In this exhaustive post we take a look at web design tack-ticks that will help you build a website that is effective to your marketing goals. A website that actually works, keeps your visitors coming back and converting leads into buying customers. But first, take a look at this summery of headlines to come:
Your website is an important piece of your digital marketing strategy. It may serve as a gateway to gather information, or the actual destination where a sale takes place. It’s an opportunity for a visitor to discover what makes your brand unique, to find the information they’re looking for, and to guide them in their decision to buy.
You may have all sorts of marketing campaigns running: adds on Google, posts on Facebook, blog articles. And all of it brings in new customers, and they eventually end up on your website. All of that attention on your website makes it one of the most valuable pieces of digital real estate that you own. The better your marketing, the more visibility your website has.
Online consumers are fickle, and that’s because digital interactions are so commonplace. Users are spoiled by companies that are doing it well. They’re just used to things working, and they expect that the information they want will be available and accurate. When it’s not there, they’re disappointed and credibility is lost for whatever brand they’re interacting with.
The truth is, if your website isn’t good, you’re going to fall further and further behind as the landscape evolves. And if your website doesn’t work on mobile, you’re already behind. Chances are there is a competitor with a better online experience, and your customers will seek them out if they’re fumbling with yours.
So let’s talk about how to make sure your experience is good enough. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just has to be successful. An effective website is simple, well thought out, and highly functional. It should be intuitive and eliminate any and all barriers so your visitors can accomplish their goals effortlessly.
In your marketing strategy, you should be aiming for shared value, and it’s the same with your website. Your business goals and the needs of your target market should overlap. And while we’re drawing similarities to your marketing strategy, I’ll also point out that your website only needs to appeal to your target market. So spend your effort designing it to work for that audience.
As you evaluate your current website, take some time to ask yourself the following questions.
The amount of people using their mobile devices to browse the web is staggering, so design with mobile in mind. Later on in this post, we’ll be talking about something called responsive design, and that’ll help give you some more ideas around the topic of being mobile friendly.
I guarantee you’ll later enjoy reading: Mobile Marketing—Reaching buyers wherever they are
If your site looks one way on Safari for a Mac and another way on Chrome for PC, you’re not really controlling the experience. Test it out on all of the modern browsers. I recommend browserstack.com as a way to quickly test your site across platforms.
A good practice is to write down things your customers ask for, whether it’s via phone, e-mail, or even when they come into your place of business. You can then check to see if those answers are easily found on your website. And if they’re not, then you need to put that information online like in form of FAQs page.
Within the first couple of seconds, a user is going to decide how the site feels to them. You need to make sure your brand is carried through. Luxury brands need to feel elegant, whereas discount sites can focus more on the sales. Make sure your logo, tag line, and the color scheme all reflect your brand. You definitely want things to be consistent.
Nothing is worse than information that’s out of date. It also creates concern with users, so be sure to keep information current. If you have a real estate listing website or eCommerce site, make sure listed products are up-to-date. And if you have a blog, try to use it at least weekly.
Because online marketing is so niche, your target audience is likely looking for something specific. Can they find it on your website? If they can’t find it, and they call, and you say it is a service or product that you offer, well, that’s a problem. It really needs to be on your site if it is something that you offer.
That is to say if you ship or handle returns, can the user understand the process clearly. Will they know how long shipping/delivery takes? When can they expect a call back or for that product to arrive? You want to provide ample feedback so a user knows where they stand in the process.
Are you proud or jealous? If you’re jealous, it’s probably time to seriously consider whether or not you need to patch up your website. Leverage your relationships with existing customers and colleagues as a way to get feedback on your site. Ask them what they like, what they don’t like, and for any ideas. As you go about creating an effective website, I also recommend hearing from someone outside of your circle.
Check out our web design services. For a small fee, my team can have a real person spend time on your website and give you honest and unbiased feedback. And as I said earlier, your website is possibly the most valuable piece of your digital marketing strategy. Take your time and conduct an honest evaluation.
Having the right domain name is essential. Your domain name is how visitors find your website. It appears on your print materials, and it’s shared both online and offline as your brand recognition increases.
A poorly chosen domain name will have a widespread negative impact on your online and offline efforts. Now, a good domain name is relevant, memorable, and usable.
Your domain name should be relevant to your business. Typically, it’ll be your business name, but in some situations, it can be a bit more broad. If your business name is too long, you may need to creatively shorten it while still remaining on brand.
