In our world today, consumers are exposed to approximately 5,000 marketing messages per day, and the reality is, if your brand is going to stand out, you’ve got to make one hell of a first impression. Simple design principles can’t compete with design executions that merge strategy and innovation for an unprecedented digital delivery.

When it comes to websites, research shows you have seven seconds to hook your reader, so, if you haven’t already, you need to get creative in finding a way to ensure you’re making a stellar first impression. From a first glance, your viewers should be able to quickly determine what it is your brand does, but that’s not all your website’s first impression should aim to accomplish. Companies who view their website as an opportunity to cultivate relationships with customers and generate sales use top-tier design tactics to capitalize on the initial interest of the user, elicit a sense of engagement, and create a seamless experience where the site is intuitive and convenient enough for new users to navigate it with ease.

What I’m trying to say is this: it’s not enough to have a website that’s aesthetically or visually pleasing. Consider using coding techniques, animation, and alternative digital mediums to give your audience an experience that isn’t comparable to what other brands are doing with their website space. The digital era has created a new standard that assimilates websites and businesses as being essentially synonymous, and websites are an important marketing tactic for a brand, but don’t approach the creation (or rebrand) of your website with the mindset that it should echo the function and feel of every other business website. Get creative, think about what hasn’t been done yet, and don’t be reluctant to try something new. How can you do this? Whip out that handy pen and a pad of paper and take note of these pointers.

You don't have to be a Belieber, but you've got to have Purpose.

Every detail on your website—from the layout to the footnote—has to have reasoning. The format, the color scheme, the tone of voice, the imagery… All of it has to be curated with intention. Why? Because each of these things resembles a piece of a greater puzzle that drives the story of your brand. Think of it this way. How many times have seen a brand position themselves as being an innovative thinker or a leader in their category, but when you check out their product, their website or their social media presence, everything you see aligns precisely with the efforts of their competitors? It’s got consumers everywhere thinking, What Do You Mean? Justin Bieber jokes aside, this is a common occurrence, and thus exemplifies the impact your website can have in generating success for your brand. Create a plan, ask as many questions as you can think of, adopt the perspective of a potential customer, and do something with your website that reinforces the key points behind what you have to offer. It won’t get you a Grammy nomination, but it will benefit your business in the long run.

Use your website as a space to be more thoughtful than Leslie Knope.

You can learn a thing or two from the iconic Parks & Rec character who coined Galentine’s Day as an unofficial holiday for women. Known for her over-the-top gift giving and impressive attention to detail, Knope’s infamous gestures aligns with the opportunity for brands to cultivate a loyal audience of repeat customers through their webspace. A great way to convert one-time visitors in to full-fledged fans is to integrate thoughtful offerings, helpful demos, or other resources that ultimately add value to the lives of your audience. Again, this is where you can identify opportunities for your brand by assessing what’s not happening in the market. Hallmark and Dove certainly didn’t think of Galentine’s Day as a way to market a gushy holiday to women, but thanks to NBC, it sure is benefitting their February sales. Point is, create distinction for yourself by thinking about what your customer wants and reinventing the ways you serve them. Don’t just create an educational eBook or a social media calendar, but instead create something that breaks down social media scheduling step by step, or an app that syncs to-do’s from Trello or Hootsuite with your Microsoft Outlook Calendar. Forget the thinking that your website is about you because you’ll reap the most success when you reinforce your persona by approaching all the contents of your site, including resources, blog posts, white papers, etc., with your customer in mind.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, creatives began to design with the big picture in mind.

The legacy of George Lucas’ Star Wars persists over time because the minds behind the franchise consistently demonstrate an admirable ability to create from a macro view. A great website doesn’t earn its rep by excelling in an isolated area, but instead receives recognition when all of its components work cohesively to make a more compelling and enticing statement. This means you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the content across the site diverse? Does everything we have on our site serve a unique purpose? Are we communicating these messages in the most interesting and compelling way we can think of?
  2. In considering the perspective of a first-time visitor, is our navigation easy to follow? Can I quickly find what I’m looking for? Do we direct the viewer from page to page in a way that’s intuitive, or do the direction cues get confusing? In what ways we can simplify any facet of this process to make it easier on our audience?
  3. What options do we provide for sharing content? How are we incorporating social media pages? Are we maximizing the ways we create parallels between our website and our social media accounts? Do we have a feature that allows viewers to join our mailing list, receive a newsletter, or receive updates happening on our blog?
  4. How does our website appear when accessed through a mobile device? Is the format and navigation on mobile as seamless and accessible as it is on a desktop? Is the content on the mobile app easy to digest, or does it get overwhelming?
  5. What’s our strategy for search engine optimization? Do we have an idea of what keywords will drive the right people to our website? How can we ensure we are implementing an approach that gives us the exposure we are looking for?

Creating a website is no small task. In fact, it can be intimidating and daunting to say the least. However, when it’s done with intent and unprecedented thinking, it can be a beneficial conduit for growth and long-term success. Contemplate these tips the next time your website needs an upgrade, and be sure that when you use them, you  implement each sentiment on your own terms.