Why do people make websites, exactly? Hint, it’s not just for the fun of it. A website is a strategic business investment that can sometimes make a dent in a small company’s budget; as such, it needs to be rewarding enough to be worth the time, energy, and money spent on it. And make no mistake. Quickly putting together a page with a couple of paragraphs and a cute stock photo of a dog isn’t going to cut it.
Everyone keeps going on and on about search engine optimization (SEO)… I am not going to tell you that keyword-rich content doesn’t matter. Of course, it does. But seducing Google is only half of the effort. Your website must also convince someone else, someone much, much more important: your customer. Search engines give you reach and visibility, the rest is up to you.
There is good news. Techniques that have been proven successful exist to generate valuable leads via your website. That’s where User experience (UX) design comes into play. Instead of randomly placing information on a web page, the entire navigation should be carefully planned, with your target customer in mind, no matter what. UX design is the process of creating a product (a website) that will provide a meaningful, enjoyable, and memorable experience to users.
Now. We have built quite a few websites for our clients over the years, and we’ve had plenty of time to learn the best practices. Here is a list we’ve put together of the top 7 website features that will help convert viewers into buying customers, hence making the difference between an ok website and a great one.
1. Dynamic Homepage
The homepage is very often the first page your website visitors see (landing page) and the only one they read fully. It’s your chance to make a great first impression. You want all the main information your potential clients would look for, as well as your business's best characteristics and value proposition, to be showcased on it.
Remember the UX design golden rules. Meaningful — be relatable, be informative, be relevant; Enjoyable — be straightforward, be readable, be structured; Memorable — be fun, be eye-catching, be different.
Your homepage is the living heart of your website. Place links to your other pages in the appropriate sections, and make sure you have dynamic content displays (i.e. latest blog articles, events coming soon…) to keep things fresh and encourage visitors to come back for more.
2. Pages hierarchy
A good brand, and a good website, tell a story. For a story to make sense, one cannot mess around with the order of the chapters. This is why it is essential to hierarchize your pages and guide the navigation with a menu.
Don’t just list your products or services; instead, split them up in pages and subpages. Every page is categorized according to the need they answer, which is reflected in the headers and page titles. That way, potential customers can relate your headers to solutions to their problems in a fast and effective manner, and skip the parts that are of no relevance to them. Use links to bounce back and forth between pages to up-sell and tickles the interest of your viewers further.
The longer they remain on the website, the better, but you also don’t want to get on their nerves by forcing them to click everywhere before finding what they are after.
3. “About” page
Talking about telling a story… what story doesn’t include a chapter about the hero? Write about your company (history, values, culture) and introduce your team, with original photos to illustrate.
Having a mascot is a good idea too, to materialize your brand identity in an entertaining way and to differentiate yourself in the vast sea of similar businesses. Just ask Steve the platypus, the 4BIS mascot… he loves showing us off!
Show don’t tell! You’re awesome, but your future clients can’t know that yet. They need proof. Listing your past clients is great, adding testimonials is better, but what’s best: giving your portfolio some context, with case studies of successful projects, including concrete figures.
5. Pricing table
If you have ever visited a commercial website, you know that one of the first things popping into one’s mind is “yeah, great, but how much?”.
Giving at least an indication of your prices is paramount because most people WILL NOT bother contacting you for it. Your customers’ time is precious, and so is yours. With no prices anywhere to be seen, you are taking the risk of losing potential customers who might otherwise have been convinced. If you can’t give an exact price for whatever reason, position yourself on a given price range.
6. Site map and other navigation tools
To make your website’s users happy it is necessary to convey information in a clear, fast, easy way. A site map is a mandatory feature on a website, for visitors to always be able to navigate smoothly between the pages.
Other navigation aids include “back-to-top” buttons on all your pages (very handy on mobile as it saves the user from scrolling up and down endlessly to find the menu again), a search tool, and “breadcrumbs” which are a hierarchical series of hyperlinks indicating the page’s position in the overall structure of the website (for your visitors to always know where they are).
Last, but not least. One could argue call-to-action is the main thing to have on your website. What’s great is, they are also the easiest part!
We have established it, the point of your website even being there in the first place is to get you more business. You’ve done all the hard work; you’ve persuaded your readers your offer meets their needs… now all that’s left is to give them a way to respond and engage! Buttons, everywhere, I want to see buttons. “Request a quote”, “subscribe”, “sign-in”, “buy”, “contact us”, you name it, but each page on your website has to have one.
These 7 features, coupled with good SEO and a qualitative offer, will make your investment worth it, and this, for the long-term! You’ll get back every penny you put in, and more.
If after reading this article, you find yourself wanting to improve and boost your current website, or you suddenly feel like getting yourself a sparkling new high-performing website or webshop for the new year… feel free to check out more about Elitech Systems Web development services, or get in touch with our team!