Beginning the process of planning and designing a website can be a big undertaking. Naturally we want to put our best foot forward and make sure that those who visit our new future website are going to be engaged, impressed and interested in the product, service or cause we are presenting. However, while organizations think about their content, design and team involved in building a new website, often times simple user-experience best practices and conversion wins get overlooked.
Here are 8 simple website planning tips to take into account when building a business-focused website.
1. Your home page banner. Give them a reason to stay.
I cannot believe how many times I come across websites where the company has done very little to draw in a visitor. When a site visitor first lands on your home page, you have only seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. Make it count, or you risk that person leaving your site quite quickly.
When a visitor visits your home page, ensure you communicate your most compelling value proposition or brand position right away. How would you sum up the value you bring to that individual? Why should they stay and engage? Where do you naturally want them to go?
An effective home page banner area should include the following:
- A compelling statement that communicates your unique value proposition and inspires them to stay
- Have a clear next step through the use of a call-to-action button
- A compelling image, background or visual that authentically showcases the true brand personality of your organization.
So often organizations miss the mark by not including a call-to-action button. Why wouldn’t you want to naturally encourage users to take the path you want them to take? Remove the clutter and make it attractive to want to click. Give it clear attention to increase the likelihood of moving forward. A home page banner with a statement only puts you at a much greater risk of losing that visitor and having them move onto someone else’s website.
When you do display a call-to-action button, avoid jumping immediately to next step actions such as “Contact Us”, “Buy Now”, “Subscribe” where possible. In most cases, its way too soon to ask for the sale. Allow a visitor time to explore your site before asking for the sale. By displaying a call-to-action like this, its comparable to having a sales associate asking you to buy a product the moment you open the door into their retail establishment. Give the user time to browse. And when you display the right call-to-action, its comparable to motivating that visitor to travel down the aisle you want them to go. Think carefully how you want them to engage. Let the next page or two do the work of converting.
In our humble opinion, rotating slider images (ie. images that are timed to rotate in your home page banner) have the acute potential of distracting a visitor. Same can be said of a high-level of interaction such as background videos, motion graphics and heavily interactive intros. In many cases, they may look nice but they distract the user from reaching the goal of further engaging with your site. Again, compare this to a retail store. Imagine walking into the front doors of that store and in order to start browsing the store, you must listen to a thirty-second intro about the history of the store. In most cases, that’s not why I’m visiting. I’m simply there to shop. If you are presenting an aid to my shopping experience (ie. identifying what’s on sale today), then I’m certainly open to listening. But otherwise, it simply reduces my motivation to move along into the store to buy. With your website banner image, use one central and authentic image and ensure your messaging is what is leading the charge to move your user along in the site. Interactivity can be presented further down the page or on other inner pages in the site.
2. Balance your website with call-to-actions
An important fact. Every visitor who visits your website presents an opportunity to further the connection. This may be in the form of becoming an email subscriber, buying a product, a free trial, completing a contact form, engaging on social media and more. As an individual navigations and scrolls through your pages on the site, provide them an opportunity to engage beyond the website. If they are impressed with the insight you provide, the product or service you provide, the charitable cause or more, they will be more likely to commit to reaching out. Display call-to-actions consistently and in key spots.
Call-to-actions should stand out and be positioned in the right spots on a page. It’s unlikely it should be the first thing on a page, but rather it should be presented at a time further down the page where they’ve had an opportunity to immerse in your content. Test your call-to-action text whenever possible and identify what copy converts better than others.
Most importantly, consider carefully what call-to-action goals you may have for your site. What do you ultimately hope to have them do? If you were to provide your top 2 – 3 actions you hope to derive from the site, what would those be? It could be in the form of capturing a subscriber, contact us, buy now or the initiation of more enhanced information (such as an eBook, whitepaper or tangible free offer) through the use of a lead magnet (which we will discuss in detail shortly). More about effective techniques to use call-to-actions on your site can be found here.
3. Consistency in button treatments
One user experience tip that will aid in conditioning your user towards action on your site is ensuring your call-to-action buttons are in consistent in colour, shape and brand. If your building off a brand colour of orange, consider introducing a style guide standard that has all buttons displaying as orange. In assessing it however, there are two distinguished styles of buttons that should behave in different ways.
The first are navigation buttons. These are used to help move your user around your website and the buttons are only used to move people around within pages on your site. This can be designed in a way that stands out, but is not overly commanding on a page. The second are action buttons. These have the distinct purpose of making the ask to have you do something. For example, a button that links to any form on your site would be considered action. Any time you are asking a user to do something on the next page they click to (such as filling out a form, providing an email, completing a checkout form, etc., this button treatment should be used only for that purpose.
4. Consider implementing lead magnets
Another very effective way of converting a site visitor into an engaging contact outside of the site is to find ways to offer a lead magnet. Quite simply, a lead magnet is a valuable content offer often times found at the end of a content page or article. Most often, a lead magnet provides users with a much more valuable content offer (then the article or content itself) in exchange for an email or contact. Sometimes a content offer like this may be presented without the ask of an email, but in the spirit of creating a further connection with the viewer, asking for an email in exchange for an eBook, whitepaper, tutorial, free trial and more gives you the distinct opportunity to dialogue with them more into the future. To continue to have a positive connection, be clear and ask if its Ok to send them emails from time to time when providing this offer. If you intend to use that email, be sure to gain their permission first. But regardless, when a user provides an email and can download a content offer in exchange for their email, you have an ability to identify who is engaged with what you have to offer.
