Your website is not just a digital version of a phone directory ad. It’s a powerful tool in your business’s strategic marketing and delivery of your products and services. So what should you do to prepare before you create a new website?
Who are you? Why are you? What are your business goals? What are your biggest challenges and greatest strengths?
Every business is unique, and that is part of why off-the-shelf solutions fall short of what a completely customised approach can achieve. Your business has a unique selling point, probably more than one. The combination of people behind the brand is unique, bringing different abilities and insights. You need a website that reflects your brand and your brand’s values, not just your logo colours.
The people who visit your website are the key. You need to understand what they want, how they think in relation to your product and what motivates them. User experience is what makes or breaks websites. Marketing personas help you to provide an excellent user experience and get the conversions you need. These are composite characters based on your ideal customers’ behaviour. Consider their fluency with technology, how urgently they need your product, and what makes them hesitate before buying.
It has an important job: to convert visitors to sales leads. If that isn’t happening, something is wrong. Let’s do a little troubleshooting and see why your business website isn’t convincing your visitors to take the next step and identify themselves as actual sales leads.
We’ll start with the most obvious thing – are you asking them? Your website should include a call to action (CTA). (It should include more than one, actually, and they should be a strategic part of your design.) You should be asking your visitors to take concrete, easy steps. Give them a button to click that will add them to an email list or give them an easy form to complete to email you.
Your call to action should be clear. People want to know exactly what they are getting when they click that button. Tell them what will happen, and also tell them what will not happen. People worry about how the information they submit to you will be used. Reassure them by telling them what you will not do (pass it along to others, for example).
Websites don’t have ‘best before dates on them. But you can look for these five signs your current site has outlived its usefulness.
Before making a final decision you need to ask yourself: Is Your Site Caught Up With These Web Design Trends?
Your visitors have evolving expectations, and if your site doesn’t meet them, they won’t stay. Your web design needs to be visually compelling and show empathy for your visitors. Is your site up to date on these three trends?
The goal isn’t a website with every new trend and functions out there. The goal is a professional website that converts visitors to solid sales leads. The whole point of your business website is to increase your sales. To do that, it needs to be irresistible to your audience. It doesn’t matter which colours or visuals are hot this year, but it matters which ones appeal to your market. If your website is just taking up cyberspace and not pulling its weight, you need a new one that will add some muscle to your marketing.
Timing is critical in marketing. A savvy marketer is careful about the timing of everything from posting on Facebook to promoting sales to redesigning your online store. A website might need a redesign for many reasons. It can be that the design is simply stale and failing to attract people or that it offers a poor user experience because the technology behind it is out of date (Old website templates). Perhaps the information is no longer complete or accurate. Maybe the company has rebranded. Whatever the reason, whether or not a website needs to be redesigned is a separate question from when the new site should be launched.
Here are a few good times to launch a redesigned website:
Each year offers many opportunities to launch a new and improved website. Technology and consumer demand are always changing. That means no website can stay the same for too long without hurting the bottom line.
Web design has different components. If you are planning to create a new website for your company or if your site needs to be redesigned, this post will help you understand the basics of what that involves. Most of us think in terms of how a site looks and what features it has.
However, professional web designers face a complex assortment of challenges in creating a site that reflects your brand’s image, does what you want it to do, encourages visitors to navigate it intuitively and engages them with compelling own images and content. We can break down the design aspects of the job into three categories: graphic design, user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design. Here’s what each of those terms means.
This is the one component of websites that most of us are familiar with already. Graphic design refers to the visual elements of a website. It is the colours, shapes, images, fonts and layout of a website. A graphic designer is a person who can blend these elements to create a picture that says the right thousand words about your brand.
This component is critical to your website’s success because if your site is not visually appealing, people won’t stay there. They will click away in an instant, and you can lose them before they have even seen what you have to offer. The graphic designer ensures that your content is easy for the eye to scan, that the colours and lines of the layout set the right tone and that the overall look says something about who you are.
UX is about the feel of your website. It refers to how a visitor’s experience is on a website. Is it easy to figure out how to get from one page to another? Can visitors intuitively get the hang of the site and navigate it? Is the design consistent so that when they understand how one page works, that knowledge can be applied to all pages of the site?
Is it in any way frustrating to use your website visitors? Do they spend too much time searching for things? Do they go down a lot of dead ends that don’t lead to the information they need? User experience designing, like graphic design, must focus on the specific audience for each site. What works for one demographic won’t necessarily work for every audience.
