The most powerful element of online marketing is not creating great content. It also is not creating great products and services. Both of these are vitally important, and without great content, products and services, a company will never reach its full potential. The most important element in online marketing is web design.

Great design is the foot in the door. A website’s design is the first thing someone sees when they land on a homepage, blog or product listing. If the design is terrible or is not congruent with the stated purpose or mission of the company, credibility is lost with visitors before it is ever earned.

The best thing a company can do is get their web design strategy in order before they launch. That strategy should focus on telling a story for their potential customers.

Looking Like You Belong

There is a saying that inexperienced people tend to use that goes something like “Fake it ’til you make it.” That may work in the offline world, but it rarely works online.

Companies need to ensure that the look and functionality of their sites is congruent with what they have to offer. Sites selling knitting instructions and supplies should quite a bit different when compared to a site covering technology news.

Standing out from the crowd is less important than standing above the crowd. Clean, fast, and industry specific design is crucial when trying to make a good first impression.

Do Real Company Stuff

An important part of the story a website tells is to show that they are a real company. That means having a detailed “About Us” page, an easy to use contact form, and the necessary pages that detail privacy and security standards.

If people have decided to stay on-site long enough to reach these pages, they need to be good. Chief officers should have pictures, bios and perhaps a portion of their work history.

The people behind the company will always impart their own views and personalities onto the products and services the company offers. As shallow as it may seem, if the CEO of a company looks out of place or uptight, visitors will often use this information when forming their opinion of a company and deciding whether to buy or move on.

Focus On The Flow

Websites should be easy and interesting to navigate for the people who use them. Related products, detailed product descriptions and useful 404 pages all show that a company is doing its best to be in-tune with the expectations of their customers.

The issue of 404 pages is especially important. Most 404 pages show that the page someone expected is no longer there and then contains a link to the homepage. The problem here being that the search needs to start over.

A better option is to customize 404 pages. These can be set up to include links to popular pages, search boxes, and other helpful tips to show people where they may find what they are looking for.

It Comes Down To Values

A company that puts a premium on the user experience of their site can show this with great design. The story this design tells is one of caring about how people use their site, and the desire to make things as easy and enjoyable as possible.