What are the features of a winning website? In the past, most sites tried to shove all the information on the front page of a website. Apparently, companies still believe in this philosophy as seen on this website.
If web design does not take into consideration how our brains work, the site will fail every time.
Our brains are designed to survive and conserve calories. Stick with this for a minute or two as it could make all the difference.
If you walk into a room for a conference, do you count all the chairs? Probably not. However, you know exactly where all the exits are. Our brains are not concerned about chairs counts; they are wondering how we get out of the room should it start on fire.
When your brain has to work too hard to disseminate information it will shut down. Take a look at our example above. What do you see? If you go to the site and look at it live, you will find your eyes traveling all over the place. What do focus your eyes on when there are many things vying for attention? Let me answer that for you, you focus on nothing, and eventually, you check out. So what happens to that company? Nothing. You go somewhere else.
Great marketing strategy. Let me indirectly prompt my clients to head to my competition to get what I have. When you start in business is that part of the plan? Your mission and vision are all tied to helping your competitor succeed. NOBODY begins with that in mind yet we set ourselves up that way online.
POINT #1- Is your home or landing page clear or have you shoved everything on it?
Of all the pages you could jack up, this is the one that you need to be most concerned about. Ask yourself this, “do I want my clients going somewhere else to do business”? If there is ANY hesitation in the answer, you might want to reconsider what you are doing. How precise is your landing or homepage?
Lings Cars is an example of what not to do. He sells cars but the website is a complete mess and almost comical.
Take a look at Apple. What do they want you to do when you arrive at their homepage? Seems to be clear. They are not
allowing you to think about what you should do. They tell you to click on the Home pod. Does Apple have other products? YES, but they are listed below the main thing that they want you to click on. In other words, they are directing you to click on something that they want you to click on. They are not giving you one thousand options hoping that you click on something.
Let’s not just look at Apple. Let’s look at another company that you have not heard.
Is there any question as to what we should do when we get to their site? Many companies leave it to chance. Many companies decide not to guide their potential customers to a place that they want them to go.
POINT #2- Do people that visit your website know what you do? Better yet, do they understand what you want them to do?
If we go back to our very first example, everything is cluttered. Lings Cars seems to sell cars but they are so distracting that it is hard to tell if this is a legit site. What does that site want us to do? What are we supposed to click? Clutter creates confusion and confusion will lose every time. Think of it this way, if you go to a site and can’t quickly find what you are looking for what do you do? If you are like me you “pogo-stick” back to Google, click the next entry and hope you can easily find what you wanted.
Pogo-sticking, by the way, creates lower search scores for your website. More on that later.
Recently I had a conversation with a potential client. They asked if I would review their website and content. They felt they needed a change. I conducted a review and came up with some ideas and thoughts. When we had our second call, they asked me a great question, “what do you think we do”? I told them what I thought too which they replied, “that is not what we do. We do ______”.
What they eventually started to tell me was something that was nowhere to be found on their website. Apparently, it was apparent to the company but not to everyone else that would visit their site. I thought maybe it was me, so I sent the link to several other people, all from different backgrounds. I asked them to take a look and tell me, from the home page, what they believe the company does. I quickly received several responses ranging from; “I have no clue” to a variation of guesses which were all wrong according to the company.
Do the people that come to your website understand what you do, how you solve their problem, or why they need to do business with you? Placing everything on your homepage creates problems for your end users.
POINT #3- What is your clear, call to action?
A call to action is what it sounds like. It prompts someone into doing something. It screams, “click me”! Let’s back to a previous point for a moment. What happens when everything blends? Our eyes gloss over, and we stop reading. Everything looks the same.
Have you ever read a book only to find yourself dozing off? (Some of you might be doing that now) It’s kinda like that. We start to drift. Why? The brain is shutting down. It is burning too much energy, and it is going to conserve.
We can help our end users. When we create a clear call to action, we help them navigate our site quickly. We provide clear “instructions” on where to go or what to do. This removes the clutter from the process and helps increase engagement with our end users.
Call to actions are transparent and almost palpable. They stand out from everything else and scream “interact with me.” This could be an adequately placed button, a product or a beautiful piece of text that tells someone what to do. It should not be obnoxious or look like a sore thumb. Instead, it should bring about a feeling of a person that they need to do something.
Call to actions can be seen in the following examples.
These are all clear, and there isn’t any guessing on what to do. When we leave a call to action to chance, one thing is for sure, people might not do anything other than leaving your site. We need to set our sites up so that people interact with them.
POINT #4- Nobody cares about you and your history
As business owners, we care about our history. We care about how the business started, the hard work of our great grandfather and how he started the company with six cents. This is essential stuff to us as a business owner, and because it is, we think that it is equally important to everyone that comes to our site.
The truth is that most people don’t care. They could care less about your grandfather. That sounds a little harsh, but it is true. In most cases, they are not interested in the history of the company. People are not coming to read about that, and if you look closely at your analytics, you will probably see that it’s one of the pages least looked at.