UI is the technical side of how a visitor explores a website. It should be influenced by UX, but it is a separate element. UI includes things such as forms and messages as well as the functionality of the site’s layout. User interface designers decide how a site communicates with visitors, what messages pop up and prompt visitors to take action and how the site confirms they have successfully taken an action. UI design is pragmatic.
All three of these elements need to work together and be informed by each other. Each type of design must reflect a solid, detailed understanding of the website’s visitors. When that happens, people genuinely enjoy visiting the site. They stay there longer. And that ease of use and longer time on the site lead to more conversions.
A website is your primary interface with your customers in the online world. Using these best practices from the Infographics below will help you better evaluate the returns on your investment.
No matter how you are successful in following previous tips you should never forget about website responsiveness and website navigation, so we are giving you a few words about what needs to be respected.
With the relentless rise in mobile phone and tablet use, a modern website needs to adapt to a near-infinite number of screen types. A fully responsive website will rescale itself to preserve the user experience and look and feel across all devices — with no irritating zooming, scrolling or resizing. These days web users crave consistency and an elegant User Experience (UX), and they’ll eject if your site isn’t fully responsive.
So a website must ‘respond’ to the device it’s viewed on. Designer Josh Clarke once used the words of Bruce Lee for the analogy that content is like water — your content and design should take on the form of any device, and flow anywhere. Stephanie Walter presents the concept in the illustration below.
How many times have you left a website when a form was impossible to fill out on a phone or tablet? Or even worse, after completing the form, being stumped by a misplaced confirmation button? Or clicking an Instagram ad only to land on a site with a ‘buy’ button that doesn’t work?
If your website isn’t fully responsive, there’s someone right now ready to throw their phone at the wall because of a bad user experience. You could be losing clients without realising it.
The good news? It’s hard to find a developer these days who would even consider building a non-responsive site. The bad? There are loads of automated site-builder and Content Management Systems (CMS) options on the market. If you want your site to carry your brand identity and personality, you don’t want a generic website with ready-made click-and-drag buttons.
The best advice is to put in the design work now, and future-proof your website. You can redesign it to become more responsive, or even build it from scratch. You need a professional, forward-thinking team to design and develop a fully responsive site, and our Creative & Web Design experts nail that brief.
Visuals are critical to catching the eye of visitors to your website. Before people read the words, they see the overall graphic design of your site and the photos. If what they see fails to grab their attention, they are less likely to read the text. The photos you chose set the tone for your site. They tell people about your business. Is it fun or formal? Creative or dull? It should go without saying that you need to use high-quality images. If the pictures on your site are low quality, people will assume the same about your products or services. But what kind of photos should you use?
If you are selling online, you need to give people clear own images of your products. They want to see exactly what they are getting before they buy. One clever way to let them have a really good look at your product is to include a zoom feature so they can see the detail of the items close up. For clothing, soft furnishings and anything else made of fabric, people want to see the texture of the material. You should also have photos of the items from different angles.
If people can see images of other people using your product, that helps them imagine themselves using it. With many products, you are selling more than the item itself. You are selling the whole image and lifestyle associated with it. Photos that show the product in context show the bigger picture that you want potential buyers to see.
You can hire models or cajole friends into posing to showcase your product in use. This can be a powerful way to show the whole lifestyle image because you control every detail of the photo. But showing real customers enjoying your product is also very effective, and it is easier than you might think. You can use Instagram to share user-generated photos of real customers using your products. That helps people imagine themselves using your products too.
What if your online store is selling something intangible? How can you use photos to boost sales if you are an accountant, a massage therapist or a dentist? Photos of you working are effective because just like with products, people can more easily imagine themselves in the scene. Let’s take accountancy as an example because no one is going to be motivated by photos of an account’s ledger. But photos of you in your office can show a welcoming, organized space with you and a client chatting. People have some downright scary mental images of a visit to the dentist, but you can show a photo of your staff warmly smiling in a sparkling clean area and that will reassure them.
You can also use photos to show a complete view of yourself and your team as real people. Include a section with brief bios of your key staff and show them outside of the office doing something people can connect with – hiking, playing with a pet, cooking. By showing more of your company’s human side in photos, you give potential customers more to connect with as well as reassure them that you are indeed real people with lives and hobbies. All of that serves to increase their time on your site, and that in turn increases the odds of them converting from a lead to a sale.
It does not matter how pretty a professional online presence is if people can’t find what they want instantly. Of course, you do also want your site to look good, but the primary thing is that people can navigate it easily. If you are selling something, your visitors need to know exactly what it is and how to buy it with as little effort as possible. Here are three tips to improve your website navigation.
