As you start to sketch out your website, here are some basics to consider to ensure that your website is also a web solution. The goal of developing a website is not to simply have a site that sits on the web, but that the effort also has marketing value, serving customers, supporting sales, sharing information, educating visitors, and creating connections.
- Home page. The home page must clearly communicate visually and textually who you are, what you do, whom you serve, and why they should care about working with your organization.
- “About” page. A website needs to have a robust “About” page. Believe it or not, one of the top visited pages on a website is the page(s) about the organization. People want to know who is behind an organization; learn about its history, experience, credentials; and see photos and biographies of company leaders. Do not discount the credibility power of an “About” page.
- Professional design. Sometimes a well-designed logo living on a template created site is all that is needed to show professionalism. Good website copy with clear navigation and a nice layout can be all an organization needs to succeed in supporting sales.
- Easy-to-find contact information. This credibility must is reinforced by the Stanford Web Credibility study. Sites that are more trusted have visible contact information, making a statement that an organization is available, ethical, and ready to work with the website visitor. Clear calls to action. Most website visitors scan and don’t read text. Tell visitors where to go, whether that is calling an 800 number, filling out a form, or hitting a “Learn More” button (a great way to lure people into the site past the home page). Employing credibility musts is critical when creating a site that will make visitors feel secure about doing business with you.
Web Credibility Best Practices
There is no commandment requiring everyone to slavishly follow website best practices. You may have an innovative design idea that shatters all previous conventions. Good! By all means test this design. But like Picasso said, it’s important to understand the rules before breaking them. Here are some tried and-true web design tips to consider.
- Success breeds success. Own your online marketing success (and don’t be shy about touting your successes, awards, and affiliations). Credibility supports sellability!
- Be consistent for credibility. It is imperative that all marketing collateral (business cards, website design, e-mail design, blog) is consistent. Consistency applies to design, marketing messaging, and calls to action.
- Be sure calls to action are similar across all web marketing materials, including e-mail newsletters, blogs, messaging, and advertising banners. Have a consistent design tone. For example, if the brand’s pitch is as a low-price retailer, the site design should be simple and uncomplicated. If you’re selling upscale homes, you’ll want your site to have a more rich, sophisticated look. The feel of the site needs to match the expectations of your audience. If you sell children’s clothing, think bright, primary colors. If you’re marketing meditation seminars, choose the soothing tones of a pastel palette. The niche you occupy informs the site’s look.
- Show, don’t tell. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Studies have shown that websites that are illustrated, specifically with faces, are more trusted and more profitable than sites that aren’t. If you have a product or service that is difficult to understand, hire a graphic artist or photographer or buy great stock art to paint the picture for your audience. Don’t forget video as a way to show and tell. Used correctly, videos can be very persuasive. Google and Apple have turned the explanatory video into a true art form. If you can’t afford to hire a photographer or an artist to design art, here are some sources for free, safe stock photos that are “I didn’t steal them”
- Decide on the keywords and phrases that best describe what you do and use those in web messaging to attract visitors. Be sure that your subject headings and offerings also include them. If you know keywords that prospective customers may search to find you, include them in copy that goes in the design phase. If you don’t know these phrases, guess. You can always edit website copy later.
- Don’t design a layout with large paragraph blocks. Especially on the home page, design the text to be short and sweet. Remember that you want to get people to the site, then through the site. Use teaser text (“Learn More”, “Click Here”) to invite users to click on links for more detailed information. This practice will clean up your home page with more white space and have the added benefit of highlighting what your users are interested in by tracking their clicks. Here are three tips to writing web-friendly, credible copy.
– Use a maximum of five lines per paragraph.
– Use a combination of upper- and lowercase letters in URLs if you are mentioning website links in website text to help readability.
– Keep lines of text to 21 words maximum to boost readability.
Establishing a solid website foundation makes spending time and money on a website a smart marketing investment that will support online marketing efforts. Now that you understand the points needed to consider before building a website, it’s time to put the pieces to work and actually build the website.