Web design comes in a variety of flavors — recognizable groups of sites that are so regular and well-defined that you recognize one of them within a moment of seeing it. One of those is the ‘Corporate’ website that tries its hardest to simultaneously convey cutting-edge modernity and traditional values. You know it from the large, eye-grabbing hero image, the flatter-than-average design, and the minimum of three smaller sections describing “solutions” and whatnot. But that’s just the basics — how does a web designer achieve the goals of a corporate site? That’s a little more difficult.
KISS it off
The first step is to strive for simplicity. Not to be confused with being plain or Spartan — we’re talking about having a site that is immediately and intuitively usable by the people who will be landing on it. Keeping in mind that — all judgments aside — a significant portion of your typical corporate audience is definitionally on the lower half of the bell curve, usability can be more difficult than it seems.
The rules for simplicity are:
- The user experience should leave them thinking “that was easy!”
- The only information that is displayed should be the information most relevant to the people who clicked through to it.
- Copy should be edited ruthlessly, until it is as digestible and scannable as possible.
- Stick to your message, and make that message as obvious as possible.
Show and Tell
Storytelling is a crucial part of every corporation’s image — if you don’t tell the consumer why you’re not some faceless business entity maximizing profit at the expense of man and environment alike, they’ll assume that’s exactly what you are. But you can’t just tell a story — you have to show the story in action, or it’s not believable.
Videos, animations, slideshows, links out to unsolicited testimonials, live feeds of social media mentions — anything that can complement the story being told by the copy and add another dimension will do the job. But don’t forget that every static element of the webpage, from colors to shapes to layout, also affects the customer’s perception of your story, as well.
Just remember that telling the story is rule number two — simplicity is still primary. Figure out how to convey your message powerfully in a few elements as possible, and be done when you’re done.
Once you have your message ringing loud and clear on your website, and you’ve worked out all of the technical details regarding what specific services your customers will be able to utilize on your website, it’s time to make absolutely sure that as many people as possible can use your website. This is a purely technical issue, but a profound enough one that it’s worth a separate entry. A modern corporate website must be able to work on, at minimum:
- Internet Explorer
- Opera, including Opera Mini and Opera Mobile
- Silk (Amazon’s in-house mobile browser)
But browser access isn’t your only hobgoblin. You also need to pay attention to details like the ADA’s checklist of accessibility concerns, which in turn don’t cover ‘minor’ disabilities like color blindness, which you also should consider.
Every element of a corporate website, ideally, comes together to accomplish a single goal: to convey the corporation’s desired image and story to as many people as possible. Simple, crystal-clear storytelling that everyone can access and understand is at the beating heart of that endeavor. Everything else, quite literally, is just details.