Making a modern website that’s truly valuable for your company requires way more than just paying attention to the fashion aspects of a site design. Certainly approaches to web design are evolving and most of the changes are driven by thought leaders that conduct research and help us determine what works and what doesn’t. To the common eye, it all just looks like a “change of design” or an “updated look.”
What's a small business to do to keep a website looking current, modern and in line with web trends? Balance is a key element. Professional web design firms will take into consideration elements of design, usability, functionality, content delivery and more when building websites. Here is an introduction about what is truly driving the evolution of modern web design and functionality in B2B websites today, and things that should be considered when going through a website redesign to help bring more qualified traffic to the site and increase your conversions for a quicker ROI.
Pay (but don’t over pay) for Uniqueness
How important is branding to your company? Does your company's brand and logo, and product and services, require spending some money on branding and design to stand out from the pack? Then do it! Some experts suggest paying for a premium website can help for unique design, marketing campaign investments and more, sure. But there is a point of diminishing returns. Uniqueness is a common request we get when creating a new website: “we want something that we can be proud of...” well that’s fine, as long as the uniqueness of your website is driven by the value it brings to your buyers. As a rule of thumb, in 2012 dollars, if you are paying more than $10k for design and coding, let me tell you, you are probably putting too much emphasis on this portion. In a world of millions of websites, highlighting your company and brand becomes very important. In this context, if you have the right message, even going with a generic looking online template and putting your site up can already show you some level of ROI.
Understand Your Buyers First
When thinking of a website redesign for your company, it is common to start out with requests about specific features: “I want this type of homepage,” or “I want this type of Calls to Action.” Fine save those for later; there are other issues that you need to think about first, and in fact, some of the things you may like about other websites actually would hurt you if you were to apply them to your business. Here are 5 things you should understand about your buyer before thinking about “looks”:
1. What specific impact does your product or service have on your buyers life?
2. What was life like for your buyers before they got your product?
3. What has been specific feedback your buyers have about your product?
4. What are some of the things that your buyers wish they had known about your product before buying?
5. What was the process to look for and evaluate different alternatives to solve that problem?
6. What are some of the concerns your buyers had before buying your product?
You can get into more extensive buyer persona development and market research, however. If you understand these 5 things first you will be way ahead of your competitors. Most websites are not built with the buyers in mind. Ask your web design firm to help you translate the answers to these questions into a site architecture and page layouts that address these issues.
Mind Your Top Call To Action
Imagine your website was only one line of text and one call to action. What would that be? Ask yourself that question, write it on a piece of paper and stick it where you can see it as you go through your web redesign process. Your top call to action should be apparent in your website’s most desirable real estate: your homepage - above-the-fold area. Everything else in your website should be designed and positioned to either explain (increase clarity), provide social proof and success cases (build trust), and highlight the consequences of not taking action (provide a vivid picture of perpetuating the status quo), all to support your top call-to-action.
Create Great Content
Great content gets clicked on by users, and tends to move a site up in search rankings. Why? Search engines algorithms are evolving and will continue to evolve so that the most valuable websites rank higher than websites that follow the SEO formulas but provide no value. So, by all means, get a content person in your team that can understand the issues in your industry and offer help by creating good quality blog copy, use great images, and introduce actionable benefits about your product and/or services.
Focus on Customer Experience vs. SEO
Professional web design firms will also be abreast of the latest changes in search algorithms imposed on the web by Google and other search companies. According to SEOmoz, the web's leading SEO news and information site, Google updates its search algorithm more than 500 times in a year. Most are minor tweaks, but major updates also take place every few months. Knowing how these algorithm changes impact shifts in your company rankings and web traffic for your business is important, however here is the big secret: If you focus on creating a website for your buyers instead of creating a website for Google rankings, then you are on the right path.
Be Mobile Friendly
It’s no secret that we are heading into an era of mobility. The number of people using mobile devices to surf the net is steadily increasing. Not having a mobile-friendly website is no longer an option. If your website doesn’t load (or doesn’t load well) on mobile devices, you simply will lose a good deal of your mobile prospects. According to Google’s study “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today”, 67% of users would be more likely to buy a product or use a service if their website is mobile friendly, whereas 61% would rather leave.
Use Design Conventions
It's best to use somewhat standard layouts. Sure, there are far more creative designs to be had, but if your business is selling office supplies online, your users want to find supplies, not click around mazes and web puzzles to find your goods. Stick to known conventions such as top or left navigation. There is no reason to be original there. The purpose of your website is not to be fancy; it is to be clear. and easy to use. Use your creativity budget to come up with a compelling message, clear copy and valuable calls to action instead.
Don’t Forget The Technicalities
Use a good web hosting company. Behind the scenes of your business website is an effective web hosting company. Your web host will guarantee your uptime, provide site statistics, increase data storage and accelerate your bandwidth needs. Work closely with your chosen web host to provide exceptional back-end functionality. Also, it's no secret that web pages that download fast get better ranking in search engines. This is crucial to your business’s success. Don't load your pages with images that are too large, or superfluous scripting and code, as it takes longer to download from a web hosting company's server. Plus, the faster a page loads, the more likely your prospect won’t lose their patience with you and hit the dreaded Close button.
According to HubSpot’s study “The Science of Website Redesign,” companies are updating their website approximately every 2 years today. Is this a good rule of thumb? Hardly. What’s for sure is that if you want your website to produce for you, you will need constant monitoring and tweaking for all of your copy, images, page layouts, etc. You will get a higher return by constantly monitoring and making tweaks to your site every week, rather than making a huge upgrade and then don’t touch your site again for 2 years.
Written by Eduardo Esparza.