For example, let’s say our business name is Entebbe Municipal Golf Course. Well, we might want to choose the domain name ebbgolf.com. On the other side, if for example your business is called Joel’s Automotive, I could buy the domain joelsauto.com, but entebbemunincipalauto.com is probably not helpful. Here, I’m likely just trying to make a play for SEO value, since the auto dealership would be in Entebbe, but SEO doesn’t really work that way these days, and you can go plenty deeper on that later in this post: SEO Alone Not Enough.
The more relevant your domain name, the better, even for SEO, so stick with what makes sense to your target market.
You’ll do that by keeping it short, using simple terms, and by selecting the most common top-level domain, or TLD, and when I talk about TLDs, I’m referring to .com, .net, .org, and so on. Today, .com is still king, and most people instinctively type .com even if you’re listed as .net or .org, so it’s ideal to have .com but not necessary though.
If you chose, for example, ebbgolf.net, your competitor might be at ebbgolf.com, and you’ll be helping drive traffic to their site when your visitor can’t remember that right TLD. And that said, plenty of brands are adopting less common TLDs such as .io. So if your target market or your industry is primarily using a TLD that’s more relevant to them than .com, well, don’t be afraid to use that as well, and some countries also have specific TLDs such as .ug or .co.uk. Use the one that is most widespread in your region.
If you have a difficult to spell or pronounce business name, you’ll end up with a less than memorable domain name. Instead, you wanna try an alternative domain name that still maintains the feel of your brand.
If you’re adding in hyphens or leveraging prefixes other than www, you might be hampering a visitor’s ability to arrive at your website. You also need to be sure it’ll fit nicely into any advertisements and that it’s easy to read. If you’re putting two words together and the same characters are next to each other, consider the fact the user might drop one of the letters. For example, smarttravellersug.com has two Ls & two Ts next to each other, so some users might type smarttravelers.com, and so you’re going to want to be sure that you buy that domain name as well and redirect it to the correct location.
The best domain names are short and free of special characters. After you select your domain name, I recommend buying multiple variations to prevent others from registering them. Also, if you’re using a number in your domain, it’s not a bad idea to buy the version with the number spelled out to avoid any complications when you share a domain name through word of mouth.
If your domain name is unavailable, well, it might be worth contacting the current owner to inquire about the cost of purchasing it. If you do so, try to use an email address that isn’t associated with the business that you’re running. Sellers are inclined to increase their price if they know what you intend to do with the domain name, and if you can’t find their contact information on their website, you can try to identify them by running what’s called a WHOIS search. This will query the registered owner, and you can find the tools to do this at whois.com.
It is hard to change a domain name once you’ve gotten your marketing underway, so evaluate your options and make the best choice for your business.
If you’re not doing the work yourself or if you don’t have the luxury of an in-house web team, you’ll wanna bring in a professional to help build your site. You might need a designer, a developer, or even both. The truth is, there’s an endless amount of options out there and it can be challenging to find the right fit.
The number one complaint I hear from small businesses is their inability to find designers and developers to get the work done. I’d like to provide you with some ideas on how you can refine the list of potential resources to something manageable.
Here are some guiding question: Question to ask a web designer
Not all graphic designers are web designers and not all web designers have the skills necessary to build something that meets your requirements.
As you look for a web designer, start by reviewing their website. How does it look? It is appealing to you? Look at it through the eyes of your target audience. So, if you find a designer that feels too edgy for your customer, they’re likely not going to produce the right result. You want a website that achieves its goal. If they’re got an eye for good marketing, that’s also a step in the right direction.
Next, look at their portfolio. If they don’t have a portfolio, that’s a red flag. Make note of the sites that they’ve worked on. Read through their comments and then visit each of those sites and explore them. I like to double check the footer of each website to see if there’s an attribution link. More often than not, you might find a link contributing a different design firm and that would raise a red flag as well.
Also, check out the recency of their portfolio and take a look at relevant designs because the more up to date the portfolio, the more likely that designer is to be staying current with the latest trends and techniques. Once you have a short list, I’d review any online reviews you can find and then reach out to the designer and ask if you can talk to a few of their current or former clients.
Talk with your designer and ask them if they’re familiar with responsive design, what software they use to design their sites, and ask if you can see the process behind some of their current designs. It’s really helpful to see a designer’s thought process. If they’re creating wireframes and mock-ups, you’ll have some assurance that you’ll be part of an iterative process. If they seem hesitant, they could be buying prefabricated templates and not putting much thought into it. That’s not to say templates are bad. They can be very useful for low-cost projects or as a way to build that initial foundation.
