After successfully designing and building websites over the last decade, website consultant Laura Yeffeth decided to join the ranks of the digital nomad and relocate from New York to Berlin. With a focus on building long-term relationships with clients, Laura’s design strategies ensure that their websites meet the needs of their growing businesses. One in a series of conversations about all things design.
“Building a successful website, not just a pretty one, requires a thorough understanding of your business, your goals and your users. Before I start designing, I take the time to learn about you so I can build a site that is custom-designed and developed to achieve your specific goals.”
cwd: Laura Yeffeth, welcome and thanks for having a conversation about website design.
cwd: You are a website consultant. How would you best describe what you do?
I work with individuals and businesses to grow their businesses online.
cwd: You’re originally from New York and now based in Berlin. What was the journey that brought you to Berlin?
Moving to Berlin wasn’t something I planned to do. I came to Berlin for a summer just to shake things up and experience something different. I didn’t know anyone here or have any real idea what to expect so I was lucky to meet some great people who have become close friends. Berlin in the summer is easy to fall in love with.
cwd: That’s true! On your website you write, “Building a successful website, not just a pretty one, requires a thorough understanding of your business, your goals and your users. . . . “ When starting a website or redoing an existing one, what are the most important points people should consider?
The starting point for any website design should be understanding your users’ needs and how they align with your business goals. From there you are in a much better position to build a website to achieve those goals. Busy business owners are focused on running their business, not on building a website, so it is understandable that they may not have given a lot of thought as to how to approach the project.
Often they will look at other websites for businesses in their industry as a guide to how their website should look and function, but that is a backwards approach. It’s my job to get them thinking about what they want to achieve with the website and use that as the starting point. Just because other businesses in your industry do things a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the best way for your business.
cwd: The internet is massive and sometimes intimidating – how important is it to have the right website presence online?
Considering this is what I do for a living, you might expect me to tell you it’s one of the most important things you can do for your business, but that isn’t always the case. It depends on the business and the people the business is trying to reach. We live a lot of our lives online, so for most businesses having some kind of online presence is important, but exactly what that is varies. In some cases, a very simple website could be enough, or their online presence could focus on social media and a website could be secondary. That said, a website is often the first interaction between a business and a potential client. The visitor arrived at the site because they are looking to solve a problem. Being able to capture their attention long enough to show them how you can do that for them is the difference between getting their business or not.
cwd: You have clients both in the US and Europe. What do you find are the differences between American and European clients and do they have different priorities, challenges and requirements?
I am not sure I can answer that question fairly since almost all of my European clients thus far have been expats from other English-speaking countries. But one difference that has been very clear is that all of my European clients have needed a website that could speak to more than one audience. Not only have their websites needed to be in two languages, but the way they engage their users (and the needs of those users) has been different.
cwd: That makes sense, as Europeans often have different approaches to business than say, Americans or Canadians. How is your approach to web design and site construction different from others in the field?
I focus on usability and user needs when designing a website. A website built with this focus should be easy to use, enable users to achieve their goals on the site easily, and be a joy to engage with. The design of the site should be beautiful and up to date with regard to technology, but implementing the latest trend or some fancy new feature shouldn’t get in the way of that goal.
cwd: What would you say are the biggest mistakes people make when doing their websites?
Thinking more about the look and feel of the site and not enough about the content. The site should be designed around the content, not the other way around. This is why I generally build custom-designed websites and avoid templates. With templates you are trying to fit your content into a pre-defined structure instead of being able to design the site around your content. Another mistake people make is focusing too much on what they like and not enough on the needs of their users. Of course, you want to love your site and have it represent you, but if your users don’t enjoy using your site or aren’t able to find what they need, it won’t be successful.
cwd: What trends do you see in website design and construction going forwards?
The trend toward mobile is changing the way we approach website design. While this is not exactly new, 2017 was the year when mobile officially surpassed desktop. I’ve taken a mobile-first approach to website design for a while now, but it’s still not the way most of my clients approach a project. As a developer, it makes a lot of sense to build a site from the simpler needs of a mobile device to a more complex version on desktop, so it felt like a natural approach to take, but it has benefits beyond development. By thinking about mobile first, you have to prioritize the content of your site, and that has a way of forcing one to clarify what is most important in terms of business goals, and to then write content accordingly.
cwd: Anything else you would like to add?
I’d just like to thank you for some great questions. We spend so much time doing the work, it’s helpful to step back and think about why we work the way we do.
cwd: You’re welcome and thanks for your time, Laura Yeffeth from laurayeffeth.com . Check out the Laura’s website to see examples of her clients’ websites. Laura Yeffeth was the Website Consultant behind christinewhitedesign.com