Some sites make the mistake of using significant website space to tell everyone about their history. This is a huge mistake. The space below the menu area is your prime place to catch someone’s attention. You have about 2-3 seconds to grab their attention, and if you are filling it with long stories about your grandfather and how he started the company, you are missing out.
Lear Corporation uses their central space well. They identify what they do and then they back it up with some high credibility (which I will speak about in a few min). Their call to action is pretty clear “learn more.” The site is clean and an excellent example of introducing your company without going overboard on history.
Firerock has a neat history, yet they say nothing about it on their homepage. Again this is an excellent example of a website. It is clean, bright and it makes you want to click and do something. They draw your attention where they want it, and they don’t let your mind just wander.
Most of us may not know the complete history of Apple. Regardless, we are not concerned. What Apple has done is create
a feeling. They have created an emotional drive inside of people that drives them to sit outside in the cold for hours waiting for the new gadget to be released. Are Apple’s products superior to others? I don’t know about that, and I say that while typing from a MacBook Pro.
Nobody cares about Apple’s history and how great the story is. People are after a feeling. They are chasing the next cool gadget with little to no thought about the history of Apple.
POINT #5- They are looking for a solution; fix their problem.
We could argue that Apple fixes a problem. Many would say that Apple can do no wrong and there is a no product better.
Whether that is true or not, Apple has not only solved a problem, they have created a radical following that would almost die for their products. In many ways, Apple fixed a problem. They took something that was complicated and made it super simple to use. They made it so simple that a kid, with no prior knowledge of technology, could start using the product.
Several years ago my wife was taking care of a daughter of some good friends. She was two years old (almost three) at the time, and my wife had given her the phone to play a game. It became apparent that she was no longer playing a game but doing something else. When we asked her what she was doing, she replied, “it’s downloading.” I grabbed the phone, and sure enough, she was downloading the current version of a game.
I remember the first time I got a MacBook. I remember asking so many questions about how to delete programs, files and more. I could not believe it was that simple. I remember thinking that a company finally created something that makes sense. Instead of going through fifteen steps to remove a program, I could drag it and drop it in the trash, and the computer did the rest. Problem solved.
Our websites need to function the same way. They need to be intuitive and not confusing. They need to be simple and not complicated. With a click of a button, people need to find what they came to see. Without it, they will go elsewhere.
To do this well we need to back up and figure out what the client wants. This could be multifaceted. You might think you know who your client is and you don’t. Let me provide an example straight from us.
Our company designs and develops websites. So it would seem evident that our clients are ones that need a site. While partially correct it needs to be drilled down a bit. We identified that our clients are not just in need of a website. Some already have a site; some don’t. That creates two distinctly different needs. A company that has a website might just need help to tweak it, or they might need to start over. An organization that doesn’t have a site needs one. Also, they might need help with branding and identity, logos, etc. They are both potential “website” clients, yet they have distinctly different needs.
Then take into consideration a company that has a website. They may want help with getting found on the internet. That may or may not have something to do with the design. More than likely we would need to do other things to help boost their SEO, content, etc. Point is this is an entirely different client, and all along we thought that companies just needed a website.
Fixing a problem or providing a solution starts with a better understanding of who our clients are. Once we understand this, we can position our site and marketing to meet their needs. We can make the process on our website tailored to them so that they feel like it was designed just for them.
When a prospective client comes to your website, they are coming because they would like to get something that you have. When they arrive, they want to get in and get out. They might be looking for a product or service, or they might browse a selection of what you have. How you get them there is critical. Getting them there quickly and efficiently is the difference between keeping and client and losing them.
POINT #6- How is your credibility?
Credibility is a big thing when it comes to making sales. So what is your credibility like? In other words, how do people on the outside perceive you? What you think does not matter here. How you feel your clients “might” be looking at you is not essential. Finding out what they believe is.
Successful companies understand this because they test for it. They probe and ask questions, and they don’t assume anything. The companies that succeed never take it for granted. They do everything they can to make sure that they know what their customers think and say.
We are not talking about the person that takes to social media because you wouldn’t honor the 15% off expired coupon. You will never stop everyone from having an opinion. What we’re talking about is an excellent understanding of the majority.
So what is credibility and why should that matter?
When people come to your website to potentially do business with you, they want to see that someone like them did business with you.
Let’s take another look at Firerock. We don’t have to scroll far to find someone that thinks the world of them. We can see that the company that has used them is not only happy but had no problems at all. What does this convey to someone? It says that if you are like me, use this company. This is the single best form of advertising that you could use on your website. Let other satisfied customers tell prospective clients all about you. Let them spread the word about how great you are and all the beautiful things you have done.
Here is an old rule that seems to stand the test.
Let’s say that I am a doctor. Let’s suppose that I tell you I am a great doctor and I tell you all of the great things about me and how I have helped. Would you do business with me? Chances are slim.
If I am that same doctor and someone tells you about me, you are more likely to come and see. Why? Because someone just like you had success with my great doctor skills and should you need something I am going to be a great fit.
We take much solace in getting a good referral. On our websites, that is precisely what a testimonial is.
In our example of Firerock, we can see the person’s name, position, and company. If I have any questions, couldn’t I call them? If I had a doubt, couldn’t I place a call and ask them? Of course, we could call.