Finally, ask them to review your project and provide you with a quote and a timeline. A short turnaround and a low-cost bid might seem alluring, but I’d be weary. Get a couple of proposals and compare them. Good designers aren’t cheap. The truth of the matter is, good talent usually knows what they’re worth, but your website is incredibly important, so it’s worth a meaningful investment. If you’re comfortable with hiring online, you could take a look at Behance.net and Dribble.com for designers and share their portfolios with your friends and colleagues to get a second opinion.
Looking for a developer can be an even bigger challenge. The way your site is built will impact everything from your usability to your SEO. Skimp on development and you’re going to find yourself with costly problems in the long run. It’s usually easy to get a sense of what you like in a designer, but if you’re not familiar with programming, it can feel impossible to really vet out a developer.
So, start the same way as you did with the designer. Take a look at the projects they’ve worked on. Interact with the websites, check the sites on mobile and in various browsers. You’re looking to see if the experience is fluid and smooth. Review the websites to see if they comply with web standards, and you can conduct a search for this at validator.w3.org. You’re looking for a low number of errors. A few is fine, but a large number might indicate some problems. Some developers might have a handful of errors because their clients are using old frameworks or they’re not interested in paying for those fixes. In that case, check the website of the developer. It should be a solid representation of their talent.
Next, run the sites through Google PageSpeed Insights. You’re looking for scores at least in the high 70s. If you see something low, make a note and use that as a conversation point with the developer. Ask them if they know why one of the sites in their portfolio is poorly optimized and get a sense of how they might approach the problem.
It’s also a great idea to ask the developer if they’re contributing in any public repositories. You can ask to see their Bitbucket or GitHub account and review their activity. Someone who is leveraging the latest technology and using these repositories might be a step ahead of others.
Also, ask them how they manage their projects. Do they use software such a Jira, Assembla, or Basecamp to keep tasks on track? And just as you did with your designer, check reviews. You can look at sites like oDesk for programmers, but know that a good review doesn’t necessarily equate to good code. Oftentimes, it’s better to have somebody local to your area. That way, you can meet in person to discuss details as the project continues on.
There are many agencies overseas that can crank out great customer service and a functional product, but leave you with a tangled mess of code that just becomes difficult to deal with later.
Again, ask your developer for a quote and a timeline, and shop around. A mid-range web developer will likely cost you between 40 to $80 an hour with high-end development agencies charging in the range of 100 to $150 an hour. It’s important to have good development talent working on your project.
Allocate plenty of time for your website.The best results are going to come with the ability to review things, conduct research, and work alongside the team building your digital real estate.
Before we go further into the overview of building your own website, I suggest asking yourself a fundamental question. Can you afford the time to spend building this website?
I’m not saying there isn’t a lot of value in doing it yourself, but depending on your current skill set you may have a lot of learning ahead of you. The knowledge you’ll gain is, of course, valuable but only if you can’t invest your time more effectively in other ways.
What I’m really trying to say is building a website can take a lot of time. It can be hard work and it’ll have a lot of moving pieces. Even using online website builders, there’s always a lot to do. Weigh out the pros and cons of this DIY project before jumping in. Remember, your website is the most important piece of your online real estate so if you’re going to roll up your sleeves and build it yourself, be ready to invest the time to do it right, or give yourself an exit strategy if you end up in over your head.
There are many routes to building websites. You can learn to program, design and build your site from scratch or you can explore pre-built templates or even online web applications that build it for you. You can even implement semi-custom solutions that are a little blend of everything.
If you’re looking for solid results without the need to learn everything about web development, I’d suggest looking into WordPress. You can create powerful websites on WordPress without learning much coding. They have a huge library of custom plugins, an endless amount of pre-designed templates and a very thorough knowledge base that you can use to build and create some really great websites.
WordPress used to be for bloggers, but it’s really evolved over the past few years as a very capable content management system. I find it intuitive to use, easy to scale and you can even delegate management responsibilities with its user account capabilities.
This will reaffirm your WordPress biases: Why a WordPress Website Should Be Your First Choice
WordPress is free for self-hosted projects and is ad supported, if you have WordPress.com hosted for you. They even have hosting plans suitable for businesses, starting at about $99 per year which will allow you to have a custom domain name, no advertisements and access to a ton of advanced options. What’s great with WordPress is you’ll find tons of premium templates for the foundation of your new website.
A quick Google search for WordPress templates will leave with you ample options. But I recommend taking a look at themeforest.net. They have thousands of templates (including some of our very own) so you’ll be bound to find something suitable. And you can always read the reviews or even contact the developer for advanced support if you run into any issues.
