A website is your brand's virtual hub. Your audience can engage with your brand online at any time, in any place. But, is your website built intelligently? Many websites exist because... well... it's normal to have a website. Yet surprisingly there's not enough thought into the purpose and value of this digital asset, and how to use it well to empower your audience—inspiring brand loyalty, sales, and engagement.
In this insight we aim to explain why we believe your website is your most important marketing asset and, importantly, we'll explain some of the most beneficial approaches.
To begin, it is worth highlighting what makes a website ineffective. Often the messaging is not targeted towards the end-user, meaning that website visitors will have no club what the product or service does, who it is for, and why it exists. To address this, we should always be thinking how our website can reflect what we offer, but importantly who we're offering it to. So, does your mission and vision 'sing' throughout your copy?
Mistakes in web design are too common, yet they're easily avoided with some front-loaded high-end thinking. Being aware of usual errors can help you plan how to avoid them. Here are but a few of the biggest repeat offenders of bad website design:
Common Website Design Issues.
Poor Platform Choice.
Before building a website, a website builder needs selected. There are hundreds of enticing options available, with some platforms claiming to be the easiest in the market with wondrously low pricing like $27 as a one-time-price forever... So what should we pick?
At the time of writing there are two main choices that are fairly robust, able to act as a failsafe. Firstly, our preferred option of WebFlow offers high flexibility for the back-end development, whilst being extremely accessible for entry-level front-end developers. This means that designers can make truly beautiful websites, that can then be managed with the utmost ease by inhouse teams (even if they have no website design or management experience prior).
Secondly, WordPress accounts for over a third of all websites on the internet...and for good reason. The flexibility and ease of this platform have cemented it as a favourite, and it means that it has the largest available libraries of templates and plug-ins.
The takeaway? Playing it safe with established platforms puts you in good hands. You'll have an accessible platform known by most, and the technologies are here to stay—continually getting updated and developed by the loyal fans and communities of each platform. Cheaper alternatives usually have lots of limitations that will trip you up sooner than later.
Unowned/ Not owned by Marketing Team.
Following on from our above point, the ease of such platforms lets your marketing team run your website with ease. It can be a common mistake to outsource your website creation and management to an agency or freelancer, but if the control is not made for the marketing team then it'll slow down everything.
Imagine having to contact an external team just to change a background image, and having no control over how much they charge for something so simple. Successful websites are almost always run by the people that live and breathe the brand—so ensure your marketing team have access, can manage the project, and know how to make the website work for your business goals.
No Call to Action.
Is your website the end of the line? Without any prompt for action, users may end their journey on an uninspired 'about page' or lacklustre product page. Take time to consider your goals before you craft your content. Using persuasive language, storytelling devices, and inspired UX techniques will guide users towards taking the action you desire—from newsletter sign ups, contact form submissions, to lucrative sales.
If your site is already live, consider being ruthless with a website audit. Go. through exiting copy and ask 'What purpose does this serve?' You may find that much of your website adds no immediate or obvious value...if so, cut it, or bury it away in an appropriate place. Your prime estate is your front pages, the easily accessible top sections—make them count!
Poor Design Choices.
Another common issue is that websites are made with poor design choices (even by competent designers) to save time or money.
If your site is in English, it has an 80% chance of being found on page one for competitive keywords using sensible SEO practices—the same goes for any language with a high number of speakers. If you have a bilingual website however, we recommend adding separate URLs as well as pages where visitors will not find strings translated from one language into another. In these cases: translate all content then create new copy that adds value in both languages without repeating information already provided in either version.
Aside from SEO practices, or lack of therein, other poor design choices often revolve around the back-end coding. Without foresight, shortcuts in coding can lead to extremely time consuming errors. Imagine a lazy electrician kept running random cables throughout a building, so that by the end of it there was thousands of cables and outputs in an unorthodox style—if someone else had to fix a single plug-point, they might be lost in a maze of unknown wires sprawled through the building! This is same as a mess of bad, complex coding. In short, there are many ways to code a solution—but some lines of coding are more optimised and open for growth and expansion.
Crucially, it is worth noting that audiences may access websites on different devices and browsers. If your target audience is likely to primarily use mobile phones, then your focus should be on ensuring that the mobile-experience of your website gets the most focus. Think about what their expectations will be, and how they'll want to interact with your data.
