My last blog ‘Why your website needs to look in the mirror’ raised some questions – including what should it look like? So here are my three rules of website design based on my own experience of using the internet in the business world on a regular basis.
The starting point is deciding what the website’s job is. Is it a marketing tool, simply an online brochure or is it a reference site where people can find information? Is it an e-commerce and customer service site the only way a customer will ever deal with you and your business or maybe a mixture of all the above. I know this seems obvious but for many SME’s their websites are often confusing and are really only there because they know that they have to have one. Once you have that clear in your mind the rules I work to are as follows:
- The landing page should tell someone immediately what the company does, using great graphics if appropriate as a picture is worth a thousand words and strong but simple messaging – your positioning statement – and written in a manner that everyone can understand. And remember this is your chance to tell someone how it benefits them to do business with you so it should concentrate on the ‘how we can help you’ part of your positioning. To test this out find someone who has no idea what you do to check out your website landing page and then ask them to describe your business. If you offer a wide range of products and services do not try to show them all at once – a busy landing page can be extremely off putting as you are asking someone to spend valuable time to go through an enormous amount of content to find the reason why they should do business with you. I am not against having a lot of content on a website if it is applicable but technical details for example should be there for those who need it not in the face of every visitor. A well designed site should give all visitors the right experience. And if you have many different types of products, services and customer types consider creating slightly different brands and therefore different websites for each one to avoid confusing and therefore putting prospects off – this also allows you to focus the positioning on each segment of your business for a stronger impact.
- Remember that many visitors to the website might be looking for some very basic information – such as contact details. I cannot tell you how many times I go to a website and have to search for an address, phone number or email. And the thing that I find the most off putting is when a site offers a form as the only way to communicate with the company with no sign of a phone number or email anywhere – why on earth would a company make it difficult for someone to contact them? Isn’t it better to find out what you need to know about a new prospect during a phone call as a follow up from an inbound email or call? I would suspect that like me many people click off the website at this point and go to a competitor that gives easy to find and multiple contact options. I simply do not have time to enter information on a form answering questions that I am not prepared to share at an initial stage. I either want to send a quick email asking for someone to call me or if I need immediate information pick up the phone to speak to a human being who is able to answer my queries. Oh and if you have an e-commerce site compare the registration and check out process with other sites that you are personally happy to use and make sure your site is actually encouraging people to go all the way to placing the order rather than giving up through frustration.
- Make sure that the website does not become a shining example of ‘design over function’ The design is vital as per my last blog – a site has to give off the right initial impression that should match the product and service you are offering but too many websites are lead by design with the functionality coming a poor second. But functionality can lead to great design – if you offer a complex solution then a 30 second video explaining the advantages can work very well and help create great design adding another dimension. But it is vital that the video tells me something worthwhile – one of my favourites is customer case studies. A lot of companies throw up customer quotes but these are not as powerful as a customer explaining on film how they benefitted from doing business with you.
Three simple rules, great design with even greater functionality and a site that is fit for purpose whoever the visitor is.