WordPress themes are easy to install and most of them come with responsive design so that gives you that headstart on mobile marketing right out of the gate. You’ll find more about hosted sites at WordPress.com. And for downloading and installing WordPress on your own server, you’ll want to explore wordpress.org. There are some great tutorials out there for WordPress, so be sure to use them to your advantage if you take this route.
If you’re looking for an even simpler route, take a look at squarespace.com. You’ll pick from a selection of modern layouts and then customize each element by using a site building wizard. Prices start around $12 a month and increase from there, depending on your needs. The results are nice and it’s easier to set up than WordPress, if you can consider yourself a novice.
Both WordPress and Squarespace have eCommerce options if you’re doing any sort of online selling. They’re not a core focus for these brands.
If you’re going the eCommerce route, check out another popular site called shopify.com. They make it really easy to build and launch your eCommerce project, plus they’ve got credit card acceptance built right in. You’ll want to explore the different pricing options and the fees associated with each, but the time and cost savings are worth it in many situations.
I’ve only listed a few options, but whether you leverage these routes or another route you discover, remember to think through the total time investment to get your site up and running. Even a simple site on WordPress can take weeks of tinkering to get off the ground. As you build your site, be sure to leverage the other concepts in this blog on effective website building and creating web copy as they’ll help to increase the likelihood of your new site’s success.
Every website has a goal. It could be to distribute information, capture an email address, or sell a product. There’s a reason you’re putting an effort into online marketing. Your goal is for your visitor to take some sort of action after they land on your website.
Depending on your audience, you have between two and six seconds to convince them to stay once they’ve arrived. What happens is these visitors will click, take a glance, and then bounce from your site if they’re not interested.
So, ideally, you’re driving this traffic to a specific landing page. Having specific destinations allows you to reinforce their decision to click, provide an attention-grabbing visual or headline, and frame the information in a way that helps you achieve your goal.
Some new visitors will inevitably arrive on your homepage and that’s okay, but it’s important to avoid campaigns that drive visitors directly to your homepage. It’s the least conversion-friendly page on your website, since it tends to be fairly broad. The key to making your website convert is to build goal-specific landing pages. These landing pages come in a few varieties but I’m going to focus on the four most common types.
These are the ones you’ve likely encountered as you’ve browsed the web.
The teaser page.
The objective of the teaser page is to give your visitor just enough information to get them to click through to the next step of your process. Teaser pages are useful for products that are nearing launch. By creating anticipation and excitement, you can convince the visitor to take an action, such as providing an email address or even pre-ordering. You can also use these pages to tease out any unqualified leads.
If you have a specific product for a select audience, you can leverage teaser pages to ask them questions one step at a time, slowly revealing more about your product or offering, depending on the answers.
The squeeze page
The goal of the squeeze page is to capture people’s contact information. Typically, a visitor exchanges their contact information for something of moderate value, say a webinar, ebook, or an exclusive discount. The lead information can be as simple as an email or as complex as four or five qualifying questions. A good squeeze page keeps the message above the fold, stays on target, and has a strong enough value to be effective.
The viral landing page.
The goal of this page is to invite your customers to enlist their friends. You might have a reward that is earned through a number of shares, for example. This could be each friend who signs up gets a five dollar credit. Your viral landing page might also include a funny video or an infographic.
The infomercial page.
These are typically designed in the same style as an infomercial you’d see on TV. The idea is in one page, typically a long page, you’ll share all the information about the product. What it is, how it works, its benefits, testimonials, and a special offer if you buy it today. Infomercial pages are effective at driving sales for certain products and are typically used by affiliate marketers when running large campaigns.
If you’re looking for landing page inspiration, check out Hubspot’s free landing pages. It’s a great place to see how other designers and marketers are implementing best practices.
When it comes to building your landing page, select the right type and then focus on these five things:
It’s important to make sure your landing page has your logo, an explanation of the offer, a very compelling headline, related testimonials, and links to reviews, along with a strong call to action. After you build your landing page or if you already have pages on your site executing on these goals, it’s important to continuously improve them.
When someone starts when clicking on your link, maybe fills out the first page, but then never enters their credit card, they’ve abandoned. And you wan to fix abandonment by finding the pain point.
If you fix conversions, you can increase your revenue without having to increase your traffic. 10 thousand visitors at a 1% conversion rate equals 100 sales. 10 thousand visitors at a 3% conversion rate? Well, that’s three hundred sales. You can see which one’s better.
There are many ways to improve the conversion on your website. Obviously, not every page can be a landing page but landing pages allow you to build isolated tests and you can then apply those learnings to the rest of your website.
Here’s the hard reality. People just don’t read on the internet. They scan. They’ll jump from a headline to an image and then scan a few bullet points. And this means when it comes to the copy on your website, less is more. And with less words to work with, it’s important that you make each one count.