As a final point on design, your website should mirror your brand's journey—where it is, and where it is going. All visual elements should reflect your most up to date campaigns and direction, to show that your virtual assets mirror your latest and greatest work. Imagine seeing a video advertising with sleek branding, then landing on the related company website and finding it to be old, clunky, and thoughtless—the great first impressions would be soured by a lack of consistency.
Always invest in design.
Lack of Adequate or a Poor Quality Content Strategy.
Content that does not convert visitors into paying customers needs urgent attention too, as it's the most important consideration when building out your website for conversion optimization purposes.
A non-optimized website is costing you money and should be treated like an investment in business success moving forwards because this lack will have a negative impact on revenue over time due to low conversions rates.
So, how do we think about what our website visitor wants? We ask them!
Keep these questions in mind:
- Who are they?
- Why would they come here?
- What's their intent?
- What can I offer that is of value and will make them want to stay?
- What's their mood, and how can I improve it?
We are no longer in a traditional marketing world. The old-school "push" model has given way to the new "pull" era, where people come looking for your product or service because they see that you offer something valuable on your website.
It may sound simple...the reality is anything but!
Content needs an owner (someone with accountability), a process/system put in place so it is consistently updated and delivered appropriately across all channels—and at the right time to maximize impact. Someone should be monitoring analytics constantly to measure the progress against goals, otherwise all your work is simply theoretical.
Hiring the Wrong Agency or Designers.
Another issue with website design is that brand's enlist the wrong agency of choice. It's important to understand that website design is about marketing as much it is a technical exercise.
Many companies will hire the lowest bidder and end up with an inferior product because they're looking at this only from a tech perspective without considering how their website also needs to be able to communicate effectively.
It's not just about pictures, fonts, colors or even content. It's about having someone who understands what you need your site for (e.g. lead generation vs sales enablement), in addition to understanding all of the different types of online audiences so they can create something that communicates powerfully across them all.
Some agencies specialise in branding, some in advertising, some in website design, some in high level thinking and strategic decision making. It is key that you understand what your requirements are before you enlist an agency promising an 'all-in-one' solution. Check their portfolios, have they worked on strategic goals similar to yours? Often the best solution may be to partner with multiple agencies if you have complex needs. After-all, you wouldn't ask an artist to build your shop for you, nor ask an electrician to train your sales team. Find a team capable of making your vision a reality, and study their social proof to ensure you are in good hands. In a crowded market place, the agencies that hone in on their niche are often the best choice.
Another common problem, that we've already partially addressed, is that much copy on existing websites has no value. By this, we mean there is no purpose to the text or graphic content on the website, and that it doesn't communicate constructively for the brand's goals.
Often content can be written by someone too close, or too far from the business. A company expert may take too much for granted and use a high degree of jargon, and not explain concisely what it is you do, what it is you sell, and what your story is. On the other end of the spectrum, if your copywriter doesn't fully understand your brand then they won't explain or sell anything with enough passion and clarity.
Use the Feynman method and ensure your content could be understood by a child. This method of explaining clearly has been proven time and time again. When doing this, make sure your hero copy explains who your service or product is for and what problem it solves.
As an additional tip, it's okay to piggyback on what some of the biggest brands are doing—after all, their R&D departments will have spent millions on getting it right. However, be aware of where you are on your journey in comparison. Late-state companies can lead with vision first because people are already aware of what they do... but if you're a new face on the market, then you'll need to focus more on explaining clearly what you do first.
Landing Page Exhaustion.
It is very rare to be able to craft a perfect message for ALL audiences, therefore audiences are often split into subgroups and addressed with separate landing pages. However, it can be incredibly time consuming to build a large amount of bespoke pages, and while you don't have the pages built—or if they're in production—you could be losing prospects.
Template pages should be built to leverage the CMS functionality to allow your marketing team to scale out multiple landing pages at speed. Being reactive to trends can capture the markets attention at speed.
A Void Between Teams.
Different departments have different specialities, but this doesn't mean there should be no collaboration. Design, marketing, and copywriting team members need to take an iterative approach otherwise there can be serious gaps in content.
The ideal process should be:
- Add copy and content
- Iterate on design to fit copy and content
- Iterate on copy
- Final pass by all teams.