If your site has been online for years, your business has probably evolved – and your professional website is along with it. But if you’ve been adding things without doing a real redesign, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of clutter. You might even have some expired links and dead ends on your site, which are a disaster. Go through your site and remove anything that’s out of date or irrelevant to streamline your visitor’s user experience. While you want to have plenty of calls to action, make sure none are past their sell-by date. Limit the number of items featured on your home page, and go through your product/service pages to remove anything you no longer offer. Check your ‘About Us” page for bios of anyone no longer with the company. Your home page should be clear, with the main navigation prompts easy to see.
Most people come to your page looking for something. Yet many websites have headings such as ‘products’ or ‘services’. Be more specific in your navigation links. ‘Necklaces’ is better than ‘jewellery’. ‘Table wear’ is better than ‘ceramics’. We tend to gloss over the broad and general, while the specific grabs our attention. It also means that people can get to what they want faster. The faster they can get to what they want, the less likely they are to get frustrated. And frustration will cost you sales in the online store.
While you want to be specific, you also want to balance that with keeping the information to a manageable level. The human brain tends to get overloaded with more than eight options. So your navigation lists should not exceed eight items. If you have more options, for example, if you are selling a wide range of products, you can group them into broader categories such as ‘kids’ clothing’ or ‘kitchen linens’.
A good user experience gives you an edge over the competition. How your site looks and functions are almost as important as what you are selling. Your goods might be exquisite, unique and competitively priced, but if your site is too frustrating to navigate, people will go elsewhere.
We’ve noticed a stretch in the days. Spring is just around the corner, and we know what that means. We’re supposed to give the house a thorough cleaning. It’s hard to get motivated for that, but there is a real payoff when you give your own website a good spring cleaning.
Over time, you can accumulate some clutter on your website without noticing it. That clutter hurts the user experience, and that in turn hurts your online store sales. You want happy web visitors because those are the ones who convert to sales. So here are a few spring cleaning tasks that you do as you procrastinate about cleaning the cooker and washing the windows at home.
The cost of making a website may vary depending on whether you choose a DIY approach, or hire a web designer or developer. Hiring a web expert can be a significant expense that generally requires an initial design cost and an ongoing maintenance fee. However, the good news is that it’s usually only the initial investment that’s that high.
Which option is best for you depends on several factors, like your level of technical knowledge, the size of your project, your budget, and how much time you have. What kinds of websites you are planning to create? Website builders can be a suitable tool if you want to create a business website because they already have a number of website templates that are suitable for a portfolio website, a blog, a landing page, or a smaller to the mid-sized online store.
Of course, your site might need more than that. You might need a larger-scale makeover to update your image and the overall design of your site. Could your website be doing more for you? Is it an integrated part of your sales funnel pulling website traffic and effectively converting visitors to customers?
The obvious advantage of the template is the price. In general, buying a website template will be cheaper than hiring a web designer to create a custom site. It is also faster, and time is money. Getting a site up and running quickly means you start earning sooner. So what’s not to love about website templates? You do run a risk of picking a design that your customers have seen before. Yes, you can customize it a bit, but it is not going to be as distinctive as a site created just for your brand. That hurts in a subtle way. Your brand simply does not stand out as much as it could.
A bigger problem is search engine optimization. Website templates have a big disadvantage here because optimizing them for search engines is all on you. That undercuts the time-saving advantage. You need to have the knowledge and the skill to do this well. It is not a matter of slapping a few popular keywords into your content.
A bespoke site does take longer, but really you should be working on this early on in the process of developing your business and marketing plans. Your business website should not be an afterthought. When you hire web design professionals early in the process, you have the time for them to get to know your brand and your audience.
They can flesh out exactly what your site needs to be able to do – and they will probably have ideas you hadn’t considered that will benefit your brand and increase your sales. You know your business well, and web designers know theirs. They will be up to date on current trends with SEO and design, and your company will reap the benefits.
Bespoke web design is an investment in your company like any other. If you skimp, it can hurt you long term. But investing in the right expertise can mean your brand gets up and running – and selling – faster.
Templates can work very well for side-line businesses when the proprietor also knows how to customize them and is able to put the time into doing it right. But when you want to go big and launch a successful brand, having a team of experienced professionals to craft a unique, distinctive, bespoke website is going to pay off.
By Jeff Sheridan
By Iñaki Castellet Hernández