About Anthropology, Web Design, And Business

webdesign anthropology business

• By Andrew Farquer •

 

How can you use anthropology to generate sales?

 

Designing websites can be tricky and it takes a lot more than just being visually appealing to achieve success. It needs to provide information, guide the visitor through the buyer journey, convert visitors into customers, and convey the right look and feel that is consistent with your brand. To achieve all these goals you’d need to utilize a lot of disciplines like design, user experience, marketing, and sales to name a few. Thankfully there’s one that’s perfect for combining these disparate concepts together.

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Anthropology is often referred to as “the most scientific of the arts and the most artistic of the sciences.” It spans two very different trains of thought and unites them to create valuable insights and concepts otherwise overlooked. It’s also perfect for defining your brand and its visual culture. In this article you’ll learn how to use anthropological methods to gather and analyze data, and combine concepts from business, design, and marketing to create stunning and effective website designs.

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Websites are primarily visual (colors, images, shapes, etc) and emotional (values, “feel,” storytelling, user experience, etc). They also have two main goals: to be a reflection of the brand and to convert visitors into customers. To achieve these goals you need to define key characteristics and aspects for each. We’ll be using anthropological methods and concepts to clearly define those characteristics and goals to make your website more effective.

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Defining Your Brand Through Anthropology

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Visual Characteristics

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Since websites are so visual, much of the effort will be spent on compiling visual representations of a brand’s culture through visual analysis. For this part, you’ll want to focus on the visual aspects that characterize the business and compile them into a list. Look for shapes, colors, patterns, textures, and designs that visually define the business. To find these characteristics try looking at the physical locations of the business, it’s competitors websites and advertising, and any associated culture the business incorporates.

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There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Chances are you already have a good idea of the culture of your brand and how it’s visually represented. A great place to start further refining and adding to the list is the physical location. Is it bright or dark, colorful or stark? What are the 3 most prominent colors? Are there any dominant patterns? What building materials are prominent? And are those materials natural like wood and stone, or more modern like metal, paint, or plastics? The two convey very different looks – one being raw and natural while the other is clean and sleek. This article lists lots stock image sites where you can get premium or free images.

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To help illustrate the process let’s examine a Mexican restaurant. Is it dark inside or brightly lit? Is it colorful with lots of colors represented or only a few? What are the prominent colors? Is it aiming for a rustic look with lots of woods and raw metals or a more modern and refined look with smooth, manufactured surfaces? Once you’ve defined the main characteristics of the physical locations, look to the general culture of Mexico for more details. Try searching online for images of “Mexico”, “Mexican culture,” or “Mexican design.” Be sure to also search for images associated with a more narrow focus like “Mexican restaurant” or “Mexican food” as well. Then look for visual elements that fit the narrative of the physical location. By now you should have a fairly well defined idea of what visually represents the culture of your brand.

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Emotional Characteristics

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After you’ve completed your list of visual characteristics you’ll want to create a second list of abstract, emotional aspects like edgy, cool, classic, clean, or trustworthy. What items from your first list compliments and supports the most important aspects from this second list? By cross referencing the lists, you can prioritize what elements best represent your brand and begin to use them in the design of your website. By this point you might be wondering, what about all the buttons, the layout, and the nuts and bolts that actually make up a website? Those are the final pieces of the puzzle but they can’t be put together until we know more about your target audience.

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Defining Your Clients Through Anthropology

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Now that we know what visually defines your brand, we need to define your ideal client/customer before we can start designing pages. Without understanding their goals and pain points, even the best designs will fail for them. Your ideal customer is the one you’d love all your customers to be like your BEST customer. Here are some of the top questions that you’ll need to answer to better understand your target audience:

– What do they want

– What resonates with them

– Who do they trust

– Where are they

– When do they purchase

– Why are they visiting your site

– What impacts their buying decision

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This is a basic list to get you started. To take it further, add questions regarding physical characteristics, income, and location. Once you have them defined, you’re really prepared to start creating the basic layout of your website.

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Page Layouts

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This is where you marry your business goals with the characteristics of your ideal customer and the visual aspects of your brand. The actual layout of elements on each page will be largely up to you however, there are some basic tips and procedures that will go a long way in creating an effective layout.

