Designers and web developers often ask me how to improve their website’s search engine optimization. As the field expands – as ever more businesses offer websites and online marketing – the terrain has become very competitive, indeed.

Patrick King, DEO of ImaginePatrick King has built his agency, Imagine, into a full service marketing company for professional services firms, with an uncanny ability to bring droll topics to life. In exploring how to tackle issues in managing a website for a creative agency business, Patrick has been kind enough to share his insight with me for today’s post in Strategic Team.

Interview with Patrick King, CEO of Imagine

Q: As a web design and development firm, what’s your biggest challenge for the Imagine website?

A: Today’s technology allows us to know exactly who is looking at our site on a daily – almost real-time basis. Not just demographics, but organization names, and the organizations are ones we are actively pursuing. We have only a moment to appeal to them, and it may be the only chance we get.

Our biggest challenge is getting the time to maintain a consistently helpful website to our visitors, and take full advantage of the visibility we’re getting.

Q:  Designers tend to be meticulous individuals, but ask them to label and organize their services logically in the website and I might as well ask for the moon. Why is that?

A: It’s a different side of the brain. Designers desire creative freedom, and can’t stand to rely solely on logic. They have an unsettling urge to make something different, to innovate. A lot of the time, that desire to innovate can cause a disorienting experience for the rest of us, which can be less than ideal at times.

On the same token, that desire to innovate has been a power that our world truly cannot exist without. The key is in establishing a balance.

Creativity is best used when it makes things easier for the end-user, and when the designer errs on the side of simplicity. When that is the basis of the creative direction, it leaves more opportunity for the analytical and structural side of the marketing team.

Q: Potential customers can take months to select a web designer. How do you stay top of mind after prospects leave the website? Out of sight is out of mind, right?

A: I think the key is to avoid “out of sight, out of mind” altogether.

When a prospect is on your site, it is the marketer’s responsibility to lure them into giving as much involvement as possible. This can be done transparently through data capture (email newsletter signups, whitepaper landing page forms, etc.). It can also be done stealthily through remarketing ads, but it’s really up to the motivations of the marketer.

One of the primary purposes of having a website (depending on the company, of course), is to start a conversation. Marketers need to build their site with that in mind.

Q: Portfolio websites can be slow to load, but that’s a problem where mobile sites and Google are concerned. Any suggestions?

A: Minify code, check image sizes, and make sure that if you’re creating a large portfolio on your site, that the webhost has the bandwidth to serve it.

Another issue that we see pretty often is with larger-than-necessary portfolios. The idea is understandable – the more examples you show, the more credible you appear and the more likely the visitor will see something they like. But this can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. The rule of thumb is that showing just a few incredible pieces of work are far more impactful than 30-40 mediocre pieces.

Q: Designers feel that the “user experience” on their website is intertwined with its visual impact. Are user pathways still a valid concern?

A: I believe so. We’ve been in the web design industry for about ten years, and the tenets of User Experience are what web design should have always been.

But I think the disconnect is when design becomes superfluous, and things are added to a site based on taste, and not on purpose. The end result is cluttered and confusing.

Our design methodology at Imagine is to make sure that each piece – color, text area width, navigation structure – works toward a goal. In most cases, it’s to lead the visitor somewhere. When you design with that simplicity and purpose, the final product is clean, intuitive, and lightweight.

Thank you, Patrick!

For seriously useful perspectives on marketing check out the Imagine blog; articles based on a wealth of experience, and a sure bet they are not the “same old, same old.”