Remember when good web design recommended as little scrolling as possible? It wasn’t that long ago when websites were viewed by people using a desktop computer and a tethered mouse that didn’t have a scrolling wheel. So to see the engaging content that lay below, people had to use the arrows at the right hand side of the browser window to move down the web page. This was rather tedious (even though at 800×600 resolution those arrows were pretty big!) and users would rather click to a new page than fiddle with their mouse to navigate a long page.
Things have evolved a bit since then and now most people scroll with their finger on a tablet or smartphone. Many websites are now designed with few pages that each scroll on and on because it’s easier to swipe at the screen than click a link. Some sites don’t even have “pages,” but have interlinked modules of information that resemble a molecular model. Certainly, any website currently being designed must employ Responsive Web Design to ensure that it displays and behaves properly on the myriad of screen sizes being used.
So what does this mean for SMB executives making decisions about their website? The user interface is as important as the content. It doesn’t matter how compelling your information, if people find it difficult to read… they won’t.
Website design (which incorporates both the aesthetic and function) should not be considered only as packaging. And it is not simply a visual representation of your corporate brand (although supporting your brand with a positive user experience should also be a primary consideration). Since websites play a critical role in presenting and promoting your company, its messaging and its products/services, it is crucial that your site engages your audience.
Most SMBs have a sales strategy and perhaps a marketing plan, but, from experience I can tell you that they typically do not have a website strategy. Kind of silly when both personal and corporate purchasing statistics indicate that virtually everyone does some research online before buying. Whether you plan for it or not, your website is playing a significant role in your sales and marketing.
Trade-offs may need to be made, but considering how your ideal website would look and behave will guide you in developing a far more effective website.
Four Critical Website Considerations
Why do you have a website
- is your primary goal informing, prospecting/lead nurturing, e-commerce
- is your brand well supported
- are there competitive or industry/sector considerations
- does this website fit within a “family” of sites or standalone (not that anything on the Web is truly solitary)
Who is it reaching
- does it engage (design and content) your target market (can’t please everyone, so focus on those you want to deal with)
- does it provide appropriate information and experience for other stakeholders
- note that pleasing senior management should never be an over-riding guide in designing an effective website
What is it saying
- does it clearly explain what you do
- does it readily present your key messaging
- is the content informative and persuasive
- is content optimized for search engines
- are there easily accessible levels of resources for those who want more information/guidance
How well does it work
- is it easy and intuitive to navigate
- will it perform equally well on different devices and with different browsers
- does it meet AODA/WCAG requirements
- does it encourage data capture
- does it encourage lead nurturing and sales conversion
- is it plugged into your CRM software
Once your website is up and running the task is not over. Your website should be monitored and routinely analyzed so that you can adapt and add to it accordingly. Using “all-in-one” or inbound marketing software such as HubSpot for this purpose enables your website to become a conduit for new business and tracks the entire process. Marrying the marketing and sales processes is an efficient approach, but keep in mind that anything you do will require time and expertise.
For most companies, ongoing investment in their website should be a marketing priority. The days of having a “virtual brochure on the Web” are long over. Consumers are looking for an engaging and informative experience online and companies that don’t provide that will fall behind.
What would you add to my list of website considerations?
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