If you want a website to truly work for your business, you must be prepared to invest a little time working out how it can best serve your company.
Start with discovery
Before you start to work with an agency there should be a process of discovery where they gain an understanding of your business, your customers and the market you operate in. This may require several meetings before the design process begins.
From all this probing you gain a benchmark for what the end website must achieve. The aim is to determine how the website can:
- Address any pains or problems within your business
- Appeal directly to your target customers
- Position you differently from your competition in the mind of your customers
Let’s look at each of these points separately.
Your website should address your businesses’ pains and problems
Does your business have pains or problems? Likely it does. The need to generate more sales, build awareness of a particular product or service, or appeal to a more affluent customer base are common examples. Don’t expect to share these with your digital agency? If they aren’t aware of them, they won’t be able to help you address them. A good question is to ask yourself:
Once the new website has been live for three months what key indicators would show if it has been a success?
A few examples might be:
- X number of new business leads generated from the site
- Y number of people to have signed up to a newsletter or automated email campaign
- Z number of sales of service A directly attributable to the website
- Or, if you’re looking to provide self-service tools on your website, you might even want to see a reduction in phone calls received by your team
The point is, like any good project, you need to know what success looks like – and communicate this to those involved in the project. If you understand the endgame, then it’s much easier to make guiding decisions.
Your website should appeal to your customers, not you
You pay for your website, but your website isn’t for you.
It sounds obvious, right? But many people get hooked on how they want their website to look and function. Sometimes you may need to remind yourself that your website isn’t really for you. It’s much more important that it appeals to your customers.
The design, written copy and imagery all need to be considered from the perspective of the customer. Your customers have their own set of pains and problems and they’re visiting your website to resolve these. If you can identify and sympathise with these pains – then quickly show a solution – your conversion rates will see a big improvement.
A great tool is to build a customer avatar. This is essentially a detailed profile of your ideal customer. If you are consumer-based then this might include age, sex, income, the car they drive, websites they visit, newspapers or magazines they read, hobbies and buying habits. You can find a suitable photo of what they might look like, even give them a name. That way you can refer to them in questions you might ask to aid decision-making.
- What photo would resonate with Mandy Allsop in relation to service A?
- How would Timothy Romsey-Brathwaite prefer to communicate with us?
- What product features would most interest Glenn Peterson?
Of course, your business might have a number of customer profiles for different products and services so it’s worth going through and creating a profile for each of these. You might find that the different areas of your website need to look and read very differently.
Your website should (quickly) relay how your business is unique
A good exercise to try is to open your website homepage in one browser tab and the homepage of your top five competitors in five new tabs. Then take the role of a potential customer and flick between each tab spending just five seconds determining what each business does, who they do it for, and why as a customer you would want to choose that company. This simple exercise is a great litmus test to see if each website has immediate appeal to your target customer, while also replicating how a potential customer might make a buying choice after doing a Google search.
In the web design business, the top of a homepage is called the “bit above the fold”; this is the part of the website that the visitor first sees without scrolling down the page. The words and imagery on this section must resonate with your target customers, otherwise they’ll leave your site. The text above the fold needs to be ultra-concise, just a short sentence, but also say a lot about your business. This is called your unique value proposition (UVP). FreshBooks have a great example:
This heading clearly states what they do and who it’s for. By boldly addressing their customers as “non-accountants,” FreshBooks not only commands attention but also highlights a common marketer pain point of not being able to understand accounting software. Your UPV is, without a doubt, the single most important piece of text on your website and tweaking this statement can have an effect in reducing a website’s bounce rate – the percentage of people that leave a website within five seconds.
All good UPVs should be accompanied by a simple call to action button. This helps the user understand what they need to do next. “Get Started”, “Try for Free”, “Start the Conversation” and “Signup Now” are all good examples. Once this button has been pressed it has to be super simple for the potential customer to send you their details or make a sale.
Be prepared to invest time into your website. Think over how you want it to serve your company. Be honest and open with your digital agency so they can help you address those business issues and problems that cause you concern. If you’ve explored and clearly defined what you want the website to achieve then the project is much more likely to be a success.
Remember that the website is not designed to appeal to you but crafted to engage your customers. Think of it as a supermarket that needs to be laid out in a way that is helpful and guides your customers through their buying process. Your business may also have different products or services that appeal to different customer groups. Each of these groups may need to be treated differently in terms of the imagery and text that is meaningful to them.Lastly, don’t be afraid to embrace and clearly state your niche. When one of your target customers lands on your website, the closer the match between their need and your product or service, the more likely they will buy. Trying to appeal to everyone, ends up from rarely appealing to anyone.