By Sam Sayer
Ideally, when people visit your website, it should only take them a few seconds to understand exactly what you’re selling. It is also crucial to ensure that visitors can easily navigate your web pages and that your pricing structure is simple to understand. If you do not follow these rules, you will almost certainly need to review and optimise your website.
You cannot just rely on an exquisite design or exciting content to engage your target audience. Your online platform also needs to satisfy user experience, which involves a combination of content and functionality.
You should use your website to inform visitors about:
- What you do
- Why you do it
- Who you do it for
Don’t make the mistake of bragging about your business. People don’t care about that. What they want is for you to address their concerns or offer a solution to their problems. So whenever you are planning to add a design feature to your site, remember to consider how it will benefit your readers or customers.
So how can you improve your website’s design? Here are some useful tips:
Plan your ideal website
Before rushing to make any changes, you should devise a suitable plan. You first need to check whether your current site is meeting your customers’ needs. You can do this by mapping their journey from the time they land on your website to the moment they purchase a product. Check the:
- Web pages they view
- Content they are reading
- Offers that will encourage them to convert
Understanding their actions and motivations will help you design a site that will lead visitors to the sales funnel.
It is crucial that you create a website with appropriate questions in the correct order. Learn what you can about your current customers and even interview them if possible. Find out why they decided to convert into a customer. You can then use this data to design your website accordingly.
Remove anything you don’t need
If your website contains complicated or heavy animations, very long or boring content, and stocky or generic images, you would be well advised to remove them. In fact, including these features is the most common web design mistake that small businesses make. Remember, on average, visitors only have an eight-second attention span so it’s vital that you make a good first impression and get your main ideas across. You can do this by attracting people’s attention by using clear and concise titles. Then, maintain their interest with short but powerful content matched with suitable images or icons.
You should also ensure that your content doesn’t contain any jargon or terminology that your audience may not understand.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media
Having excellent offers or engaging content may not be sufficient if your target audience doesn’t even know that your site exists. Therefore, consider generating traffic from social media platforms by adding social share buttons to your web pages. Once people click on these buttons, they are sharing your website and its content on their social media channels. There are various social network sites available (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) so you should find out which of them would be most suitable. They will appear as small buttons so most people won’t consider them to be annoying. In fact, they only encourage your target audience to conduct social sharing.
Incorporate call-to-action (CTA) buttons
It is essential that you provide clear guidance to your visitors as they navigate your web pages. Call-to-action buttons are one of the main elements that will lead your visitors to your sales funnel. If you are not sure how to proceed with this feature, consider consulting a web designer. You could also educate yourself on how to identify the problems your customers face. You could then create a CTA that will convince visitors that you have found the perfect solution for them.
You can use CTAs to encourage people to:
- Read your content
- Download your material
- Sign up for your newsletters
- Watch a video
With the correct CTAs, you can generate leads and customers for your products and services.
Choose images that fit your brand and products
Every picture on your website should match your message (e.g., products or services). While you should never use extremely generic photos, some free images can highlight your brand and offers.
If possible, consider using photos that capture real people working at your store or business location.
Organise your navigation menu
A disorganised navigation menu or interface may confuse your visitors. If they don’t find what they are looking for in just a few clicks, they will almost certainly leave your site. Even worse, they may head straight to your competitors!
Therefore, it is vital that you design a lean and functional navigation bar. It should have specific characteristics, such as:
- Streamlined content
- Easy-to-understand navigation hierarchy
- Responsive design, especially for mobile devices
If you have lots of content, consider creating two navigation menus:
Primary – Use this as a primary guide to help visitors find information. It often includes details such as ‘Features’, ‘Download’ and ‘Price’. This will enable users to easily access your additional details.
Secondary – This type of navigation will often appear on the page activated through the primary menu.
Here are different examples of website menus:
- Horizontal – This menu is favoured by the majority of websites as many users are familiar with its design and are comfortable using it.
- Vertical – This menu will provide your website with a personalised and sophisticated appearance.
- Bottom – This navigation control is perfect for mobile devices.
Encourage scrolling on your website
Designing slightly longer homepages is now the norm. You can include up to five sections to help lead visitors to the most suitable web page. Remember, your goal is to provide users with a seamless experience.
It’s up to you to decide what sections to include, but here are some ideas:
- About us
- Case studies
- Intro video
- Overview of services
- Value proposition
Optimise your website for mobile devices
It is now imperative that your website is optimised for mobile devices. Eight out of ten internet users have smartphones. Google, the leading search engine, found that more than 60% of users don’t bother returning to a mobile website if they had difficulty accessing it. Indeed, around 40% of them would rather go to your competitors.
These are the main reasons why you need to create an excellent mobile user experience. So how can optimise your website for mobile platforms?
First of all, you must customise your site so that it meets the needs and wants of your customers. Begin by asking:
- Why would people visit your site?
- What are your visitors looking for?
- Does their experience allow them to access your pages easily?
Once you have figured out the answers to these types of questions, ensure that your mobile website has:
- Content that is clear and easy to understand
- Text that is accurate and descriptive
- SEO-friendly keywords and content
- A consistent style
- A responsive design
Reach out to your target audience through SEO
SEO can help your website attract relevant traffic from your prospective customers. This strategy involves creating content that your visitors may find helpful and relevant to their needs. Besides text-based content, you can also use videos.
Also, don’t forget to add suitable keywords that your target audience is using in their searches. If you don’t use the correct search terms, it is unlikely that you will attract many visitors who will convert into customers.
Of course, sometimes things go wrong and some of your pages or links may stop working (404 error). To maintain a good user experience, take some time out to look for broken pages. To accelerate this process, consider special tools such as Wpuniversity.
Present new offers or make them unique
Most websites offer demos or free times to lead users to their marketing funnel. However, if there are lots of offers to choose from, the challenge is to make sure that you stand out from the crowd. So, it is important to take note of your competitors’ proposals and then consider offering something different.
The crucial thing is to offer a product or service that is better than anything provided by your competitors. If you simply offer the same as everyone else, you will never get noticed by your target market. However, if you offer customers exciting and new product offerings, they won’t hesitate to:
- Buy your products/hire your services
- Provide their email or contact details
In fact, if the product offer is outstanding, your customers will even share it with their family and friends, which in turn will mean more sales opportunities for you.
Always update your content when required
If you want to write content that is sure to impress your online visitors, try avoiding certain words such as ‘we’ and ‘our’. For example, don’t use titles or statements such as:
- We will improve your…
- Our product is…
It is understandable that you want to showcase your services or products, but unfortunately people aren’t interested in hearing such things. What they are extremely interested in hearing or reading about is how your products can be of benefit to them. In order to get your point across, replace ‘we’ and ‘our’ with ‘you’ and ‘your’. Imagine that you are talking with your customers on a face-to-face basis, addressing their problems and explaining how they could be resolved.
So, instead of titles such as ‘Our promising solution’, use something like ‘Your problem is solved’.
While the grammar switch may seem insignificant, it can subconsciously affect how your customers view your brand and business.
Remember, you need to design a website that is easy to navigate with content that is simple to understand. This will involve some planning and possibly consultation with a professional web designer. You should also ensure that your content is uniquely suited to your target audience. However, make sure that it is current and accurate. Besides the content, you will need to optimise your site for all mobile devices.
Sam Sayer is the Creative Director of DeType, a creative agency based in Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK. His company specialises in web design, branding, motion, UX and online design.