are many tools available, some you might have to pay a small amount. You could also run a Facebook poll or just ask questions the old fashioned way on social media.
What questions should you ask?
The best starting point is your competitors. Spend some time browsing their websites. Make notes about what impresses you and what annoys you. After all, you are human too, with the same emotions and impulses as your audience.
Then include questions specifically about your competitors. What are people’s favourite websites and why do they return to them time after time? It might be that they enjoy reading the articles or the product purchase process is easy and quick.
These answers can then be compared to your own likes or dislikes. Often you will agree with your audience, but sometimes there are elements not obvious to you. This means your audience has very specific needs that you must allow for in your own website.
2. Research Informs Your Design Choices
Once you amassed enough feedback from your survey, you can begin to build a much clearer picture of your audience. You will have become one of them! This valuable research must then inform the design choices you make when designing your website.
You can begin sketching out layouts and sitemaps with either an old fashioned notebook and pen. Or simply use your favourite software to do it. Apps like Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote are perfect for building a prototype website. This doesn’t have to be a work of art!
But I have no design experience?
You will have learned a great deal from the initial survey you conducted. So you can approach your website “sketching” more as a consumer. Design specifics are not important. The goal here is to establish a customer journey, that helps your customers achieve their goals.
You can even expand your customer survey, by testing your rough designs with your audience. You might set up a Slack channel or Google Hangout for a few selected people. Then you can gather even more feedback and make adjustments to your sketches.
This process is invaluable and will be enjoyable too. You are unlikely to be in a position to afford professional researchers and consultants, so it makes better sense to work within the scale of your organisation. You will also grow closer to your audience.
3. Hiring The Right People
By the time you get around to putting your website into production, much of the groundwork has already been done. Your valuable customer research will form the basis of a development brief. Your instructions will be very clear about the goals your website need to achieve.
A digital professional can turn your rough sketches into a working product. Armed with your research, you will feel more empowered to steer the production in the right direction. It also pays to research carefully the people you are hiring.
A strong supplier relationship ensures website success
Personalities and a long term relationship with suppliers is vitally important for small businesses. If you hire the wrong people, then you waste vital funds. Because you are continually changing suppliers, either due to poor quality work or personality clashes.
Ultimately, what really matters, is a consistent and positive relationship with your key customers and users. So being organised with your research and hiring reliable people ensures a successful digital product and the chance of a better return on investment.