No two websites are the same, neither in purpose nor desired outcome; however there are certain things that are common to all; not the least of which is to engage the browser from the outset and to encourage them to tarry a while. After all, the longer they stay the more likely the desired outcome will be achieved.
The following is a list of ten things that experience has taught us are some of the baseline ‘must haves’. It’s unlikely that you will need all of them – although you could do a lot worse – but, when planning your website, this check list is not a bad place to start
Almost every decision we make will eventually hit the trust wall. Whether we are seeking to back ourselves or other people, even the most impulsive actions will have taken into account the degree to which we believe what is being proposed is reliable and / or dependable. It stands to reason, therefore, that the first thing a website should do is to radiate trust.
For the most part this is achieved by the one thing that most people either overlook or simply misunderstand – the graphic design. In the ‘e’ world the focus is on the science. ‘e’, after all, stands for ‘electronic’, but it could equally well stand for ‘excluding’ when it comes to design.
Ask most people what their favourite sites are and their answers will not be based on what it does, but what it looks like – that’s the graphic design. Ignore it at your peril and budget for it if you want your site to really work for you. The images, the typography, the layout, the colours and the over all visual appeal form the basis of the message that leap off the page and say ‘trust me’ or ‘trust me not’.
The last thing a browser to your site wants to do is to work – think of your potential customers as lazy, petulant children and you’re close to knowing what to offer them. For any site with any significant degree of complexity a prominent ‘search’ field is a must. The internet abounds with companies that will offer to make your site searchable without having to build an expensive database – a company called google is one, but we particular like and use freefind . For a very reasonable annual fee will give you a site search, customised to your style. Have a look at it in action here clinica Fiore.
The vast majority of browsers who arrive at your site and who decide that they might be in the right place actually just want to talk to someone. Unless there are issues of national security at stake or your business plan includes turning down waves of potential clients, for heaven sake give them a nice, big, fat phone number to call – and make it ‘live’ so you can call directly form your phone without having to key the numbers. (This is very simple bit of coding). Not having a phone number is simply the internet equivalent of two fingers.
There’s nothing a browser likes more than an irresistible ‘play’ button. Reading is brain active, watching is brain passive (which is why we love the telly in the evening). If you offer the opportunity to sit back and listen for a few moments, rather than having to plough through pages of text (ooh er – this blog?), then you much more likely to grab them and keep them.
How many of us have been bowled middle stump by the question ‘What’s your USP?’. It’s the kind of clever little question that people in marketing love to throw at you knowing full well that most of us don’t really have one. The fact is so few businesses do – at least not one that their potential customer would see as a benefit. I’m probably the only MD of a digital agency on South London who was once a milkman – an interesting conversation starter but hardly a big come on to clients.
What most of us are left with is some kind of value statement – often incorporated into a strap line. Audi’s ‘Vorsprung durch technik’ is a good example (once translated for me by a German friend as ‘We don’t f**k up technically – which about nails it). Audi make cars like so many others but they ‘own’ the technical excellence space. When browsers arrive at your website part of the reasons to make them stay has to be your value statement, the words that set you apart from the competition and tell people what you will do for them.
It stands to reason that the longer browsers stay on your website the more likely they are to achieve your desired outcome – whether it’s buying something or just contacting you. It also follows that the deeper they delve into your site the longer they will stay. It is therefore vital that you encourage them to dive in and, to this end, anything goes. There’s obvious tricks such as buttons that lead to free stuff or enticing special offers, but don’t be afraid to ask questions that you know people will want to know the answer to; information relevant to your service and/or product that gleaned from listening to the your customers’ most frequently asked questions. I even known a button that simply says ‘find out what this button does’ work.
Moving towards any decision in life is all about gathering information which will make us more certain that we have chosen the right path. Use this simple piece of knowledge to your advantage by offering as much information as you can – it will all add to your trustworthiness and the site that the consumer trusts wins the most prizes.
The beating heart of your business is the list of people or businesses that have either bought from you or have expressed an interest in doing so – ie your database. Sadly there really is no shortcut to building this list – you can’t buy it or steal it – it absolutely must be people who have encountered one of the touch points of your business, had a positive experience and would like to repeat it.
Your website is almost certainly one of the key touch points (if it isn’t it should be) and so make sure you have a mechanism in place for allowing visitors to join the gang. Yes, it’s the old sign up form. For heavens sake avoid the mistake of believing that people will want to leave you their details without a very good reason. A line that simply reads ‘Join our mailing list’ may as well say ‘get stuffed you miserable git’ – it’s likely to be about as effective. PLEASE also avoid anything to do with the word ‘newsletter’. What is it that makes businesses believe that customers are somehow interested in Brenda from accounts? When placing your sign up form on the site make sure you combine it with a big fat bribe, or at very least, some juicy reason why they might want to hear from you again.
One of the things that most surprises business owners is the fact that people look at their websites when their shop or business is closed. Don’t disenfranchise insomniacs or the thousands (nay millions) of people who like to sit at home in the evening, with a glass of wine and go shopping. If you can’t have someone at the end of the phone 24/7 then be sure to have an enquiry form. People really do fill them in – increasingly so in fact. In the early days of the internet there was a tetchy impatience about being able to view stuff and then not to be able to chat to someone about it. It hasn’t entirely gone away and businesses that can afford 24/7 call centres do benefit. However it seems now to be a general acceptance that not every business will answer the phone at 3.00am. We see enquiry forms used more and more so make sure you have one to capture the weary night shift vote.
A website without a blog is like a corpse after the morticians have worked their magic – it may look beautiful but it’s essentially dead. The extent to which the patient is alive is one of the major ranking criteria that google and other search engines use. One of the best ways to ensure this is keep up a steady stream of new, relevant and engaging content via a blog.
One of the essentials of a properly marketed business is to have a voice in that business that’s authoritative and knowledgeable about your products and services -and one that appears to actually care about what they do. It’s all part of building up the trust that will lead people to buy from you or hire you. Don’t think you have nothing to say (a complaint I hear frequently). Everyone has something useful to tell their potential audience; from accountants to zoo-keepers and everything else in between, there’s always something to say. If you can tell the public something to which they can answer “Well I never knew that” then you have a good subject for a blog.
You can find out more about the best ingredients for a blog – and why you should have one – in a future post dedicated to all things blogging.
Finally make sure you give people plenty of opportunity to spread the word. I use the clever people at addthis. Their plugin is free and gives you links to almost every social network on the planet. You’ll see them at the bottom of this blog – go on, hit like, follow or link – you know you want to.
If you would like to talk to us about any aspect of your website – or you are planning a new one – then please gives a call on 020 8117 8543