We’ll call all the text on your website copy. Now, I’m not going to be discussing blog articles. That’s a whole other different beast. For now, we want to concentrate focus on your web copy.
Writing engaging web copy starts with knowing your audience. You’re writing specifically for them and no one else. So, you need to deliver your information in a way that meets their needs. And you have to be mindful of the fact that for whatever reason, they’re likely in a hurry to find that information.
The goal is to write great web copy, not just create content. It’s different. To illustrate, let’s look at some examples prepared by Ritah Ryabo, a content pro at Smart Marketing Agency.
Here she shows an advertisement for a camera. Content would be to say 14.1 megapixels. But copywriting would be using the tagline ‘because memories fade’.
You might describe your software as multisite networking and collaboration solution. Copywriting would instead use the line, ‘work together even when you’re apart‘.
As you can see, copywriting really adds to the experience. It connects your customer to your brand, your purpose, and it tugs on their emotions a little.
Check out this post for more: Importance of Creating Online Content For Marketing
So, as you approach your project, start by getting rid of any long introductions and word-heavy descriptions. Stick to clear, concise, and punctual copy. Use clever headings to your advantage and break up your text with bullet points.
Building on-topic and relevant content will not only help your users, but it’ll help you out as you work to rank in the search engines as well. One thing I see often is pages that put their headline as About Us or Contact Us for the page you’re on. Now, those might be helpful in the title or the breadcrumb, but save that heading space for something captivating and attention-grabbing, especially on your landing pages.
As you move into the content, deliver the most important points of your story first. And then add the supporting details as you go. This way, if a user stops reading early, they’ve got the gist of what you’re trying to say.
Look at each page of your website and answer these questions;
Use these answers to build your first draft, save it, and then write it again with half as many words. Compare the two. And only add back in what you need to reinforce the points that are lacking.
At some point, you might decide it’s a good idea to hire a professional copywriter. I can’t stress the importance of good copy enough. It is a worthwhile investment, if you aren’t able to spend the time to refine your own copywriting skills.
When you look for a copywriter, read through their work. Copywriters often write in specific niches. And while they’re happy to adjust their tone and style for your needs, it’s often better to find someone who understands your audience.
A copywriter should be invited into the project at the beginning. This way, they can gather all the facts, understand the challenges ahead, and build you exactly what you need.
You can utilize a copywriter to write slogans, ad ideas, entire websites, or focused landing page copy. Most work on a daily or half-daily rate. And you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $800 per day.
Write with the approach of connecting your audience to your business, convincing them to take the next steps and affirming their conversion.
In the past few years, we’ve seen mindblowing growth of tablets and smartphones, all coming with different screen sizes. It would be an incredible amount of effort to build a design for each screen size, and then try to keep up with new devices on top of it. That’s where responsive web design comes in.
This approach allows your site to be adaptive. The page responds automatically, based on the screen size, and even the orientation a user is viewing it in. It works because a responsive website is designed around building blocks, and these blocks can break, and collapse under one another, stretch and shrink, and even adjust the font size and image size based on the available screen real estate.
To see this in action, let’s look at a desktop browser. Simply drag one side of the window of your desktop browser, that you’re reading this page from, to shrink the viewable area. This sorta simulates different screen sizes.You can see the page starts to respond, tweaking its design, and adjusting to match the available real estate.
What’s great is that the same code is served to all of the devices. You won’t need to build multiple code bases. You’ll instead rely on your style sheets to handle the scaling.
Advanced responsive design can even adjust elements on the page, adding in additional content, or removing it based on the view. You’ll have to decide if responsive design makes sense for your business. Personally, I’d make this investment in this style of web development.
It’s a necessity if you want to compete in today’s digital marketplace. It’ll greatly improve your customer experience as they interact with your site between various devices.
Responsive design might sound relatively simple, but it’s a fairly complex endeavor. If you’ve built your website on a framework or a paid template, you might be able to find an update that includes responsive elements.
If you have a more complex project, including, say, e-commerce websites, it’s probably best to enlist the help of a professional.
Use responsive design as a tool, not a cure-all fix.
You’ll still need to take usability into consideration, and that might mean changing certain interactions on your website to accommodate a responsive experience.
Wooo! What along post. Thank you for coming all the way down here, I do appreciate your time. Now, don’t let all this be for nothing. Put these in practice or contact our desk for a free 30 minute consult about your website and anyone of our team members will be glad to help. Or you can comment bellow with your thoughts, share with your colleagues and boss. Either way, we need your engagement to keep these posts coming.