| Branding, Business, Design Basics, Design Trends, Startups, Web Design

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One of the basic tenets of marketing is: know me, love me, trust me, buy from me. Whether your web site is your business (for an e-commerce store), or an extension of an offline business (the majority of businesses), your web site creates an impression that either leads to greater trust, or to lots of skepticism.

I believe the most critical factor in website design in 2011 will be the ability to build the trust of your viewers. A combination of technological, economic and educational elements are coming together that puts a more urgent spin on creating a true, and trustworthy web experience.

Specifically, I’m talking about :

  1. The continuing evolution of web design and development
  2. The recovering economy
  3. The greater understanding and appreciation of design and branding

These three elements separately and, more importantly, together are creating a critical movement as we march into 2011.

1. Maturing web site design means higher standards

If you’ve been in business for a while you understand that you can’t just design your web site once and think it’s done. Not only should you be updating content frequently, but you should plan for a fairly extensive overhaul every few years. The reasons behind this are that both your own business is changing, and also the web is changing. Many things that are considered “best practices” (or at least trendy) today either didn’t exist or held a different value five years ago.

As an example: a flash-based intro splash page. These were very popular five to ten years ago and someone was doing a very good job selling a lot of people on the importance of these. Now, they’ve fallen out of favor. I can pretty much guarantee there is something very popular today that is going to fall out of favor really soon. (My hunch: those walk on videos; but for right now the data shows that people react to them).

Web standards are also continually evolving. And the way we interact with the web is ever changing. Mobile applications will continue to grow in importance. We are in a period of rapid evolution in web design. I bet that if you haven’t redesigned your web site in the past few years, that you are starting to hate it.

You need to stay on top of web design and web development trends. That doesn’t mean that you need to be the leader. But an out-of-date web site screams that your organization is not keeping up.

2. Moving into economic growth mode

While the economic growth may not be robust, the US economy is no longer contracting. Business owners are starting again to invest in the growth of their business. We are seeing it with with our own sales. In 2008 and 2009 business owners were hunkering down and saving any cash they had. Now, it’s time for the survivors to think about moving forward.

The first movers are already investing in a better web presence. Have your competitors already launched a new web site redesign? Is your web site showing you as out-of-date? It’s time to get moving.

During the recession, many companies thought it was OK to take a do-it-yourself approach to your web site design. No one wanted to be seen as frivolous. And a plethora of low cost, do-it-yourself templates and web-building tools made it attractive. Now that some organizations are getting busy again, they realize that it’s a better use of everyone’s time and money to hire an expert to do it right.

Also, the recession forced many unemployed professionals to consider becoming entrepreneurs. These accidental entrepreneurs probably lacked the funding and planning to hire out for their first web site design. If you’re in this group, and have realized that you’re ready to take on the challenges of being a small business owner, then you need to show the world that you are serious by having a professionally designed web site.

3. A greater understanding and appreciation of design and branding

As I explained in a recent blog post, I’m happy to say that there is clearly an increase in the awareness of the importance of good quality design, well-designed websites, and branding. That means that people are judging your web site as never before.

People are more savvy about how poor most do-it-yourself sites look. They are able to recognize stock templates, junk photography and out-of-place graphics. All of these portray you and your organization as unprofessional and lacking seriousness about your business. It’s time to get serious about redesigning your site.

How to build trust

We are entering a time when people will find you and judge you by your web site like never before. You don’t just need a web site. You need a good one. Previously, there was the idea that you have to have a web site to be legitimate. But we’re beyond that. You can’t just have a web site; it has to instill trust.

You can get started by reading my suggestions on the Top 10 Web Design Trends for 2011 That Will Help Your Small Business.

You need to present yourself and your organization in a way that shows you are real and presents a solid brand identity.

All of these suggestions revolve around the fact that you can’t cut corners with web design and expect people to trust you. Your clients don’t want to work with someone who skimps on quality, sells snake oil, or who isn’t serious about their own business.

They want business relationships with people and firms that they can trust.

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