If you are reading this I have to assume that you are an intelligent, salient being that already understands the value of having a strong online presence.
Whether you run your own business or occupy a management role in another, you know that the socially and digitally connected world we live in demands your ‘shop’ is easily found in the online space.
You also (should) know that the days of merely plonking down your flag on the digital landscape is not good enough – certainly not in terms of converting online traffic into sales – which is the ultimate point of having a website is it not?
Your company website
First things first. Your website is a company asset. It is your building, your office, your store – it is where people go to do business with you. The building (development) of that store is an investment; it is not a marketing cost from which you can expect return.
The activities that drive traffic to your ‘shop’ and aid in converting that traffic into leads (and sales) are, however, marketing-related and there you must certainly expect return from.
Your website is an asset and just like stores of brick and mortar where location, location, location was, and still is, a critical element of success, your website needs to be positioned and created in such a way that it maximises the number (and value) of feet that walk through your doors.
Three key questions your home page should answer
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- What do you want the visitor to do?
It is difficult enough to get the right kind of traffic to your website in the first place, the last thing you want to do is confuse potential customers with muddied messaging.
Everything, from your logo and company slogan, to your positioning statement and images used – all need to clearly convey what it is your company does. Take a look at this example below from FreshBooks.
What you see here is everything that’s visible on their website above the fold – meaning everything you can see before you have to scroll down.
What you have is:
- A clear logo with a slogan that already tells you what the company does. This is then followed by a positioning statement that reiterates the core function of the business, followed by an expansion on that by saying “Join over 5 million people using FreshBooks to make billing painless”.
- Right there you have a quantified statement of 5 million+ who trust the product, along with what the product does, AKA, “makes billing” (accounting) painless.
You’d have to be few briquettes short of a braai not to understand what is being offered to you.
Cleverly they then position three features of the product just above the fold you so can see their solution is ‘easy to use’, that you can ‘work from anywhere’ and that you can ‘save time’. They then follow that up with clear calls to action to try the 30 day trial or take a tour.
Contact details are also clearly displayed, providing a pretty good example of what your website home page should look like in terms of messaging.
- Don’t try and be too clever (just yet)
- Don’t try and say too much (save it for later)
- Don’t confuse the goal (ever).
The FreshBooks example could be improved on even further, perhaps with a quick view video and other tweaks but the basic principle is 100% correct and those principles should then be followed throughout your website’s sub-pages.
Use language that resonates with your target audience and make sure the content is laid out in a way that it’s easy to scan through, and just as easy to delve deeper into if required.
The main difference between a website and a physical building (bar the obvious) is that your website is never, ever, done.
You can always improve, you can always optimise and evolve, and you must always test the efficacy of those changes to ensure you get the very best results from your investment.
4 Key elements of web design
Before I close off I’d like to briefly touch on four key elements.
Your website must be optimised for mobile devices. Responsive design plays a key role here where your site adapts to suit whichever device it is accessed from.
A website that is not geared towards meeting the demands of a mobile consumer-base is a website knocking on death’s door.
2. User experience design (UXD)
Yes it’s a science and it’s all about how a user (site visitor) interacts with your website.
Knowing how a user’s eyes would naturally scan a webpage and then catering for those natural movements, choosing the right colours and images, and visually being able to guide someone effortlessly towards goals is what it’s all about . . . and, no, your brother’s friend’s son (who is good with computers) cannot do it for you.
Users are impatient and increasingly so. The fewer hoops they have to jump through, the more intuitive your design and flow of your website, the more conversions you will have.
Friction is the devil – great UX and common sense reduces this greatly.
3. Calls-to-action (CTAs)
Make sure that each page, or section, has clear calls-to-action. You are guiding someone through your store and you need to have appropriate, relevant, enticing catchment points where you can prompt the visitor to giving you their details, or perform another goal-orientated task.
Without CTAs your website is DOA (dead on arrival)
4. Test, amend and test some more
Websites are data-driven animals. With analysis of your website traffic you will be able to pinpoint where visitors drop off (leave), where they come from, how they convert and a whole host of other indicators that can help you identify areas of your business that need work.
Without analytics you are flying blind and wasting money . . . Every. Single. Day.
I leave you with this quote from Jared Spool in comment about website usability: “Intuitive design is how we give the user new superpowers.”
Does your current website do that?