Placing these testimonials on your website is more credible than you telling everyone about how good you are. In the doctor example, you can see how it works.
So where should you place them? A right place is on the homepage under the central section. The central part sits under the menu.
Use your space wisely and allow others to tell your story for you. Your existing clients will tell a much better story than you will. Let them be your voice.
POINT #7- Nobody wants your newsletter (but you need a list)
Have you been on a website that asks you to sign up for their newsletter? It might be a simple box on the site that says, “Sign Up For Our Newsletter.”
Can I ask you a question? Do you want another piece of something coming to your already cluttered inbox? If you are like me, you are probably not interested. I already get enough stuff that I don’t pay attention to, and I guess you do too.
So if nobody wants a newsletter, what do they want?
Let me ask another question; do you like things of value?While this question might seem a bit silly, it is one to consider. We all love things of value. We desire things that can bring value into our lives and livelihood. We are even more excited when those things don’t cost anything. A free, valuable thing can be a real gem.
Newsletters are perceived to be an interruption. We send a newsletter out to a non-profit that we started years ago. At first, the letters were greeted with many opens. We would write a story and send it off. It might have a picture or it might not. We then started creating videos, and we sent those in the same newsletter. Our open rate, as well as our viewership, went way up.
For some reason, once people could see the stories the value of the newsletter went up. People don’t mind getting a newsletter, but it has to be of value. Our list continues to grow as we expand because the perception is one of importance and not junk.
With Rainwater Web, we have tried many different newsletter strategies. None of them worked. Pretty bad plan. Again, nobody wants another something coming to their inbox. Almost everyone wants something of value. We started to create free pieces of information that were valuable. Some of the companies that used them have remarked that they followed what we said and had great success.
Giving away free pieces of information is a great way to get someone’s email address. We built a list of a several hundred within two months. This was exciting.
Also, we used the stories of others to support the value of the free piece. Remember we talked about letting someone else say it? We did precisely that, and it works. People still grab the free articles that we have on our website. They look great, read well, and when put to use, they work.
When we market to our list of clients and potential clients what do we sell and how does it add value to them? The value is what is essential; perceived value. When you develop that you will have no problem with people getting your newsletter. To them, it will no longer be a newsletter but a valuable piece of knowledge that they didn’t have before. This knowledge benefits them, and their company and instead of being bothered, people look forward to it.
When we reach that point, we have no problem finding clients. We don’t have an issue with business.
Position your giveaway properly. Pop-ups, while I find them annoying, seem to be somewhat successful provided they are done the right way. We use an exit strategy. Most of the forms that can go on a website can be set in a way to “trigger” when specific actions are taken.
These can be set up based on how long someone is on your site or when they scroll down to a certain point on the site. We use an exit strategy. This is when someone goes to the top of their browser. The form recognizes it, and it pops up. The structure isn’t a “join this” type of form. We are giving out a piece of great information. Some of those forms will even have a few words under it that say “I don’t need this, we are good.” That might not be the exact wording, but you get the point.
If you have “high content,” people will stick around. Clients and potential clients will want to hear more, and they will be willing to “sign up” because they know it is of value.
POINT #8- This is your business and your website, take responsibility for it.
One of the things that I run into a bunch is companies that don’t want to take responsibility for their website. Most companies hand it off to a design firm and for some reason expect the design firm to create something. This is a problem.
You have to participate in the process. Nobody knows your business as you do and while you might not be able to design, you are an essential part of the process. As a business owner, you can’t look past this. Many companies blow right past this point and place it in the hands of a developer designer. The company thinks if they provide an old site with content and pictures that they have done their job.
Might be a good start but it’s kinda like putting fresh lipstick on a pig. While it might look a little better, you essentially are saying the same thing that you did before, and if you were not connecting then, you are not connecting now.
When companies decide to go the route of a new site or an upgrade, there has to be an active buy-in. The buy-in needs to include everyone while not involving everyone. Buy-in starts at the top and trickles down. When it trickles down, it needs to stop somewhere. Whoever it ends with becomes the point person for the project. All communication should then flow through that person and should not come from multiple sources. Also, that person might want to create a small team of people that could help with the collaboration.
In design, there are several factors. Font’s and typography, color selection, the layout of pages, your voice, icons, images, forms, and spacing, are all important. This is the place where your designer and developer are going to excel. The area where they will struggle is in trying to identify who you are and what you do. Most designers don’t have a background in asking questions to discover who you are and what you are all about. Very few firms, ours included, take clients through a process to identify the “why” behind the “what.” Once uncovered, it makes a huge difference.
A dedicated person from the company can help guide the design and development process. Many mistakes or snafus can be avoided. The more involvement by a company the better and having a reliable firm, experienced in guiding companies, makes the difference.
Remember that a designer or developer is gifted in design. They are not gifted in taking a bunch of stuff that you handed them and making something out of it. Being part of the process is critical to a high-end product. I have found that the more involved the client, the better the result.
Rainwater Web Design is a firm based in Cleveland, MS serving clients in 15 states offering a variety of web, social, app, SEO, and email strategy services.