There are some overarching best practices that all businesses should keep in mind when developing a website, such as having a sensible domain name, good hosting and security, a nice, modern design, fresh content on a regular basis, good mobile usability, etc. We won’t go into those here, but they certainly cannot be ignored when developing your site.
We've compiled a list for you of ten of the most crucial website elements with which any good developer that’s worth their salt should be intimately familiar. You may come up with some exceptions to these rules under unique circumstances, but if there’s no really good reason to omit one of these items, don’t, unless you are not concerned about maximizing the effectiveness of your site.
We’re putting this one first because it’s simultaneously the most important and the most neglected aspect of website design. It’s one thing to hand someone a brochure and walk away. It’s another thing altogether to hand someone a brochure and then invite them to engage in a process that will lead to a sale.
This could be as simple as “watch our video demo” or “sign up for free.” In fact, there should be a call to action at every step of the prospect’s discovery process. When the video is over it should tell the viewer what to do next. When the client has signed up for free, it should tell them what to do next. Always, everywhere, have some kind of call-to-action or instructions for your audience.
A Value Proposition
Tell your audience why they should take action. Using the above examples, the video could say something like, “Watch this short video to see our product in action.” For a freemium signup it could say, “Start taking advantage of our features today.” The idea is to provide more than just a call-to-action, but to provide the “why” of the action.
Clear and Strategic Navigation
There are a handful of elements that visitors look for right away. Some look for the “About” page. Some look for a contact form. Some want to see your blog. Make a list of the things that your particular audience might be looking for and make a prominent nav menu with just those items. Menu items can also be grouped into dropdown menus to keep things clean and organized. Navigation can also include category teasers.
It’s a good idea to sit down next to some people who are not familiar with your business and watch where they go. Have them tell you out loud what they are looking for. For example, imagine a tree nursery website. When shoppers land on this website, they’re not looking for you to tell them why you’re so great, how you’ve been in business forever, how you’ve got acres and acres of trees, and so on. They’re looking for hedges, shade trees, fruit trees, and so on—categories. Determine what people are looking for when they land on your site and make it not just easy to get to, but put it smack dab in the middle above the fold so they instantly know they are in the right place.
Contact Info or Form
You’d be amazed how many business websites are missing clear and present contact info and/or a contact form. Some kind of easy-to-find contact information should be included on every page of your site, along with a conspicuous link to your contact form. If your customers come to you, an address is also vital.
Put it in a bar above your top header and nav menu along with an email address or contact form link, and a phone number. Some businesses, such as those that provide software as a service (SaaS) don’t want people calling them every time they have a question, and so will leave out a phone number. At the very least, put some information or a link to your contact form in the footer.
Links to Social Networks
The vast majority of web traffic today happens on social networks. That not only includes sites such as Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, but also media sites such as YouTube and Instagram. Put a row of icons that link to your social media pages somewhere on every page, either at the top bar, in the footer, or down the side.
Even more vital are share links that allow your visitors to share your content on their own social media channels or embed it on their website. It’s literally free advertising and can be great for SEO.
Every website should regularly be adding new content. That doesn’t mean you have to go nuts and publish a blog post every single day. Once a week is recommended. Encourage visitors to view fresh content and subscribe to it by highlighting it on your homepage. It’s no longer a good strategy to post willy-nilly just to cram keywords onto your site. Google sees right through pretty much all black hat methods, and they are getting better at it every day. Today it’s all about visitor experience. Posts should be of value to customers and adhere to high readability standards while showing your expertise in your field.
One of the most important elements of a website, be it a service company or a product line, are elements that build trust. People are wary of being victims of bait and switch tricks, price gouging, etc. They want to know that you are a trustworthy company before they take a chance on you. They want what’s called “social proof.” That means that you are providing evidence that your customers are happy with your products and services.
Trust elements include things like BBB A+ icon, industry association icons, testimonials, links to review sites, awards, certifications, etc. Also, if you offer guarantees and warranties, spell them out right up front! Don’t make them small print items at the bottom of a product or service page.
The importance of video today cannot be overstated. More than half of the traffic on the web goes to video content. People have short attention spans. They don’t want to go looking for information, and pages of text are not appealing.
A short informational video on your homepage gives visitors immediate gratification. Keep the initial videos to a couple or three minutes and then direct them to more comprehensive videos.
Videos don’t have to have Hollywood budgets. People today understand that everyone has a webcam or a smartphone and are fine with no-budget videos. In fact, having an introductory video that’s too slick can be a turnoff to some. Make sure your video features people talking directly to and about the viewer, and not just a bunch of product images, features, and benefits. People want to do business with people, not companies. Talk to them.
High-Quality Original Images
Having real images of your company, your facilities, your staff, etc. can go a long way to building credibility for your business. A good example is hosting company websites. These days, there are hundreds of thousands of them and the vast majority use stock photos. Stock photos don’t build credibility. In fact, they make visitors question whether or not your company actually exists, or is just a facade.
Mailing lists are and always have been one of the most valuable marketing assets. It costs good money to create a lead or land a customer. To let them slip away after a visit or a sale is sinful. Post-sale engagement is a must if you want to increase the lifetime value of a customer.
Popup capture forms are extremely effective, but don’t make the mistake of springing on your visitors before they’ve even had a chance to check out your site. It’s annoying and increases bounce rates. Also, again, as with the call-to-action, make sure you provide a reason for them to give you their email address. It could be as simple as a freebie such as an ebook, a periodical newsletter, or access to a valuable webinar or report.
Wrapping it up
There are other important website elements as well, but the ones listed here are paramount to your website’s effectiveness as a sale tool.
It’s always a good idea to have a team of professionals working on your website so that you can reap the benefits of their experience. We’d love to help you with your website. Give us a call to discuss your concerns at (305) 763 4110
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