It can be obvious when teams haven't worked together (or alone in 'silos'). Often this leads to overly repetitive copy...and even nonsensical site architecture and navigation systems. Great website designers will conduct expert interviews with their clients to ensure they truly understand the brand, and their aims.
With common mistakes covered, it's now on to the productive section: Strengthening your website, your strongest marketing asset.
Let's start with a general purpose for your website. You should think of your website as an all-inclusive brand guide for both customers (external), and team members (internal) to consult for everything from social proof to your catalogue of products/services and their features. The information to include may vary from business to business, but viewers will expect:
- Pricing information.
- Product/Service information.
- Customer references, case studies, and/or social proof.
- Brand positioning and messaging.
- Clarity on the audience(s) you're targeting.
It's overly common for this information to be squirrelled away in archived destinations, or simply outdated as a website lies dormant. The aim is to change your website from an ageing publication to a dynamic, breathing entity that users can engage with and expect updates and interaction to await them regularly.
There are many obvious advantages to an up-to-date website tweaked by the marketing team. Most importantly, it can be a marketing tool that generates leads and which will continually attract new prospects.
Customers will be able to find what they're looking for at speed, allowing them to make informed decisions about what you offer and have the ability to share information with their peers. By populating your site with meaningful FAQs, you'll decrease the amount of customer support needed, whilst having the opportunity to communicate clearly the benefits and reasoning behind purchasing from your brand.
The clearer your messaging, the easier it is for prospects to understand and potentially be converted to qualified leads. Don't let confusion lower your sales count.
For an exhaustive guide on corporate website best practices, we'd recommend the following long-form content:
As a fast-track method to create high-performing 'hero sections' on websites, we advise following these steps:
- For any landing page, the first impression is key. Cover the most important aspects firstly. Start by identifying your brand with a logo, perhaps in the corner of a page—clearly.
- Explain your product. For doing this, use simple language that covers who it is for, what problem it solves, and exactly what it does.
- Include a 'Call-to-Action' to allow users to perform the required/desired behaviour. This may be a sign-up or contact button, or an option to purchase directly from the hero section.
- Show your product. Let customers know what they're buying. Make it clear, and make it easy.
The Website Design/Redesign Process.
If you're redesigning your website, our common problems list above may have already triggered alarm bells. Whether it's a new site, or a redesign, following the checklist below will likely guide you towards success.
Firstly, identify your platform (1). As discussed we'd recommend Webflow, but you can also opt for WordPress. Ideally avoid other platforms unless you've a talented web designer with solid reasoning why to stray to a less popular choice.
Then, before you start creating anything, get the website set up with analytics (2) and various tracking tools. It's worth having these in place as a foundation.
Next, integrate (3) with any required plugins and CRM systems. There are an endless array of plugins to turbocharge websites with great features—ensure yours is geared to impress.
Set your website up for growth by building landing page templates (4) to help your team expand efficiently in the future.
With your site beginning to shape up, dive into the SEO (5) of your new or existing content. Follow SEO best practises, and make sure your future content is created following the advised steps (which can be explored further in our SEO insight).
Another consideration would be to add dynamic elements (6) to your site. One example, would be by using chat bots to provide users with an interactive experience. Using chat bots can replace lengthy (and often ignored) FAQ sections, and get your users connected to the information they're searching for at speed. Another option is to link live chat options to allow team members to communicate with users in real-time (when feasible).
The Shortcut to Success.
While navigating through this advice, you may be wondering about our recommendation on finding niche agencies/freelancers, yet also having teams collaborate. It can be expensive and time consuming to combine multiple teams, but undoubtably it's worth it for the long term vision...
Yet, there's another secret weapon. M shaped people.
Unlike the traditional 'I' shaped experts, that hold expertise in a single area, and 'T' shaped experts that combine their expertise with entry level knowledge in multiple fields, the advantageous final puzzle piece is someone that is 'M shaped'.
Great teams are filled with M shaped individuals that allow the teams to stay lean, yet move at pace. The key consideration here is finding those individuals that have passion for the appropriate areas of your project. For example, discovering a designer that codes, will make for a beautiful website design that is able to be built sensibly (as the designer understands the coding challenges and limitations). If you can find a marketing savvy web designer, you'll be working with someone that already understands all the key considerations mentioned in this insight.
Request a Proposal.
If you would like to #workwithmad then send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's Make It Happen.™