Lead magnets demand commitment to not only build out an in-depth content offer, but to establish an appropriate engagement or email funnel that will provide more ongoing and valuable insight that moves the sales process forward. Ultimately, continued engagement (if done really well) will migrate an initial email contact into a longer-term loyal brand follower and purchaser. Think carefully and ask for feedback as to whether its worth pursuing the lead magnet marketing process. Lead magnets can be done without the demand of further engagement, however, the risk of not creating continued engagement is letting a potential lead to disappear. Planning out an appropriate marketing sales funnel requires a calculated and thought-out plan and a well planned process. More about lead magnets, email drip campaigns and sales funnel developments can be found through the following articles, links and sites.
- 8 types of lead magnets for your website
- Lead Magnet Blueprint – How to Create a Lead Magnet that Converts
- How to Create a Lead Magnet That Actually Gets Leads
5. Keep your “Contact Us” present
Another concerning flaw of many website layouts is the inability to clearly find contact information or a contact link when navigating throughout the site.
A website should always clearly display contact information and in many cases, more than one contact method should clearly be present. Consider having a specific “Contact Us” navigation button appearing in the upper navigation or header of your site. It should stand out amongst other navigation menu page titles and be distinguishable on its own. In addition to this, find an opportunity to clearly display other contact methods such as a main phone number. When they do click on that contact button, consider adding some personalization into the overall form and only ask for the essential information you need. Your site visitor may not have the patience to fill out a long form and therefore may leave your website as a result. However, in some cases, there can be a tangible strategy behind certain contact forms. For example, a service-based business may be interested in using a long and detailed questionnaire-style form as a measurement of that contact’s interest and motivation towards obtaining their service. It can also present information that serves to pre-qualify and inform the organization about what kind of contact this is and whether it’s a qualified fit to provide service to. But generally speaking, a contact form should be brief and easy to complete.
6. Intuitive and Easy-to-Navigation Design
For most organizations, the experience a site visitor has on a site should be intuitive and easy-to-navigate. Make it easy for the user to find what they are looking for on the website. There’s nothing worse than getting lost on a content page and not being able to find what you are looking for.
Websites should have a clear hierarchy and evident sense of place, no matter where you are on the site. For larger content websites, the use of tools such as breadcrumb navigation can help a user to establish place.
Another concerning issue that appears on many sites is an overloaded drop-down menu. With a tier one main page on the site, you should not have a drop-down menu that has too many options. When this happens, a user is grid-locked with an inability to make a decision or find what they are looking for. Limit your navigation sub-page options on the drop-down menu. For content-heavy sites with a lot of pages, seek alternative ways to allow for a natural and intuitive way to find the information you are looking for. Consider building your core pages (that appear in the menu of your home page) to become index pages to take you to the next step in the site. If done well, this will help to ensure you users know where to find things and how to get to know where they need to go more easily.
7. Prioritize important content first
I’ve always said that content is often times the most challenging aspect of any website design. It can be difficult to both think and plan out what goes on each page. To add to this, align that with your business goals and what your customers or past site visitors prefer, creating content can be even more difficult to execute upon.
When building out a navigation plan and sitemap for any website, think about what content you wish to have display first. What is it about your product, service or cause that you wish to have in front of other things? Is your first goal to ensure people understand how you do things and what you do differently than others? Or its it important that site visitors understand what services you offer? Perhaps displaying product information first is a high priority or showcasing your thought leadership through blogs. Whatever the priority content is, I’d recommend positioning that first in your main menu on your site. For most of the core content pages, showcasing your most important stuff from left to right or top to bottom is going to ensure you get your most important information across first. Consider the feedback of your current customers, users, front-line staff or others to help identify what’s the most important information. Furthermore, analyze your existing website analytics and other digital marketing analytic tools to see what users prefer first. For my own agency website for example, we believe our most important core website pages’ rest in what we believe and our people as our first priority with those visiting our site is to gain their trust first. What we offer will come second.
8. Ensure your website loads quickly
A website with a slow page load speed is a major hazard for those trying to visit. It often times can be a reason digital advertising and other marketing methods fail as the click-through to the site was too slow to respond, and therefore, the user abandons the website altogether. Slow page load can also be a major deterring factor for SEO. Both your website’s bounce rate and time on-page can help uncover issues. But further to this, a simple page speed insight test can reveal whether there’s concern with your site’s speed. Try testing your site here.
There are tangible ways to help optimize page speed, but the most foolproof way is to ensure your site design is done in a way to not overload it with too many images, high resolution images, or unnecessary interactivity. On top of that, images, backgrounds and more should be optimized as much as they can without making them pixelated or rasterized. Ensure your site is also hosted with a good web hosting provider.
Google page speed insights provide the following guidelines surrounding page speed scores.
Work with your designer or developer to ensure page load speed is a priority. Barring that, platforms such as WordPress provide image compression plugins such as TinyPNG and WP Smush that can assist in managing image sizes automatically. WPMU DEV has a great lineup of image optimization tools.
Websites that think through the variables of design, conversion and user-experience intuition have a much greater chance of providing a return on investment. But above all else, be sure that your website aligns with your overall business and brand goals and that it’s in-line with the motivations and attributes of your most sought-after audience. With any website design, this is where the planning should begin.