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For each page, visualize it cut horizontally into rows. Take each goal for the page and prioritize them, then designate each row as needing to fulfill that goal. The most important goal will be in the top row of the page and the second goal will be in the second row and so on. Finally take elements and use the list of visual characteristics to start designing each row. For example, you could use a list of logos your business has worked with to show social proof that the business is trusted by other brands and style it with a background pattern that reflects your brand. Check out this infographic on creating visuals for more guidelines to make yours more effective.

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Cut Out the Extras

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The experience the user gets while visiting the site (known as user experience or UX) is paramount to ensuring they end up loving your brand and becoming loyal customers. The aesthetics along with defining your business goals and ideal customer are major components to their experience, but make sure to remove any unnecessary extras. Chances are your ideal customer comes from a culture where speed and ease of use are critical so make sure your website isn’t overly complicated or slow. Keep it simple and uncluttered. Every piece has a purpose and a clearly defined goal. If it doesn’t, it should probably be removed.

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Wrong: “UX Isn’t Based On Anything Concrete”

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Good user experience and web design isn’t based on “just common sense” or “something you just threw together.” It is based on thoughtful designs inspired by goals and data from concrete analysis. High quality web design is also at the forefront of a good user experience for websites. In the end your website’s design and overall user experience should be based on a mix of concrete analysis, business goals, and artistic representation. If your web design and UX isn’t based on strong, logical principles, you’re asking for trouble.

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Next Steps

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Create Your Lists

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Now that you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to get to work. Create a chart to list all the visual elements that defined your business. An easy way to do this is to use a Word document where you can list words and phrases as well as import images from the internet. You can also take pictures of individual elements when analyzing your physical location to help you remember.

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Look To Competitors

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Check out your competition to see what they’re doing. You don’t want to steal anything, but you can use them for inspiration and to ensure your web design is better than theirs. Look at their websites and advertisements. What are they doing right that you could do even better? Or, what are they doing wrong that you should avoid with your design? Improve the good and leave out the bad to beat out your competitors.

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Use Simple Wire Frames To Create Page Layouts

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Use wireframes to help draft concepts for your layouts. There’s lots of software available to use, but the easiest way for a beginner is to simply use pen and paper. Start cutting paper into rows and drawing elements or labels. Then take the slices of paper and start putting them into a hierarchical order from top to bottom that’s based on your goals. Once this basic layout is finished you can start to create a more life-like version with images, colors, icons, and text using software. Or, you can go right to prototyping a live mock up. This wireframe or mockup is what you can now give to a developer and ensure you know exactly what you’ll be getting.

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Key Takeaways

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The most important takeaways are to define, define, define, and use high quality visuals. These two factors are by far the most likely reasons a website fails. Defining your brand’s culture, its values, how it’s visually represented, the characteristics of it’s ideal client, and it’s incremental goals are critical to success. If there is no definition, any attempt is simply shooting in the dark.

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The second, but equally important aspect is to use high quality visuals. From a user’s perspective it doesn’t matter how great the website is, if the images and visuals are terrible, the website is terrible. It’s as simple as that. You can use your own visuals, hire a professional, buy stock images, or a combination of all three, but regardless of where they come from, they need to be exceptional.

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Finishing Up

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As you can see, we used ideas, methods, and concepts from user experience and design to marketing and sales. And, if you want your website, and online marketing, to succeed, you need to use a lot of disciplines to create a solid strategy. Anthropology is perfect because it can defining your brand’s visual culture while also combining seemingly disparate concepts together to create a better, more holistic perspective.

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If you follow the guidelines and instructions above, you’ll end with two incredibly valuable items: 1) A sound strategy with defined goals and branding for your online marketing, and; 2) A wireframe layout of your website’s homepage based on your goals and visual analysis that you can hand off to a developer. Those two items will be the base of everything you do to promote your brand online.

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And you thought anthropology was just about studying people from far away places.

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Guest Author: Andrew Farquer

Andrew is the founder of Liberty Digital, LLC. He uses his training and experience in anthropology, design, and marketing to grow brands online. Born and raised outside Philadelphia, PA, he enjoys technology, culture, history, and traveling. Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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